Growing apricots in the UK is a relatively new phenomenon but it’s one that’s not impossible. There are now a few apricot cultivars that have been specially developed to suit the UK climate. They have shown to be prolific croppers of delicious fruit and what’s more, they’re simple to grow.
Apricot trees are fast growing, winter-hardy trees that will eventually reach a height of around 3m. While they can be grown as standard trees, it is advisable to train them to grow as a bush, this way you’ll have better access to the fruit and the tree won’t become too big for your garden.
When planting the tree, cut back the main stem to encourage the growth of the side-shoots. This will encourage it to become bushy, rather than grow upwards. Then as the plant grows, remove any branches that are growing vertically, and any branches that are susceptible to picking up disease, such as those, which are rubbing together. Make sure you don’t over-prune the tree, however, as this in itself can encourage the onset of disease, particularly canker, or silver leaf, which would infect the tree through the wounds made when pruning.
Growing Your Tree
If you are growing your tree as a bush, make sure you leave t lots of space to grow outwards. This can be as much as 5m if you have the space. Alternatively, you can grow the tree along a trellis, and train it in a fan shape. This is ideal for small gardens, though it is likely that you will get less fruit if you grow it this way, and the greater amount of pruning needed to train the tree will increase its risk of developing a disease.
Plant bare-root trees from autumn onwards, making sure they are in the ground by mid spring. They prefer a free-draining soil, rich in organic matter. They can tolerate quite chalky soils but will do less well in heavier, clay soils. Their roots also enjoy a free reign, so it’s best not to grow them in pots or in confined spaces where they’ll have lots of competition.
Apricots are typically grown on three rootstocks: Torinel, Myrobolan and Seedling Peach. Beware of suckers coming up from the roots and remove them immediately (they belong to the rootstock and, if left to grow they will develop into the original tree and could even harm the growth of your apricot.)
A three-year-old tree can produce at least 20 fruits; these appear in clusters on wood that is at least one year old. Don’t thin the fruits, as you would with apple trees and pear trees, but leave them to develop naturally. When the crop starts to swell, water the tree thoroughly and regularly. Harvest the fruits only when they are fully ripe and come off the tree easily.
Tips to Successful Growing
- Avoid pruning in winter, or wet weather as this can increase the chance of your tree being attacked by a disease
- Remove suckers developing on the rootstock and leave the area around the tree free from weeds, who will compete with it for light, water and nutrients until the tree is large enough to fend for itself
- If you grow your tree in a fan shape, you may need to protect the blossom with fleece in the spring to protect it from a late frost. This is not necessary when growing the trees as bushes or standards
Apricots are delicious eaten fresh, or dried. An apricot tree in your garden will provide you with decades of fresh fruit and will also make an attractive addition to your garden.