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UNV.S. DEO FLSTOLY
HOME USE **
HOME AND GARDEN BULLETIN NO. 204 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
FOR HOME USE
You can grow apricot trees in
your yard or garden. They are
adapted to a wide range of soil
types and are attractive, symmetri-
cal lawn trees that require only
routine care. They produce fruit,
however, only on sites that are rela-
tively free of frosts during early
spring. The fruit can be eaten fresh,
preserved, or dried.
Apricots produce fruit on favor-
able sites in most parts of the coun-
try, except in very cold and very
warm areas. Blooms appear early
and are easily damaged by spring
frost. The blossoms and small fruits
are as cold tender as peaches and
other stone fruits.
The frost hazard is primarily re-
sponsible for the concentration of
commercial production in Califor-
nia (97 percent), Washington, and
Utah. A few are produced in Colo-
rado, Idaho, Michigan, and Oregon.
High winter temperatures also
limit apricot production in the very
warm sections of the country. Apri-
cot buds must be winter-chilled to
break their rest period and start
rapid growth. If minimum tempera-
tures are high during winter, many
fruit buds drop before flowering.
Apricot trees are adapted to a
variety of soils and climatic condi-
tions, but the growing site must be
relatively frost-free for the trees to
produce fruit. The most frost-free
sites are near large lakes, on the tops
or sides of hills, or near the base of
high hills or mountains. In valleys,
there is little air movement and the
coldest air settles in the lowest
places where damaging tempera-
tures occur more frequently and for
longer periods than on sites with
good air drainage.
Apricot trees grow best in deep,
fertile, well-drained soil but they
grow well in light, sandy soil when
adequately fertilized and watered.
Avoid heavy, poorly drained soil.
Also avoid sites where tomatoes,
cotton, or brambles have grown;
these crops harbor the verticillium
wilt fungus that causes "black
heart" of apricot.
Adequate soil moisture until har-
vest is necessary to produce large
fruit. Trees need water after harvest
for forming the next year's fruit
buds. Supplemental irrigation may
be required during long dry periods.
Temperatures of 1020 F. or more
just prior to fruit maturity cause pit
burn. Pit burn is darkening of the
flesh around the pit. High humidity
and heavy rainfall increase brown
Fruit characteristics of the com-
mon varieties of apricots follow:
Royal and Blenheim.-These are
very similar and represent nearly
two-thirds of the acreage in the
United States. They have excellent
flavor, small- to miediium-size, and
niedium firmness; they are subject
to pit bu1rn when nearing maturity.
Tifon,.-Tiltoni represents nearly
one-fourth of the acreage in the
United States. It is larger, lighter
colored, and firmer fleshed than
Royal 1)Ilt the flavor is not as desir-
able. It is less subject to pit burn
than Royal, which makes it better
adaIpted to warm areas. It bears
heavy crops but ]las a tendency to
produce fruit only every other year.
Other varieties that may be
available locally include Derby,
Wenatchee (Moorpark). Modesto,
Goldcot, Moongold, Sungold, Man-
chu, Reliable, and Superb. Varieties
that are self-unfruitful and require
a note r variety for pollination are
Earliril, Riland, and Perfection.
A 1-year-old tree 4 to 6 feet tall
and one-half to three-fourths of an
inch in diameter at the base is the
ideal size. This may be a June-
budded or August-budded tree, but
in either case, it will have produced
only one season's growth of the bud.
Larger, or 2-yea r-old, trees may be
used but they generally are more ex-
pensive. Although smaller trees
often are satisfactory, they require
extra care during the first year.
Nursery trees usually are straight
whips; however, they may be
When you receive trees from the
nursery and cannot plant them im-
mediately, bury the roots temporar-
ily in well-drained, moist soil to
keep them from (drying. Pack soil
arouiml them to the same depth they
were in at the nursery.
Another way to keep the roots
moist temporarily is to place moist
packing iuraterial such as sawdust,
old straw, or peat moss around
them. Keep the trees in a cool,
shaded place and keep the packing
Plant apricot trees 24 to 30 feet
from houses and other trees, if pos-
sible. At these distances, trees are
more easily held to the desired
height and shape by pruning.
In cold climates, plant trees while
they are dormant in late winter or
early spring. In imolderate climates,
you may plant them in late fall or
winter so that roots can become
established before top growth
Thoroughly spade or plow the
planting site to loosen the soil and
remove weeds. Loose soil encourages
root growth. The soil must not be
too wet to cultivate at time of plant-
ing, but it should be moist. Prepare
the planting hole large enough to
hold the roots without bending
Cut off broken or diseased roots
and shorten any unusually long
ones. Plant the tree at the same
depth it was at the nursery. Sift the
soil in around the roots and pack it.
Fill the hole level with the ground
surface. Water the soil to settle it
around the roots.
Newly planted trees need nitro-
gen fertilizer. Apply one-eighth to
one-fourth pound of nitrogen fertil-
izer evenly over a 3-foot circle
around the tree at planting. Repeat
this two or three times in early sum-
mer if needed to maintain good
growth. Do not fertilize after mid-
summer. This will allow normal
hardening of the tree before winter.
The purpose of pruning is to
shape the tree, limit the crop, and
maintain the vigor. Young trees
just developing their fruit-bearing
branches should be pruned lightly
because pruning dwarfs them and
delays bearing. Prune the top at
planting time by cutting back the
main stem 18 to 30 inches from the
ground (fig. 1).
Cut off all lateral branches that
are within 12 inches of the ground
close to the trunk. Large lateral
branches that are attached higher
on the trunk, and are distributed
around the tree at different heights,
.headed back at about 28 inches (arrow). :
f ., ,- ,'\ .5
Figure 1.-Newly planted apricot tree
headed back at about 28 inches (arrow).
Union is at ground line.
should be cut back to 4 to 6 inches
in length. You may use three or
four of these later as scaffold
branches that will control the shape
of the tree. Remove all other later-
als, but leave short stubs to produce
In the spring when new growth
is 3 to 4 inches long, the three or
four scaffold branches may be se-
lected by their position on the
trunk. Pinch back the tips of new
shoots on all other growth. Remove
only the tip of each shoot; removal
of the entire shoot will cause a
drastic setback in growth. Addi-
tional pinching back later will also
help in directing tree growth into
the scaffold branches.
After the first growing season,
the three or four branches selected
to form a uniformly shaped tree
should be headed back 2 or 3 feet
from the trunk to form the primary
scaffolds (fig. 2). Make the cut just
above an outside lateral branch on
each scaffold branch.
Remove branches other than the
scaffolds from the trunk of the tree.
Leave the lateral branches on the
scaffolds that do not cross each
other. Lightly pruned trees will
bear earlier and heavier than heav-
ily pruned ones.
In the second dormant-season
pruning, leave the short spur-type
branches on the tree. Remove later-
als forming on the scaffolds near
the trunk. Select five to seven sec-
ondary scaffolds from laterals
growing on the primary scaffolds.
The secondary scaffolds should arise
4 to 5 feet from the ground. Nor-
mally these grow where the main
scaffolds were headed the previous
Figure 2.-One-year-old apricot tree
with well-placed scaffold branches se-
lected and headed back.
season. They should be well spaced
around the tree because they will
form the main framework (fig. 3).
Remove other secondary branches
and keep the center of the tree open.
Some heading back and balancing
of scaffolds may be needed. The top-
most scaffold should be the largest
to prevent it from being crowded
out by lower branches.
The dormant-season pruning is
also a shaping and thinking process.
Severe heading back is not neces-
sary until the tree grows to the de-
After the growing tree has been
trained and shaped the first 3 or 4
years, the mature tree is pruned to
control height, maintain vigor, and
renew the short branches or spurs.
Most apricot varieties bear prin-
cipally on the spurs, which are
short-lived. A common practice is to
replace about one-third of the spurs
each year. You can encourage their
formation by spI:ling branches for
exposure to sunlight, cutting back
vigorous growth to \veakecr laterals,
and thinning out upper bra nrlies to
prevent excessive slhiling (fig. 4).
The tree should produce from 15 to
30 inches of new growth each year.
THINNING THE FRUIT
Apricot trees tend to produce
more fruit than they should bear.
Thinning the fruit red-lues the load,
produces larger fruit, encourages
regular bearing, and promotes ear-
lier maturity. Thin the fruit during
the pit-hardening stage when
growth of the fruit has temporarily
slowed (6 to 8 weeks after bloom).
Remove smaller fruits first and
break up clusters. The amount of
thinning needed depends on the
number of fruits set on the tree and
the ultimate size of fruit desired.
Nitrogen is needed more than any
other fertilizer by most apricot
trees. Nitrogen deficiency causes
yellow foliage, lower production,
and smaller, firmer fruit that ma-
tures early. The proper amount of
nitrogen to apply is best determined
by trial or from previous experi-
ence. Usually one-fourth to 1 pound
of ammonium nitrate per tree is
adequate. You may apply nitrogen
in fall or early spring.
Apricots need additional potash
when the soil is low in potassium.
Land scraped in leveling or leached
by rain is most likely to be low in
potassium. Two to 4 pounds of
muriate or sulfate of pot ash per tree
applied in early spring is usually
Apricot trees are generally culti-
vated in late winter or early spring
to kill graSs and other weeds, which
should not be permitted to compete
with the trees during the period of
most active growth. Later, you may
allow grass or weeds to grow. A
ground cover of grass, weeds, or
mulch at harvest helps prevent pit
burn by keeping temperatures
lower, but it also encourages brown
Allow fruit harvested for canning
to become firm-ripe on the tree but
not fully mature. Harvest fruit for
drying when it is fully mature.
Fungus and Bacterial
The most serious fungus and bac-
terial diseases that attack apricots
are brown rot, shot-hole, bacterial
canker, cytosporina, and crown gall.
Brown rot.-Brown rot attacks
both blossoms and fruits. Infected
blossoms wither and die. The fungus
then moves into the twigs at the base
of the blossoms and causes cankers.
Masses of ash-gray powdery spores
appear and these may cause new
infection throughout the season and
the following year.
To control blossom infection, re-
move infected twigs at pruning time
before blossoms develop. Spray
with benomyl, captain, or bordeaux
mixture between the redbud stage
and full bloom. Do not use a sulfur
with, strong framework of three scaffold
branches and strong secondary branch-
ously injures them.
Brown rot can be controlled on
ripening fruit by preharvest sprays
;- .' *- *- o
of captain or benar-old apricot tree
mummies, or rotted fr three scaffold the
branches aee or ground strong secondary branch-
spray on apricots because it seri-
ouses defoliation of trees and
malformation of fruit. In the
Brown reddishot can be controlled on the
leavripening fruit by preharvest sprays
the leaves fall out, causing holes.
mummInfeted buds die during the winter.
tree or ground.
To control the disease, spray withfungus
causes defoliation at redbud stage,es and
malformation of full bloom, and the
spring, reddish spots appear on the
leaves and fruits. Affected parts fall.
the leaves fall out, causing holespri-
cot trees are highly susceptible to
bacterial canker, which usually
Infected buds die during the winter,
To controlthe disease may produce large dead with
ziram or captan at redbud stage,
early bloom, and full bloom, and
spray with bordeaux mixture,
ziram, or ferbam just after leaf fall.
Bacterial canker.--Young apri-
cot trees are highly susceptible to
bacterial canker, which usually
affects buds and spurs. However,
the disease may produce large dead
areas or cankers on large limbs and
the trunk. Infected branches or the
whole tree may die.
There is no satisfactory control
for bacterial canker. A spray of
10-10-100 bordeaux mixture just as
leaves begin to fall and again when
most of the leaves are off may be of
some benefit, but is not always
Cytoslpori,'o.-Cytosporina is a
fungus disease that occurs almost
entirely at pruning wounds and
causes dieback of small branches,
large limbs, and even entire trees.
The infection produces cankers, dis-
colored wood, gum exudation as the
disease advances, and weak growth.
Sanitation is the best control.
Remove and burn all infected parts,
cutting at least 6 inches below a
canker. Seal large pruning wounds
with grafting wax or an oil base
paint. Sterilize pruning tools with
formalin after cutting through a
CrownV gall.-This :bncteriil dis-
Oa-e, infects large roots or crowns of
apricot trees. It produces irregular
gall enlargi-elm ts and growths that
may girdle the t ree.
Crown gall bacteria are widely
distributed in soils and enter trees
through wounds. Care should be
taken in planting trees and during
cultivation to avoid injuring the
trunks and large roots. You ca ii con-
trol the infection by cleaning the
soil away from the diseased area and
painting the gall with meta-cresol.
Many virus diseases are capable
of infecting apricot trees but few do
serious damage. Ring pox and ring
spot are the most common.
Ring pox.-Ring pox causes the
leaves of apricot trees to develop
irregular rings and angular spots,
or yellowed areas. Fruits develop
surface bumps and may drop. In-
fected trees should be destroyed.
Ring spot.-Ring spot symptoms
are rare on most apricot varieties.
Rings and yellowed patterns on
leaves may develop in the initial
acute stage of the disease but dis-
appear later. The disease reduces
growth. No control has been
Many species of insects attack
apricot trees. Some of the more
common ones and the insecticides
for their count rol follow:
Follow all directions and heed
all precautions on the insecticide
package labels. For further infor-
mation on insect control, see your
county agricultural agent or State
Pesticides used improperly can be
injurious to man, animals, and
plants. Follow the directions and
heed all precautions on the labels.
Store pesticides in original con-
tainers-out of reach of children
and pets-and away from foodstuff.
Apply pesticides selectively and
cn ruefully. Do not apply a pesticide
when there is danger of drift to
other areas. Avoid prolonged in-
halation of a pesticide spray or
dust. When applying a pesticide it
is advisable that you be fully
After handling a pesticide, do not
eat, drink, or smoke until you have
washed. In case a pesticide is swal-
lowed or gets in the eyes, follow the
first aid treatment given on the la-
bel, and get prompt medical atten-
tion. If a pesticide is spilled on your
skin or clothing, remove clothing
immediately and wash skin thor-
Dispose of empty pesticide con-
tainers by wrapping them in several
layers of newspaper and placing
them in your trash can.
It is difficult to remove all traces
of a herbicide (weed killer) from
equipment. Therefore, to prevent
injury to desirable plants do not use
the same equipment for insecticides
and fungicides that you use for a
NOTE: Registrations of pesti-
cides are under constant review by
the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency. Use only pesticides that
bear a registration number and
carry directions for home and gar-
Information for this publication was furnished by John H. Weinberger,
Western Region, Agricultural Research Service
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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