Apricots are a favourite for drying and the nutrient-packed fruits make a great alternative to sugary sweets in children’s lunchboxes.
However, the fresh fruit is delicious too and more and more popular in the supermarkets; unfortunately imported fruit which has travelled halfway around the world often tastes rather poor for the experience.
But with modern varieties it is now possible to grow your own apricots at home and the fruit is often much juicier and larger than shop-bought alternatives.
Fruit specialists now list several varieties which are worth a try in more favoured areas of the country such as the warmer south. As with their cousins the peach and nectarine, the trees are usually hardy; it is the flowers that suffer from our frosty climate.
However, there are new kids on the block such as ‘Tomcot’, a self fertile French variety bearing large fruit, and ‘Goldcot’, an early fruiting variety which is said to be very hardy and so less prone to cold damage. ‘Flavourcot’ is a Canadian variety which flowers late and so avoids the frosts.
Apricots have very similar requirements to peaches and nectarines. Choose a sunny, sheltered site and avoid frost pockets (areas where cold air collects, often at the base of slopes).
Apricots are supplied on plum rootstocks which help to control their growth – St Julien A is a popular one as is Pixy, a very dwarfing rootstock.
If your garden is exposed you could consider growing your apricot as a fan, in which case it is best to buy a ready-trained tree and to plant it in the shelter of a warm wall or fence. If you have a greenhouse, your tree can be grown inside for protection.
Alternatively grow it in a pot. The planting and pruning of fans is the same as for peaches, and bush trees are pruned in the same way as plums. Pruning should be carried out in late winter/early spring and again in the summer to control growth, but it is best to keep any pruning to a minimum.
Dieback of the shoot tips is a common problem with apricots and not something to be unduly worried about, simply tip them back to healthy wood when pruning.
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