Growing Your Own Suitable Apricot Trees in Southern Arizona
Visions of Apricots
Apricot trees do not require another tree to pollinate; they are self-pollinating, so a single tree can produce its own fruit. Because of this, a huge yard is not necessary. Basically, if you have enough room to accommodate the tree's umbrella, you can grow apricots. This is why it is a great fruit tree to grow if your yard space is limited. On average, apricot trees can grow to 15 feet (though certain varieties can get up to 20 feet tall). The tree's umbrella is usually 15 feet.
Apricot trees are grown all across the world. Biologists are experimenting with varieties of apricots to generate the best possible tree compatible with varying environments. Apricots usually do best in dry climates. For those of you in an area with clay soil, an apricot will do well. I live in Arizona and the tree does well with a soil mixture 1/3 screened natural soil, 1/3 sand, and 1/3 topsoil. A mixture of natural soil and topsoil is cited in most articles as OK for apricots growing in northern climes. It's best to check with a local nursery about what variety of apricot grows best in your area.
Late winter is the time to fertilize your apricot tree. There are generic nitrogen fertilizers available at home and garden centers suitable for apricots. Usually these fertilizers include phosphorus and potassium supplements. Read the instructions on the package to determine how much to use. Sometimes it is good to record how much fertilizer you put down. If in a following year you discover the tree has too many new branches and extremely dense foliage, you can cut back a bit on fertilizer.
The key thing about care is that you thin the tree when the fruit comes in. Most reference works recommend 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches between fruit. This is important to many people because they want a good-sized piece of fruit. Thinning should be done when you see the bud and stone shape. I actually haven't thinned. My fruit grows to 1 1/2" to 1 3/4" in diameter and I find them just fine and delicious. But, if I thinned it, I could get bigger fruit. Maybe I am being lazy?
Watering, of course, is part of the care for your apricot tree. When newly transplanted and young (1 to 2 years old prior to bearing fruit), your apricot tree can do well being deep watered a couple of times a month. For a watering schedule for fruit-bearing apricots, talk to your nurseryman. I live in Arizona where it is unforgivingly hot in the summer. I water twice a week deeply. Fruit trees, apricots in particular, consume a large amount of water in the heat.
The issue of insect control is so technical that I would call your local cooperative extension for information. The following information is applicable to the average infestation.
According to the University of North Dakota, "If the tree has not started budding, go ahead and spray it with dormant oil. If it has started budding, then wait until flowers begin to fall to start spraying with Sevin insecticide. Repeat the application at least 3 more times if necessary. Of course, be sure to follow label directions."
Home orchard fruit sprays include Sevin, Malathion, and Plus.
To prevent leaf rollers (insects that eat leaves and cover the leaves with silk), gardeners can use dormant oil for bad infection which result in leaves rolling or eggs visibly deposited on branches.
Dormant oil refers to an oil that can be sprayed on trees during the dormant season to kill aphids, mites, scale, etc. It is used before the flower buds open.. Summer or All Season oils and dormant oils come under the rubric of horticultural oils. Those insecticides used in summer and all season are lighter oils. Since the sun can damage freshly treated fruit trees (with these oils), I would call an extension if you have insect problems at that time, just to be certain about application. These oils act by interfering with digestion or preventing the insect from breathing.
When you get your tree from the nursery, it is usually one to two years old. Uncover the root ball and imagine the roots growing out sideways in a natural position. This gives you the width of the hole to be dug. However, I advise digging the hole slightly larger than that to adjust for inaccuracy of measurement (I always do it assuming inaccuracy of measurement). There is nothing worse than finishing the hole and finding that the roots are scraping the sides of said hole. Actually, it isn't good for the roots to be roughed up, nor does it help keeping the roots exposed more than necessary. Avoid this, as the roots are arguably the most important part of the tree, responsible for bringing nutrition to the rest of the plant. Digging huge holes (for fruit trees in general) is not good. Digging huge holes filled with prepared soil can retain moisture and create an environment good for disease. The naturally compacted soil should be good enough. If you live where the soil does not drain well or the soil is low in nutrients, apricots can be grown in beds or planters. Since they have shallow root systems, this kind of arrangement works well.
The most common form of plant disease to attack apricot trees is brown rot. In an earlier article I mentioned this disease as the most common disease of peach trees. In fact, it is the most common disease of all stone fruit trees. It is a fungus.
Infected blossoms of this fungus become brown, shrivel and die. Your apricot is most susceptible (of the fruit trees) to this infection. The diseased flower can remain behind as a sticky substance clinging to branches. Brown rot affects the fruit by turning areas brown and it spreads fast. This rotten area is covered with lighter-colored spores. The fruit rots, shrinks, and dies on the tree.
One protective spray can be applied each year. Fungicides are applied prior to fungal infection. That is, you do it before spring and any evidence of infection. These infections usually occur during wet, rainy seasons. One conventional spray fungicide used is Captan. Follow the instructions carefully. Once again, I would recommend calling your closest extension for information about concentration, number of sprays, etc as this might vary from region to region.
Captan can be found at most nurseries and will be effective for most home fruit tree needs.
And, now, for clarification, let me divulge the kind of apricot I own. I own a Royal Apricot and it does very well in Central Arizona (east of Phoenix about 60 miles).
The pink blooms of the apricot tree are absolutely beautiful! Since apricot and peach trees tend to be susceptible to the disease I mentioned, preventive spraying is usually necessary, but takes no time at all for the average homeowner. Apricot trees can flower as early as January, heralding in springtime. They tend to be cold hardy and live a long time. Best of all, they produce one of the most delicious and nutritional fruits available today. With a little work, you too could be standing in your yard picking a fresh apricot off the tree and munching with pure delight :).
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Apricot Facts Per Video Slide
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
I just bought an apricot tree, and I live just south of Phoenix, in the low desert. Does the tree need shade in the heat of summer? Would it work in a large pot that can be moved under a tree in the summer?
Partial shade is a good idea, even though the full sun is recommended in many places. Planting the tree where a wall may provide shade for some of the mornings or late afternoon works well. I actually have a large peach tree to the east of an apricot, and it provides some shade until noon. I wouldn't use a pot. For a very thorough discussion of Arizona apricots, see planting recommendations at http://apnursery.com/blog/growing-apricot-trees-in...
You will need 300-400 chill hours at 32 - 45 degrees. In a warm year, you may not get fruit. In 6 years I have gotten three crops of apricots. Thanks for the question and enjoy.
© 2011 John R Wilsdon