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Apricots in NE England – it is possible!

One of the surprise hits of the garden has been the self-fertile frost-hardy apricot tree Kioto, from Swiss specialist fruit growers Lubera.

It has glorious white blossom from almost red buds in late March/April, followed by a surprisingly heavy crop of fruit in late July or August.

I was staggered when the apricot arrived – in a 10l pot, it was getting on for 7ft tall and the most solid two-year-old tree I’ve had delivered.

It grows to 2-4m, although can be contained with pruning. It cost £30.40 – not cheap, but a really sturdy specimen.

It’s best in the shelter of a south or west-facing wall, which is where mine is – avoid easterly-facing positions, where morning sun on frosty mornings will destroy the blossom and ruin your crop.

For more details, log on to www.lubera.co.uk – delivery is just £4.99 per order.

Thinning apricots

One massive bowl of apricots from one small Kioto tree
One massive bowl of apricots from one small Kioto tree

Being a complete novice when it came to growing apricots, I was delighted my Kioto tree had any fruit at all in its first year.

A few fruitlets were shed in early summer, but apparently, there’s a ‘June drop’, the same as apple trees.

Although apricots are less prone to ‘overbearing’ (setting too much fruit that won’t ripen and depleting the energy of the plant, often leading to biennial fruiting), some thinning is required with a heavy set.

Thin to 2-3″ apart when the fruits are hazelnut sized – which is early June.

Pruning apricots and disease

Gummosis on apricot branch - a sign of 2018's environmental stress
Gummosis on an apricot branch – a sign of 2018’s environmental stress

Another good thing is that they don’t need complicated pruning like apples and pears.

In fact, as a member of the cherry family, DON’T prune at all in winter, as trees can develop silver leaf, a fungal disease.

Spores are released from September to May under damp conditions.

If you need to do any formative pruning or removing dead branches, do it in high summer when silver leaf spores are less likely to be around.

You may also see amber-like sap exuding from branches – this is quite common and is a sign of environmental stresses – this picture was taken after the extremely cold late winter combined with the hot, dry summer of 2018 – it’s called gummosis.

However, it can also be a sign of more serious issues – check out my blog post here.