Growing Apricots in New York
January is Apple and Apricot Month, the perfect time to enjoy healthy alternatives to all of the sweets and splurges we went for this past holiday season. But the New Year is also a perfect time to put some healthy foods on the table for your family and although somewhat unique, apricots are a delicious fruit to add to your diet, and one that you can grow right here in Upstate New York.
Cherries, peaches, plums and apricots are known as “stone fruits” because they all have similar hard “pits” or stone‐like seeds. Interestingly enough, wild plums and cherries were gathered by the Iroquois and Algonquins, and the other common stone fruits mentioned above have been grown for more than 300 years here in New York State, although today they are a small part of our fruit industry.
Experts agree that both skill and a bit of luck are needed to harvest a good crop of these fruits in New York, but are perfect for the skilled gardener looking to take on a small challenge. Because we are on the Northern edge of their optimal climate region, it can be risky but worthwhile to grow these stone fruits. Nonetheless, many people enjoy the fruits of their labor and are rewarded with plenty of healthy fruits to create preserves, jams, sauces and much more from. In this region, winter and spring cold injury to the flowers, buds, roots and trunks is common. As with other crops, there are several diseases and insects likely to damage the trees and fruit and should be known before planting begins. For those who think the risks are worth the rewards of home grown fruit, here are our suggestions to improve your chances of success.
Stone fruits are prone to frost injury during bloomtime because they flower a few weeks earlier than other fruits like apples. Most stone fruits like apricots ripen during mid to late‐summer and there is usually a long post‐harvest period when you can actually let weeds grow and the soil to dry out. This will in turn “harden off” trees.
Pest management is also important when growing apricots. Many birds, mammals, insects, frogs, and even bacteria and fungi can ruin the growing process. The two most serious diseases of all stone fruits are brown rot and perennial cankers.
Furthermore, it is important to understand how to prune apricot trees. The wood of stone fruits is quite flexible and can break when trees are cropped very heavily. Limb breakage can be reduced by spreading branches and adding branch weights to spread from the trunk or base. The optimal time to work on the branches is during the first few years of the tree so that the whole tree has an open center. This tree shape will improve light and air circulation inside the canopy, minimizing brown rot and perennial canker problems. Apricots actually require little pruning. The most work typically includes thinning out the dense inner branches or removing old, damaged branches. Expert gardeners and horticulturists recommend making your cuts “parallel to the branch base”, close but not into the raised “collar” of bark callus which circles the base of each branch.
Although growing apricots in New York takes patience and knowledge, many home gardeners consider it worthwhile. They are attractive little trees with big flavored results. Come see us and let us know what else we can do to help you make the most out of your apricot‐growing adventure!