Growing Organic Apricots
Growing organic apricots can be a little bit challenging, but the sweet, aromatic fruit makes it well worth your effort. This juicy and naturally sweet fruit is one of my favorites to eat right off of the tree.
Doing a little research ahead of time, can help you to choose the tree best suited for your climate and will provide the best chance for success. Some apricots are self-fruiting; others need a second tree for cross-pollination. While winter-hardy, if you chose a variety that blooms too early for your climate you may lose its crop due to frost. Many cultivars don’t do well in high-humidity areas. Select trees grafted to seedling apricot rootstock. These do the best. Avoid those grafted to peach or to dwarfing rootstocks.
Dig the planting hole at least twice as wide as the container the tree came in, but the same depth or a couple of inches shallower. This will ensure that the tree does not settle and become prone to fungal diseases. Use Dr. Earth® Planting Mix at a rate of 1/3 planting mix and 2/3 native soil, plus Dr. Earth® Starter Fertilizer according to product directions. Space trees 20 to 25 feet apart, or a little closer, for better pollination.
Apricots, like any other fruit tree, need to be fed on a regular basis. Use Dr. Earth® Fruit Tree Fertilizer in early spring, just before they break dormancy, and then every other month, until the harvest is completed. Feed once again after harvest to replenish the soil of nutrients that have been depleted.
Apricot trees can grow up to 30 feet tall. Train them to an open center shape. Where diseases are a problem, limit pruning cuts, and slow down growth by spreading young limbs. With newly planted trees, make the first cut low, to encourage low branching for better access to fruit.
If your tree escapes frost, it may set too many fruits, and you’ll need to thin by hand. While leaving all the fruits that set is very tempting, thinning a tree provides larger apricots and removes the danger of breaking limbs. Remove smaller and damaged fruits before the pits harden. Where summers are moist, leave enough space between fruits to prevent them from touching.
Apricots bear fruit in four to five years. Harvest when the skin turns a beautiful orange and the fruit is soft. They dry well.
If you have spring frosts and humid summers, look for late-blooming, disease-resistant cultivars such as ‘Jerseycot’, ‘Harcot’, and others starting with ”Har,” including ‘Harglow’, ‘Hargrand’, ‘Harlayne’, ‘Harogem’, and ‘Harval’.