Munching these sweet and juicy little bites right off your very own apricot tree is a tasty reward for all of your tender loving care. Growing apricot trees in your home orchard or kitchen garden are the perfect introduction to fruiting trees. They are easy to grow and care for, the hardest part is deciding how many and where to plant your apricot trees.
Apricots are at their very best when ripened and pick from the branch. This makes shipping them difficult and finding them fresh in the local grocery store almost impossible. The best way to enjoy these tasty little gems is by growing your own apricot trees.
The Apricot Tree History
The exotic apricot, Prunus Armeniaca, is a member of the stone fruit family, Rosaceae. Best associated with a Mediterranean climate, apricot trees can be grown in any temperate region. Closely related to peaches, plums, and cherries, they are perfect to eat fresh from the tree and lend themselves to jams and other culinary preparations.
Originally domesticated in China, apricots are grown successfully around the world. No matter where you live, you can grow apricot trees and enjoy these lovely orange fruits.
How To Grow Apricot Trees
Apricot trees are early bloomers and require between 600 to 1,000 chilling hours to set fruit. They also require some protection against sudden cold snaps and late frosts so as not to destroy the early blooms. Planting your apricot trees with wind and frost protection will ensure a healthy bloom time for those gardeners living on the edge of zone 5.
Your apricot trees will thrive in deep, well-drained soil with hearty organic amendments. If you don’t have a compost pile, you can use Aries Green Biochar Soil Amendment to get your fruit trees off to a great start. Amendments will help your soil retain water near the roots of the plant, where it is most needed. This leads to healthier roots that grow deeper into the ground, thereby producing a stronger and healthier tree.
With minimal care, your apricot tree will produce gorgeous early spring blossoms that will grow into sweet fruit in three to five years after planting.
Composting is the perfect way to amend your garden soil. When you take kitchen and yard vegetation waste and allow it to decompose, you create a super nutritious soil for your plants. If you have a large area where you can allow this decomposition to take place over time, then having three compost piles is best. You will need one to dump your raw scraps into, one to “cook” the scraps, and one available to harvest amazing compost. Each year rotate the compost piles so you always have one with compost, or in the gardening world “black gold,” ready to harvest.
If you are short on room, or need something more compact, a dual compost outdoor tumbler will get you off to a great start.
Planting Your Apricot Tree
You typically do not need two apricot trees to produce fruit. They are self fruiting, which is a boon for the gardener who has a limited amount of space.
The best time to plant your apricot tree is in the fall. This gives the tree time to begin to set root before the colder weather sends the tree into dormancy. Alternatively, you can plant your apricot tree in the spring, but be extra vigilant about providing water.
They bloom early and a late frost can knock off the blossoms which will destroy your anticipated harvest. Choose a late blooming variety and a sheltered planting location if you are on the edges of zone 5 to avoid blossom loss. If you live in a zip code susceptible to a late spring frost you can protect your trees by planting them on the north side of building which will assist in keeping the trees dormant longer and delay bloom.
Apricot Tree Growth
Under your expert care, your apricot tree will grow to 16 to 20 feet. These small trees are a manageable size for the home orchard. Apricot trees are small but powerful, they produce copious amounts of fruit for a tree that small.
Flowering in early spring, your apricot tree is one of the first bloomers of the season. There is something so rewarding about seeing one of your own apricot trees in bloom. The satisfaction of harvesting the gorgeous fruit touches the heart of every home gardener. Early varieties offer a June harvest and with other varietals ready for picking as late as August. Planting two different varieties will extend your apricot growing season.
Since apricot trees are small, they can be grown successfully in containers, making them appealing to gardeners with less acreage. It also gives the you more control over the soil moisture, since they prefer regular watering with a well drained soil.
Feeding and Watering
Apricot trees are easy to maintain and reward you with a bounty of beautiful orange fruit.
Apricot trees are hardy in USDA zones 5 – 8. With a good composted soil, consistent watering, and full sun, your apricot tree will reward you with sweet and juicy fruit for many years.
If your tree doesn’t seem to be growing at a good rate, 8 to 10 inches of new growth for mature trees, then your soil might need a slight nitrogen boost. This should be applied only after the tree has begun to bear fruit. During the blooming season, you can apply a nitrogen based fertilizer to encourage a healthy root system and fruit production.
During blooming and fruiting, your apricot tree will need about an inch of water weekly. To supplement the natural rainfall you will need water your trees. Avoid getting the flowers, leaves, and fruit wet particularly during humid seasons. Use a garden drip irrigation system to keep your fruit trees perfectly watered at the roots.
Apricot Tree Diseases
Apricot trees are fairly hardy and are susceptible to only a few common diseases which makes them an excellent choice for your home orchard. With preventative knowledge and a keen eye, keeping your apricot tree disease free is an easy task.
European Brown Rot
One of the most common diseases found on apricot trees is European brown rot. This fungus will destroy your harvest. Your fruit will rot while still hanging on the branches.
A few simple preventative measures will help you avoid losing fruit to this disease. Excessive moisture is a contributing trigger for brown rot. In the fall, gather up the dropped leaves and fruit and burn them or deposit them away from your garden, orchard, and compost. If you see signs of rot on your tree, like brown blemishes appearing on the fruit, discard the diseased fruit immediately.
Powdery mildew attacks young fruits with a layer of white spots or soft white fuzz. Usually making it’s appearance in early spring and again in the early fall. It spreads during periods of warm weather and high humidity.
Preventing excess moisture is the easiest way to deter powdery mildew. Avoid overwatering, improve soil drainage and thin fruit to increase air circulation are the best methods of attacking and preventing this disease.
Insects That Like Apricot Trees
There are good organic methods of controlling insects without the use of chemicals that will kill off the infestation of unwanted bugs, but not kill off beneficial insects in the process. Working in an organic, garden friendly manner will produce healthier fruit and trees.
Isn’t that why we grow our own fruits and vegetables!
Sap Feeding Insects
These slippery little buggers hide on the underside of your tree leaves and munch happily on your plant. They can disguise themselves to look like bumps on your leaves, stems, and twigs.
Aphids, mealybugs, and scale insects love apricot trees. If your tree’s leaves begin to become sticky or you see an arm of ants on your tree, it’s time to investigate. A full blown outbreak is occurring if your leaves are turning yellow or are dropping off.
Mites are pesky little spiders that are so small you can easily miss them. They look like tiny dots on the underside of your beautiful leaves and sometimes they leave strands of silk on the underside of the leaves. The easiest way to control mites is with a good spray of water from the hose. When the weather is dry, give your tree a good shower to keep it dust and mite free.
If the mites become an issue, insecticidal soap is a great way to get rid of them.
The Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle, was right on target. Those little critters will eat everything in sight. They munch happily through your leaves and fruit, destroying everything in their path. Leaf-rolling caterpillars can be a particular problem for apricot trees. They roll themselves in a cocoon and attack your tree with a hungry vengeance.
Monterey Bacillus Thuringiensis is a worm and caterpillar insecticide that is approved for organic gardening. Give those fuzzy little pests a run for their money.
Borers can be a problem for apricot trees. Their larvae bore into the branches and trunks of trees creating havoc with the growth process and inhibiting the trees ability to take on nutrients.
The best protection against borers is regular pruning where you remove any injured branches. Additionally, healthy trees that are well watered and fed will have the best advantage to ward off these unwanted pests.
Apricots For Health And Wellness
Apricots are high in beta carotene which is used by the body for bone growth and protection. Beta carotene is beneficial for skin, eyes, and strengthening the immune system. Growing your own apricots with the best organic practices offers you and your family wonderful health benefits.
Their stunning color, sweet flesh, and nutritional properties are the best reason to plant these easy to grow fruit trees.
Jams are a classic use of apricots. With a simple jam preparation, you can preserve your hard earned harvest to savor over the course of they rest of the year.
Dried apricots are little jewels of energy. A perfect source of vitamins and sugar after vigorous exercise. They are a seriously yummy snack anytime.
Homemade apricot ice cream! Oh my! You can churn it the old fashion way, but Cuisinart offers an electronic set-it and forget-it ice cream maker that will have you singing
“I scream, you scream, we all scream for Apricot ice cream!”
You can substitute apricots in many plum recipes. Check out our 21 Plum Recipes That You Can Make At Home for some ideas including jam, tarts, cobblers, and trifles.
Apricot trees need annual pruning. The best time to prune is in early early spring or late fall. The goal is to balance the trees growth and increase sun exposure and air circulation.
Thinning The Fruit
Thinning the fruit is key to improving your harvest. Although it seems contrary to the outcome, thinning the fruits to 1 1/2 to 3 inches apart will produce larger fruits. Since the fruit isn’t crowded together, there is better air circulation, more access to sunlight, and room to grow. If you don’t thin, then your fruits will be considerable smaller.
By thinning your fruit, you will take weight off the branches. Branches with excess weight are subject to breaking, which will stress your tree.
Purchasing Your Apricot Tree
Apricot trees are generally propagated on peach or apricot rootstock. Most apricot trees are self pollinating, however, some do require cross pollination so be sure to check your cultivar when purchasing. Apricot trees can be grown from the pit or stone; however these trees will unlikely produce fruit. Instead, select a tree that is grafted onto root stock for the best fruiting result and hardiness.
If you want to check out a great selection of Apricot Trees for sales, check out Nature Hills Nursery, our favorite online nursery.
Apricots are stone fruits. Their closely related cousins are plums, cherries, and peaches. There is a wide selection of options to choose from for sale.
Let’s Get Planting
Ready to plant your apricot trees? Check back here often for more information on everything you need to know about apricots.