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APRICOT

Type of tree: Bush (suitable only in warm, sheltered gardens) and fan-trained. Pollination: Self-fertile. Climate: Subtropical to temperate.

Aspect: Sunny or facing south or west.

Soil: Any provided that it is fertile and well-drained.

Yield: 50 to 60 fruits annually.

Planting and cultivation

The soil can be improved if necessary by adding compost, but avoid excessive use of fertilizers, particularly in the case of fan-trained trees, as too rich a soil encourages unnecessary leafy growth. The branches of fan trees should be secured loosely to a framework of wires. In cold districts you can also grow peaches by training a fan tree against wires on one of the walls inside a greenhouse with a span of at least 3 m (10 ft). No heat is necessary. In early spring top dress the soil around the trees with general fertilizer at the rate of 135 gm per sq m (4oz per sq yd) under the spread of the branches. In mid-spring surround the trees with a thick layer of compost or moist peat. Although apricots are self-fertile, you will often do better to pollinate the tree yourself by dabbing the centre of each open flower in turn with an artist’s brush. Thinning the fruit is rarely necessary, but when the fruitlets are 2.5 cm (1 in) wide, ensure that the crop is evenly spaced over the tree with 10 cm (4 in) between each fruit. Water the soil thoroughly whenever the weather is dry while the fruits are swelling to prevent them from splitting.

Harvesting

Pick apricots as soon as they are ripe and well coloured and can be pulled easily from the tree.

Pruning and training

Bush trees need no regular pruning other than the removal of dead, diseased, weak and crossing branches in spring. With fan trees, the best plan is to invest at the start in the best shaped tree you can get, since producing the ideal fan shape on a young tree is somewhat difficult for amateurs.

However, assuming that you have a good tree, the side-shoots should be pinched back to 7.5 cm (3 in) in late spring and early summer and the secondary side-shoots (sub-laterals) to one leaf. Crossing and crowded branches should also be removed at this time. In autumn cut away those side-shoots which have borne fruit and tie in the replacement growths from the base of the side-shoots. If the ‘ribs’ of the fan grow beyond their allotted space in a greenhouse, cut them back to a strong side-shoot.

Pests and diseases

Aphids, birds and wasps (protect with fine netting or plastic mesh netting), red spider mites (greenhouse trees have a pale mottling on the leaves – spray with malathion).

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