With an individual and superior flavor, ripening a week or two earlier than peaches, apricots deserve space in every orchard. They are as easy to grow as peaches and, requiring the same temperature, frequently outlive them. Deep, fertile, well-drained soil of fine texture is best for apricots. Loam to clay loam soils are preferable to sandy soils which tend to warm early. Shallow hardpan should be avoided, and wet subsoil can kill the apricot tree.
As the apricot belongs to the Plum family, it is a simple matter to graft plum, peach or apricot scions on the same stock. If early, middle and late-ripening varieties are used, one can have fruit from the same tree all season long—an ideal arrangement for gardeners with limited land.
The stocks on which apricots are budded affect their adaptability. Those whose host tree is a myrobalan plum stand heavy soils better; those on seedling peach and apricot stocks are best for hungry overporous land.
One drawback to apricot culture is that the flower buds, which open very early, risk being injured by late spring frosts. To overcome this, select a cool and not overly sunny spot, planting in a northern or western exposure to delay the opening of the buds. Avoid full shade. Where possible, an eastern aspect should be avoided because the morning sun does not allow frostbitten buds to recover gradually, as they can when the sunlight does not strike them immediately.
Try to plant apricots at some distance from the vegetable garden and strawberry patch. Tomatoes, potatoes, Persian melons, and strawberries all harbor verticillium wilt, which causes blackheart in apricot trees.
Apricot trees should be planted in early spring before the buds begin to swell. In California they are planted between the middle of January and the first of March. Throughout the rest of the country they should be planted as soon as the soil can be prepared.
Two-year-old, six-foot whips are good for planting. The average apricot tree covers a circle 25 to 30 feet in diameter when fully grown; this means that apricots should be set at least this distance apart, and eventually they will need this space available to them on all sides. But shorter-lived brambles and bush fruits may be planted closer to them until they need their full room.
One self-pollinating apricot tree will yield 200 to 250 pounds of fruit in a good year. If fruit is to be dried, five pounds of fresh fruit will yield one pound dried. The best types are:
Perfection and Goldrich are excellent large-fruited cultivars. Alfred and Curtis, which are resistant to most diseases, can be grown in northern regions where spring frosts are not too severe.
Blenheim is the leading California cultivar. Moorpark is an old English, home-garden variety. Scout is not self-pollinating.
Early Golden has large fruits, almost as big as peaches, and is an old-time reliable sort.
Kok-pshar, Manchu and Zard are three recent introductions from central and northern China. These extra-hardy cultivars are suited to climates where winter temperatures dip as low as -40°F (-40°C).
Several varieties suited to the Great Plains region have been developed by the South Dakota Experimental Station.
Young fruits should be thinned rigorously; otherwise, lean years may alternate with fruiting years. Important: When they are half-grown, snip out one of every two fruits that touch.
Multi-variety trees—apricot, peach and plum on one tree—are recommended for the garden that is limited in area.
Apricots, both dried and fresh, contain large quantities of vitamin A (7,500 units in three fresh fruits; 13,700 units in 100 grams dried fruit) and moderate quantities of the B vitamins, as well as some iron and calcium.
Apricot Insect Control
Branch and twig borers may be frustrating to many apricot growers. These brown or black beetles are about 1/2 in. long and are cylindrical. They can be found burrowing into fruit buds or limb jointures causing the branches to die and the trees to become weakened.
Prune off infected twigs from smaller fruit trees and remove all pruning from the vicinity of the tree as soon as possible. If infested wood is held for fuel, dipping it for a moment in stove oil will kill the larvae under the bark. Maintain as much vigor as possible in the orchard to eliminate these pests. This is accomplished by a sound system of mulching and tree feeding to encourage the vitality of the tree.
Cankerworms or measuring worms are wingless crawling insects which lay their eggs in the spring and fall in the limbs of trees. These slender, dark green worms chew on the edges of the leaves while they attack the apricot trees. Since these worms do not have wings in their egg-laying adult stage, they must crawl up the trunks of the trees to deposit the eggs of the next brood. By placing a band of sticky material like Tangle foota or an inverted funnel of window screen around the trunk, the moths will be prevented from climbing the tree.
The small greenish insect covered with a powder like substance that can be seen crawling up the twigs of apricot, plum and prune trees is the mealy plum aphid. Should it strike, the foliage will become curled from loss of vital plant juices, the tree will become weak and stunted, and the fruit will split. Fruit is often spoiled by being covered by the sooty mold that is excreted.
Aphids can destroy trees that are unhealthy and weak. Best control for the organic gardener is to revitalize his tree by the use of organic fertilizers.
The brownish snout beetle feeds in curved excavations and lays its eggs in the plum curculio. It also devours leaves and petals until the fruit appears.