One of my favourite childhood memories was raking up the leaves and fallen fruit from my friend Peacock’s big old apricot tree. It was the first fruit trees I remember and when we started adding to the food forest an apricot tree was a must.
Besides bearing delicious fruit, they are among the prettiest of all the deciduous fruit trees, bursting into white flowers in spring, and have attractive green heart shaped leaves that turn bronze-yellow in autumn. In summer, their canopy casts beautiful shade and their pruning’s make a useful firewood, so much value in one tree!
Another good thing about apricots is that they are easy to grow in most warm or cold temperate climates. Most varieties need a moderate amount of chill in winter, but the fruit really develops flavour in areas where summers are relatively hot and dry. I don’t recall the kind of tree we purchased, but it was purchased from Daley’s, it was self-pollinating and low chill which is suitable for our climate and temperate zone. We expect the tree to grow 4*4 metres, but we will prune the tree to make harvesting more accessible. When we prune the tree in winter it just after picking the fruit to avoid bacterial infections getting into open pruning wounds. Apricots fruit on last year’s wood, so pruning will be minimal, restricted to pruning back old growth and shaping new growth.
Margaret Sirl recommends pruning at the end of April and a video can be found here: http://www.abc.net.au/local/videos/2009/06/23/2606206.htm
The best time to plant a new tree is in winter when the tree is dormant. They like deep, well-drained soil rich in humus, they like a soil ph. level of 6-7. Heavy soils can be improved by incorporating gypsum and organic matter and mounding the soil before planting. If your soil is below this range, add dolomite lime to the soil – if it’s higher, add powdered sulphur to lower the ph. Established trees are frost tolerant but we need to be mindful that late frosts may destroy blooms, so will be mindful of the seasons. Stone fruit need plenty of sun and good air circulation to minimise disease and a gentle slope facing north or northeast is ideal.
Regular light feeding in the first few years will encourage strong healthy root and canopy development and when the tree starts cropping, we will fertilise in Winter, Spring and Summer. They like a well-balanced organic fertiliser applying a good handful per square metre from the trunk to one metre beyond the outer canopy line. To them maximum health and fruit production, we’ll keep them well watered and when there’s no rain, give trees a good soak once a week and keep trees well mulched.
When harvested apricots can be cut in half, or we can remove the seeds or freeze whole and then process and make into jam later. They can even be blended with coconut cream and honey to make ice-cream. They could also be left in a cool space on a tray and dried out in the dehydrator.
We expect like all of our fruit bearing trees, the possums, bats and birds are going to want a piece of the action, so when we get fruit after 2 more years (2021), we will be sure to net the tree at the appropriate time. We will expect the first fruits to ripen in November to March. So glad we brought the property when we did, so many of the fruit trees we are planting are going to take years to establish and provide fruit and it’s going to take time to learn about how to care for them.