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Apricots - Prunus Armeniaca

Apricots are not grown as frequently as most other fruit, partly because they are not 
very easy to grow and partly because, with limited space, most gardeners prefer to grow the more luscious peaches. Home-grown apricots may well be a revelation, 
however, because they taste much better than shop-bought fruit ever does.

An elegant fan-trained apricot spread
out across a large wall. The canes,
supported by wires, help to maintain
the fan shape.

One of the problems with apricots is that they flower very early and are suscept-ible to frosts. They are, therefore, suitable only for warm areas. Their need for warmth means that they are best grown as fans against a south-facing wall, which will help to protect them from the cold. They are self-fertile, so there is no need for different varieties and only one tree need be grown if space is limited.

Cultivation

A warm, sunny, frost-free site is required to grow apricots successfully. The soil should be free draining but moisture retentive. You will have to incorporate plenty of organic material before planting. Plant in autumn or early winter, placing fans about 4.5m/ 15ft apart. The blossom will need to be 
protected if there is the possibility of frost. Mulch the ground with a good layer of manure and keep the ground watered 
during dry spells. If there is a potentially heavy crop, thin out the fruits to about 8cm/3in apart.

Pruning and training

On mature fans pinch out the laterals 
in summer to about 8cm/3in. Remove any laterals that face towards or away from the wall. Later, in summer, remove any more 
laterals that have developed. Apart from that, little pruning is required because most apricot fruit is borne on old wood. Every few years, remove some of the older wood and allow new laterals to develop in order to replace it.

Harvesting and storage

Pick the fruit once it has fully ripened and can be removed easily from the stalk. Apricots do not store well, although they can be frozen or dried.

Pests and diseases

Protect fruit from birds by netting. Aphids may also be a problem. The most likely 
diseases are silver leaf, canker, brown rot and die back.

Apricot fan

Once the fan has been established, the object of most subsequent pruning is to maintain the shape. Cut out any shoots that are pointing in the wrong direction, especially those that point towards or away from the wall. Thin new shoots, leaving one every 15cm/6in. Prune the remaining shoots to five leaves in the spring and then again, after fruiting, back to three leaves.

Rootstocks

The rootstock will affect the size and rate of growth of the tree.

St Julien A  semi-vigorous stock (bush, fan)

Brompton A  vigorous stock (bush)

Varieties

  • ‘Alfred’
  • ‘Bergeron’
  • ‘Breda’
  • ‘Early Moorpark’
  • ‘Hemskerk’
  • ‘Luizet’
  • ‘Moorpark’
  • ‘New Large Early’
  • ‘Polonais’