Care Of Apricot Trees: Apricot Tree Growing In The Home Garden
Apricots are a fruit which belong to the family Rosaceae. They have been cultivated since ancient times and they were first domesticated in China around 300 BC. Today there are over 100 varieties of apricots grown worldwide.
Some of them produce edible fruits while others do not. There are many different types of apricots including but not limited to Golden Delicious, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Red Delicious, Granny Smith and Blackberry. All of these varieties have their own characteristics and advantages.
The most common type of apricot used in home gardens is the Golden Delicious or ‘Red’ variety. These fruits grow well in USDA Zones 10 through 12 where they will thrive with good drainage and sun exposure. They require full sun and will not tolerate shade.
They need at least 4 hours of direct sunlight per day. If you live in a zone lower than 10, then you may want to consider other varieties such as the Fuji or Honeycrisp. These varieties grow best in USDA Zone 7 where they will flourish with less water and some protection from frost. They can grow in colder temperatures but may not bear fruit until they reach a later age.
The first thing that you should do before planting your apricot tree is to prepare the soil. Clear away any grass, weeds or debris from where you wish to plant your tree. Dig a hole 3 feet in diameter and approximately the same depth as well.
You want the hole to be wide enough so that when you add your amendments the soil will not overflow when you refill it. At this point, you can add your organic matter. Common choices include composted cow manure, rotted straw or uncomposted shredded tree bark. If you use cow manure or other animal based manure, be sure that it is well aged and free of any fresh manure. If you use rotted tree bark, you can sometimes get this for free from local tree services or landscape companies because they often have to pay to have it removed. For the uncomposted shredded bark, it must be aged 3 to 5 years before use. Add your organic matter until the hole is half full.
Next, you want to add a few handfuls of rock dust. This helps to harden the soil and keep it from blowing away in the wind as well as helping to keep the soil well aerated. After this, you want to fill in the rest of your hole with your soil.
Finally, when your hole is filled, you need to create a small depression in the soil approximately 2 feet in diameter and 6 inches in depth. This is so that when you transplant your tree into the hole, it has a place to go while the soil settles around it.
When your apricot tree arrives from the nursery, it will most likely be in a container. Begin by gently tapping the corners of the container to loosen the roots. Try not to over water it as this can cause warping and other issues for the tree.
Gently tap the container onto your hand and ease the tree out. Examine the roots and if necessary trim away any that are damaged or appear unhealthy.
Now you want to prepare the hole that you created by removing the rock dust and any other debris that may have fallen in there. If you’re planting your tree in the Fall, now is a good time to plant it. If it’s too heavy to lift, you may need someone to help you with this part.
If planting in the Spring, you may want to hold off planting it until just before the last frost is expected so that it will not become root bound while in the container.
Lifting your tree out of the container and gently tap the container again to remove most of the soil from the roots. Gently shake it from side to side to get the rest off.
Carefully lower your tree into the hole. Some people like to use planting spikes to hold the tree in place while others simply fill in the hole and the tree roots hold it in place. Either way is fine.
If you’re using planting spikes, you can gently tap the bottom of the tree so that the root flare is above ground level and then place a planting spike into the ground near the root flare. As you add soil, continue to place spikes near the root flairs so that as the tree is held in place by the soil.
After planting, spread a 2 inch layer of mulch between the tree and any other plants in that area. This will help keep the moisture in the soil and help to maintain healthy roots.
If you have added any fertilizer, you need to wait about a month before applying it. You then need to add a small amount to the root zone. Do not over fertilize as this can lead to a lot of problems with your tree such as unnatural growth at the expense of the rest of the tree or it can cause burn spots on the roots.
Adding fertilizer will also cause you to need to add more rock dust in order to keep the soil healthy so be prepared for that extra cost as well.
Your tree will need between 25 and 35 gallons of water per season depending upon the time of year and the weather. Water deeply enough that the entire root area is wet but not so much that you cause drainage problems in your yard. It’s better to water once a week consistently than to allow your tree to become slightly dry and water it every day.
A great way to make sure that you’re watering deeply enough is to dig a hole roughly the size of the pot your tree is in. Once your hole is big enough, water it and the soil. Wait until the next day.
If you notice that the bottom of the hole is wet, then you know you need to water more often as the water isn’t soaking into the ground. The water is merely sitting at the bottom of your hole and not sinking into the ground to nourish it.
Keep doing this until the soil is damp but not wet and then back off on how often you water until your tree is established enough that it won’t dry out the soil.
If you are using a bark mix or an inorganic pot, it is important that you water the soil not the tree. This can be difficult because you won’t know that the bark or pot is getting wet unless you keep going out to check it which defeats the purpose of having something that’s supposed to make your life easier. You can greatly simplify this by placing a saucer under your pot and filling it with water.
Make sure the water comes up to the bottom of the pot but not over it (that would be watering the soil) and wait for it all to soak in. This should take only a few hours.
Re-Watering Inorganic Pots that have become Over-Dried
When re-watering an over dried inorganic pot, it is important to do so slowly and consistently. If you water all at once or in large volumes, you can cause your tree to become root-bound. This means that the roots have grown past the limits of the pot and are circling them self back around.
This can result in damaged roots and damage to your tree.
If you stick with a 25-35 gallon amount of water, you shouldn’t run into this problem. But it isn’t uncommon for people to do it wrong the first few times and then look at their tree and wonder why all the leaves are dying. Be patient and give your watering routine time to work properly before you jump to conclusions.
The first year is the hardest on your Japanese Maple. After its first full year, it should be able to go for months without needing any water so long as the average temperature doesn’t get under 25 degrees. If you live in an area that experiences frost during the winter and your tree hasn’t fully taken root yet, a good rule of thumb is to make sure that the soil never freezes.
This means bringing the tree inside or making sure that if you do leave it outside, that the soil stays unfrozen.
Light and Temperature
Your Japanese Maple will need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day but will prefer more. If you live in an area that doesn’t get full sun, then you will want to move it around a bit to make sure it gets even sunlight throughout the day. Too little light and your tree will become weak and begin leaning sideways.
Temperatures should be above 33 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. If the temperature falls below this for an extended period of time, your tree will not survive. Many people use heat lamps to supplement their weaker lighting and this can be a good way to go if you’re in an area with colder winters.
You can also place the pot on a heating pad on the “low” setting. Make sure that it doesn’t get too hot though as it can burn the roots or soil.
Feeding Your Tree
It is important to feed your tree every once in awhile with something that has a high nitrogen content. Straight nitrogen based fertilizer works well or if you want to save money, fish emulsion is an excellent choice. You should never give it anything with low nitrogen content like potting soil or something that is heavy in potassium because this could actually damage the tree and possibly kill it.
On that note, do not feed your tree something that has been sitting outside for a long time. The best method is to make a mixture yourself so you know it’s fresh. Taking a container (a large milk jug with a hole cut in the bottom works well) fill it up with one part nitrogen and two parts something like wood chips, old potting soil or fresh dirt and mix in a few scoops of fish emulsion (available at any pet store).
Then grab a hammer and nail and puncture the jug so that it slowly leaks into the soil as time passes. By the time you notice that the jug is empty, the tree should have received all the nutrients it needs for quite some time.
Also keep in mind that your tree will often tell you if it isn’t getting enough nutrients. If your leaves start turning yellow and falling off from the edges, then you need to feed it more. If the leaves are staying green but getting a little skinny then it probably has all the nutrients it needs.
If your tree starts putting on a lot of growth for some reason (such as when you first get it) you will need to feed it a little more but will probably not need to do so on an ongoing basis.
After your Japanese Maple has been in the same container for several years it will most likely outgrow that container. This is perfectly normal and you should have been expecting it. You can either buy a new container and transfer it or just get a bigger one and plant your tree in that.
If you do choose to transplant your tree, now is the time to do so.
As mentioned before, your tree has been growing in a container for quite some time so the roots will have become cramped. When this happens the root structure becomes quite dense and hence unable to properly take in nutrients. It is very important at this time to separate the root mass so that air can circulate and the roots can get the proper amount of nutrients.
Just like when you first planted your tree, you need to Carefully remove an inch or two of soil from around the edges of your root ball and then Carefully upturn the root mass using a fork or something similar. It’s important not to tug or pull at the roots because they are quite delicate at this point. Once you have upturned the root mass, separate them so that they are no longer in a tight clump and make sure that you leave plenty of space for good air circulation. Just fill in with fresh soil and you should be ready to go.
Decorating With Your Tree
You can place your tree in a decorative pot if you choose to but it really isn’t necessary. If you do, simply pick one that is broad enough to hold the roots and that looks nice. Be careful not to pick one that is too large (no deeper than two times the diameter of the container or root ball) since this will just hold water and weigh your tree down.
Place a 1/2 inch layer of small gravel at the bottom to help with drainage and make sure that the top of the soil doesn’t extend above the lip of the pot. This will prevent water from collecting in the bottom and possibly rotting the roots.
Now that you have your tree in an appropriate pot, you can begin to decorate it for the holidays. You can either buy a kit to do this or use items from around your home.
If you choose to use a kit, there are several brands available at most garden centers. They come with metal wires that are shaped like various Christmas items such as wreathes, stars, bells, and even Christmas trees. You simply wrap the wire around your tree and then twist the ends together to secure in place.
From there you usually add a coating of asphalt coating or glue to keep it in place. If you choose the glue, be careful not to get any on the leaves since it is poisonous.
If you want to use items from around your home, there are also many different things that you can use.