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Do apricot trees need lots of maintenance?

Our new side yard is finished and now comes the fun part: planning the plantings. It's a small space, ~50x12 ft. I think I can fit in 3 dwaft fruit trees around everything else that I want to plant (raspberries, blueberries, maybe some cranberries too).

Since space is limited, I am considering fruit trees based on the scarcity of that fruit elsewhere - are there sure aren't a lot of tree-ripened apricots to be found around here. I would also love to plant a Lodi apple tree, but it needs something to cross-pollinate and I don't know if I want to commit 2 of the 3 available spots to apples.

Another consideration is that I'd like to limit spraying as much as possible. The neighbor's house is only ~10 ft farther from where the trees will be. Do apricots need a lot of sprays? Are there other types of fruit trees that are lower-maintenance? I haven't done much with my sour cherry tree except give it a douse of all-seasons oil once or twice a year. It'sa dwarf that's small enough for me to cover it with a spray bottle & I don't have to use a big sprayer thing. I might plant another sour cheery tree too, just in case the one that got moved doesn't make it . It would be nice to have a second variety anyway - sour cherries are pretty rare at markets around here, too.

Any thoughts?

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  1. Where do you live? It sounds like you might have weather like mine. I live in the maritime area of the PNW. I have a self pollinating semi dwarf called "Puget Gold". It is now 5 years old and it is a completely carefree tree. No spray. We just nip here and there to keep the shape/size that works for us (we intensively planted). It is prolific - I think we get them around August. We have lots of wind and surprise frosts even with bloom on the tree and it does not seem to mind.

    I would go to the nursery and talk it over with them. Tell them you want a disease resistant, dwarf to semi dwarf, (probably self pollinating right? - meaning it does not need another apricot tree to make fruit), and then maybe what sort of fruit you want or tell them about heat and wind conditions - does it get hot between the houses? See what they have to say. If they do not have it, ask them to order it for you.

    1. Have you considered plums? I adore our green gage (they taste like honey) and it is still very short. If you bake you could consider an Italian plum. Some pears can be kept small.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Sal Vanilla

        Hi Sal - thanks so much for your thoughts! We are in Zone 6 just North of Boston. It does get pretty hot on that side of the house, but it's windy too - we are at the top of a hill. There was an ancient Bartlett pear tree on the site that had to be removed when they excavated to build the wall. (I was amazed that the pear grew as well as it did - the excavation revealed that it was basically growing on blasted-out ledge, which they used as backfill when they built the house in 1880).

        I've been thinking about plums, will look into green gage. Another goal i have is to spread out the harvest, so (hopefully) someday when the plants & trees are mature I won't have to deal with processing too many things at once! S0, strawberries & sour cherries in June, blueberries in July, raspberries on Sept, etc. Apricots in August would be perfect.

        I put a peach tree on the other side of the house but has had lots of woes - arrived with a borer, peach leaf curl, and now some kind of worm that gets into the fruit. There are a number of other peaches in the neighborhood and I don't think that the neighbors spray them, so maybe harboring troubles :-( There is another Bartlett pear across the street that looks pretty robust (mine was not, before we had to remove it anyway) so maybe I'll try a different variety of pear.

        1. re: gimlis1mum

          I'm fond of little Seckel pears. They don't need a pollinator and act as a pollinator for other pears. You might want to consider hardy kiwis. You'll need a male and a female but they like to grow upward or trained along a fence so they don't take much room and once they start producing they are prolific. They are small, like large cherry tomato size and smooth/thin skinned, not fuzzy, no need to peel them. Inside they look and taste just like their tropical fuzzy counterparts.

          1. re: morwen

            I have a kiwi - well actually two because you do need a pollinator for those. OP could train them along his fence but they are very vigorous and can get mighty bushy and can be crazy fruitful. So? Well, you may find they take up so much space that your trees suffer and it makes it hard to get around on that side of the house.

            Now - I got to thinking - Hows about a nice fig. You can train it up the side of your house if it is sunny/South facing on an espalier. Trimming and outright getting brutal if it tries to get in the way of the yard trees. I have one that I started. It is a little slow in coming along - which can be nice since you can trim at leisure and not fret about its ranginess.

            I am going to point you here: http://www.oakcreekorchard.com/id82.html but with a note of caution to read it with a thought that they give the worst case scenario for apricots. They talk about conditions of where you plant and about your zone though. I see they mentioned puget gold. I can tell you they are hardy buggers. I live in a very rainy windy, unpredictable area and it is a super trooper! But later, when you are pruning, it could take a little for it to bounce back to fruitfulness (I think more than other trees). It grows fruit on its limb, not hanging from a stem. Maybe that is the difference? I am just guessing on that part. Anyway, congrats and how fun for you. Plant only what you like.

            The good thing about planting apricot trees is they are so hard to find at perfect ripeness at the store - even at the farm stand. At home you can check every day and then make like a pig and stand under the tree and eat them while warmed from the sun. It does not get much better than that!

            1. re: Sal Vanilla

              Maybe i'll do the kiwi on the other side of the house - eventually we'll put in a long pergola over the drivewy, a big bushy vine would be fine there.

              I've killed off two fig trees already (unintentionally!). I had them in pots and I moved them into the garage for the winter, thinking that they'd be protected, but each time they failed to leaf out the following spring.

              I like the idea of espalier for the fig, though. The foundation is East facing on that side but it does get lots of sun...it would be fun to try it.

              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                PS Standing under the tree and eating fruit warm from the sun - EXACTLY. We're doing this with the blueberries and alpine strawberries and it's sooo wonderful. I love it when we have kids over for a playdate, and I can send them over to the garden at snacktime :-)

        2. I would add this- just make sure you get an apricot that's developed for your climate. We got one at Target way back in the day, and the stupid thing never once in fifteen years gave us an edible apricot. It was probably a type that needed more chill-hours than we have here, because I know you can grow apricots here.

          1. There is one step that should not be missed with fruit trees or cane fruits. Dormant oil spray should be applied in early spring, early in the day and sunny so spray has time to dry. Dormant oil consists of lime sulphur and mineral oil. It is even suggested if trees are infested to apply it in the fall also. Most important is not to spray if the tree is leafing out. The combination of lime and mineral oil is only sprayed when trees are in a dormant state. However, mineral oil can be sprayed throught the season. Cleaning leaf litter in the fall is important too. Applying few shovelfuls of compost or manure is also good but not close to the trunk. If you wish to learn more about fruit tree cultivation look into a Garden Web Forum.

            11 Replies
            1. re: serbianbelle

              Very good rec. But I would stipulate that you wait to do this IF you find that there is a need (meaning, it leafs out this Spring and you develop problems). You rarely want to apply things to your trees or food that is not known to be needed. Best to let your trees hack it out on their own if they case of (whatever) is mild.

              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                Dormant oil spray is a very good preventative measure to take with trees and canes. It's simple to use, effective and can nip many problems before they start. Personally, I'd rather prevent an infection than have to fight it harder later and lose the crop and quite possibly the plant(s).

                "Dr. Phil Nixon and Dr. Raymond Cloyd in the U of Illinois Extension Home, Yard and Garden Pest Newsletter outlined the benefits of making an application of dormant oil. Advantages include: (1) a wide range of activity against most species of mites and scales, including some activity on eggs; (2) minimal likelihood of insects' or mites' developing resistance; (3) generally less harmful to beneficial insects and mites than other pesticides (4) relatively safe to birds, humans, and other mammals. ...Oils kill exposed insects and mites by either suffocating them (covering up breathing tubes) or by directly penetrating the outside cuticle and destroying internal cells. ...Dormant oils are effective in controlling certain scales that overwinter as nymphs or adults such as cottony maple, euonymus, lecanium, and obscure scale....
                Dormant oil applications must be made when temperatures stay above freezing for 24 hours....Spraying trees with dormant oil after bud break and leaves have emerged will still control the pests, but it may kill the young leaves or cause leaf edges to turn black if the correct oil is not used at the proper rate. "

                We use dormant oil on our fruits and very little else. We do not use it after bud break and leaf emergence. We have had very good luck later in the season on both fruits and some veg with Surround.

                1. re: morwen

                  Thanks for the additional info on dormant oil. I bought some a while back, but when I read the label it said to use it when the temp was going to stay above 40F. The problem I frequently run into here in New England is that bud break seems to happen before we are frost-free for 24 hours. That's why I ended up trying the all-seasons oil...maybe I need to be better at watching the weather forecasts, and hope for a few warms days in March when I can get out there with thespray bottle. Or maybe I need to look more carefully at the buds on the trees :-)

                  1. re: morwen

                    Hmmm. I have never sprayed my trees. But maybe I live in a more forgiving area. I would still check with a local garden and landscape outfit before applying anything to anything you will eat, grows anything you eat or is near things you eat.

                    We water, fertilize and compost and when we get leaf rollers or what not, we pick them off. Sometimes the tree looks ugly, but the fruit never suffers. We have about 20 or so fruit trees. Bugs do not often happen all at once. You can go down to water, stand so the sun is filtered thru the leaf and spot them. If you find a suspect something on your tree, nip off a sample or take a picture and hop on down to the county extension. Actually, maybe they should be the go to guys for sprays etc. They know what goes down in your neck of the woods and they won't be trying to sell you something.

                    1. re: Sal Vanilla

                      20 fruit trees? Wow, I'm jealous :-)

                      Re: garden pests, I seem to be at Ground Zero for all sorts of things that don't trouble my neighbors nearly as much. A couple of owners ago, our property apparently had 6-7 fruit trees and a large vegetable garden. It's been at least 20 years so I'd thought that the garden pests would have moved on...but it seems like the little nasties find my plants as soon as I put them in,

                      1. re: gimlis1mum

                        The little fu....critters are funny that way. This year our squash crop got decimated overnight by squash bugs. Our neighbor's right above us, not a bug to be seen.

                        1. re: morwen

                          Our place is APHID central. I am an aphid expert. I also specialize in all manner of horsetail.

                          My aphids seem to be attracted mightily to brussel sprouts. We had a couple rows of them this year and I have never seen such a coordinated aphid attack on a plant in my LIFE. We breed them.

                          We used to have tent caterpillars. Fingers crossed... they seem to have lost the map to our house. I won't say I miss the nightly scavenger hunt up the trunks of 10-20 foot trees.

                          1. re: morwen

                            hahahahaha! It's sort of nice to know that it's not just me. i planted zucchini and it was decimated by borers, so I thought OK, everyone plants zucchini there are just borers everywhere. Then I planted potatoes, and the potato beetles showed up...I'm pretty sure noone else has potatoes in their gardens around here, and it's been decades since our house's previous owners were gardening. Makes me wonder just how hungry those potato beetles were that they had to wander so far afield from the farms to my yard.

                            The thing that really gets me is powdery mildew. It grows on EVERYTHING.

                            1. re: gimlis1mum

                              Powdery mildew sucks and it's really bad in damp summers. We learned to water in the morning and as close to the ground as possible without getting leaves wet to help slow down or prevent it. A.M. watering allows excess water to evaporate quicker from the foliage as opposed to evening watering. We're also in the process of installing seeping hose in the established beds which waters slowly right on the ground under the mulch and loses less to evaporation and uses less water in general. Also frees up time spent holding a hose for other things.

                          2. re: gimlis1mum

                            My husband sez we are slaves to them. I sometimes use them as an escape when family comes... "better go water the trees...". We are also slaves to our animals, but they offer no excuses to get away from visitors. Me: "I think I will go clean out the chicken coop." Visitor: "Oh I will come. Chickens! How fun!" Me: "Wuh? Oh bother! ... grumble grumble..."

                            1. re: Sal Vanilla

                              LOL! Hand them the spading fork and smile!

                  2. Water, fertilize, prune, pick apricots. Repeat.

                    That's what I do with my apricot tree.

                    1. Update on the tree selection:

                      I found one supplier for Puget Gold paricot (Fedco), but decided to hold off on ordering until I had a chance to talk to a local nursery. Turns out that most local nurseries around here don't carry apricot trees, and the ones that do don't bring them in until April! So I missed to boat on PG (too late to order from Fedco this year).

                      Our local chain nursery had three culitvars (strains?): Wilson delicious (early season), Goldcot (midseason), and Blenhiem (late season, though the trees at the nursery had already bloomed). I found an independent nursery that carried a few varieties of fruits but no apricots. His supplier had stopped carrying them, in fact; the nurseryman told me that it was because of the climate (I guess our springs are hard on apricots).

                      Googleing suggested that Blenheim had the best flavor, and a late-season harvest seemed best given our late frosts. So I went back to the local-chain nursery and they only had 2 Blenheims left! I'm glad I went when I did. I also picked up a Northland blueberry...it was too expensive, but it's big and should give me a boatload of berries next year. (It's also blloming already, whereas the other bushes in my yard have yet to pop. I don't think there are any bees around to pollinate!).

                      I went back to the independent nursery and picked up a Green Gage plum, along with a Fairy rose. My driveway is beginning to look like a nursery itself...now to get it all in the ground.

                      Thanks again for all of the advice and suggestions!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: gimlis1mum

                        I have never perused this board before but I would strongly suggest if you haven't made your final purchases, "fruit salad" trees. Most fruit trees are grafted to a root stock. That being said, "fruit salad" trees can be several varieties of a single fruit, several varieties of stone fruit, all white fleshed peaches & nectarines, etc. that are all grafted to the same trunk. Especially when space is at a premium, these are great. For instance, if you got a plum with several varieties, they wouldn't all ripen at once...And yes, Blenheim apricots are wonderful. Living in So Cal, I know our growing seasons are different as bare root fruit trees are available in December-January with pre-orders in October.

                        1. re: Fru

                          I'm not a fan of fruit salad trees. They're fine for several seasons but then the dominant variety will eventually take over. Better off going for dwarfs and patio dwarfs of single varieties if space is an issue.

                          1. re: morwen

                            I thought I had heard someting like that before, that the dominant graft will, well, dominate. :-)

                            The Blenhiem is going great guns, in fact I am starting to worry that it is putting on too much growth for the first year. So far, the only thing that is troubling it are some leaf-munching caterpillars which were dispatched with a bit of insecticial soap. The green gage plum has an occasional aphid attack. Fortunately the aphids like to hang out together on the same leaf, and the trail of ants gives them away...much easier to spot a moving ant on a branch then to inspect the underside of each leaf!

                            1. re: morwen

                              Guess you need to be extra careful when pruning:)