January 9th is National Apricot Day–and it’s never too early to start giving some though to this Spring crop. We’re looking to celebrate by making this the year we try to grow our own (and enjoying our own preserves). Apricots are hearty fruit trees that grow quite well in zones 4 through 9. They can reach heights of up to 30 feet and standard sized trees can produce 3 to 4 bushels of the tasty fruit for 50 years or more. Apricots can be eaten raw, cooked or dried and have an abundance of vitamins A and C, and are a good source of fiber in your diet.
Once established, an apricot tree needs little care other than occasional pruning. They are self-fertilizing, which means you do not need to plant multiple trees to produce fruit. Apricot trees need full sun and well-draining soil, and you can expect a full harvest in the third or fourth year after planting.
Apricot trees are usually planted in early spring, with bare root being the most common. Bare root trees can be planted as soon as the soil is workable and often produce a much healthier tree than planting from container.
Choose a spot that receives a full day’s sun and dig a hole twice as wide as the tree’s roots. Allow at least 25 feet around your tree for growth. Be sure to add compost to the soil when planting to help keep the tree’s roots fed and moist. Keep weeds to a minimum around your new tree for the first year and add a three-foot layer of mulch around the base to deter weed growth. Water regularly, especially in dry weather, for the first year.
Caring For Your Tree
Immediately after planting, prune your tree to encourage new growth. Take each branch back about a third and remove the central leading branch entirely. The more open center will allow more sun to reach the branches and help with future fruit production.
As the tree grows, continue with a regular pruning schedule, removing suckers or waterspouts (green “branches” that grow straight up) that may appear. Also, remove any branches that grow downward, and any branches that rub other branches to avoid injury to the tree.
The following recipe from food.com is a delicious way to use your apricot harvest. Simple to make, nothing beats the taste of homemade apricot preserves.
8 cups diced apricots
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 cups sugar
Sterilize your canning jars by boiling for 10 minutes in a hot water canner.
You will need 5 pint jars or 10 half-pints.
Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot.
Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
Once mixture reaches a rolling boil, continue to boil it for 30 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent it from sticking.
Remove from heat and fill jars, leaving 1/4 headspace.
Wipe rims clean and put the 2-piece metal canning lids in place.
Process in boiling water canner for 10 minutes.