The apricot is a fruit tree typical of the Mediterranean areas. It likes temperate climates and is characterized by an abundant fruit production, due to the fertility of its branches and their vegetative vigor. A tree with these characteristics requires adequate pruning interventions which essentially aim at orienting the growth of the plant, giving it the desired shape, and at controlling fruit production by selecting the new fruiting branches. To prune the apricot you need to carefully know the characteristics of this shrub, which change according to the climate in which it is grown and according to the variety chosen.
Apricot pruning is not able to significantly affect the quality of the fruits, but only on their quantity, which can be increased or decreased based on the number of fruiting branches left on the tree during production pruning. Another goal of pruning is to determine the shape of the tree, a shape that changes according to the purposes for which it is grown. Pruning, able to condition the shape of the crown, is called breeding or training.
In the case of ornamental or garden apricot trees, the pruning cuts can aim to give the tree an espalier shape so as to lean it against walls or fences, while in the case of apricot cultivated for production purposes the cuts can help create a breeding vase, that is funnel-shaped, with a skeleton formed by three or four branches, or an irregular palmette, that is, with oblique branches, but without following precise geometric shapes (U, V, Y, etc.). The irregular palmette is the most frequently used form for fruit trees, including apricot trees.
As you will have seen in the previous paragraph, two types of pruning are performed for the apricot: of breeding(or training) and of production. The latter and when the cultivated variety requires it, can be combined with return cuts, or cut the branches that come immediately after the lateral ones, which will thus become productive. The cultivation pruning, in the apricot tree, is carried out during the first four years of the plant's life and consists of a first cut that will determine the shape of the crown and subsequent cuts that eliminate the excess branches to contain the vigor and growth of the plant . The training cuts will depend on the type of farming chosen. In the funnel shape, the larger branches that disturb the central one and the excess lateral branches are eliminated, while in the palmette breeding only the lateral branches are shortened to favor the regular development of the central ones.
The first breeding cut is made at a height between thirty centimeters and two meters above the ground. The height will depend on the shape you want to give to the crown of the tree. After the first cut, the branches will develop, in which it is necessary to identify those that will determine the shape of the crown. Generally, the tree skeleton consists of four branches, while the others must be eliminated starting from the base. Those that remain should be shortened to about twenty or thirty centimeters. It should be remembered that the first cut will determine the tree's cultivation form. For the ornamental or espalier shape it is cut at the bottom and in any case also below fifty centimeters from the ground, for the other shapes, the cutting height must be greater. When the apricot has fully formed, we will proceed with the production pruning, eliminating dry, unproductive or excess branches or that disturb the productive ones or prevent the penetration of light.
Even the production pruning allows to give the tree an orderly and regular crown, although these interventions mainly serve to facilitate the harvesting of the fruit. Depending on the variety cultivated, the production pruning of the apricot can use other cutting techniques, including that of renewal, shortening of mixed branches and bending. Return cuts cut the branches that grow immediately after the lateral ones, which in turn become productive. These cuts are made on varieties with low fruiting. The shortening of mixed branches consists in shortening the longer branches of the tree that grow vigorously, but which bear little fruit. With this shortening, the emission of the apical buds will be favored. The curvature of the mixed branches is not carried out on all apricot trees, but only on the varieties with upright posture, that is, on those that have the main sloping branches.
Apricot pruning is carried out mainly in spring or summer. In fact, this tree is referred to as green pruning. The green pruning of the apricot exactly follows the growth rate of the plant and goes from March to the end of May, when the shortest branches are formed (maximum 20 centimeters in length), June and the end of July, when the mixed branches are formed, that is branches that can be from thirty to seventy centimeters long, and at the end of August, when the development of the flowering buds of the branches is complete. Other apricot pruning interventions can also be carried out in winter. In this case we speak of dry pruning. In winter, always if the cultivated variety requires it, the return cuts can be made. The ideal period will vary according to the area in which the apricot is grown. In areas with a mild climate, dry pruning can be done in late autumn.
When pruning the apricot, the cuts should not be done too drastically because this plant heals very hard. The only incisive cuts must be the return ones. The wounds of the cuts should be covered with mastic or with a mixture of water and vinavil which also acts as a disinfectant. Pruning tools (shears, scissors, saws, etc.) must be cleaned and disinfected before and after use. Inaccurate cuts or cuts made at different times could cause bacterial or fungal diseases in the apricot.
Through pruning and through constant care of the plant, it is possible to give the apricot the desired shape. Generally 3 forms of cultivation are identified in this plant, which can be found in various other fruit plants: the vase, the spindle and the delayed vase.
The jar it is a form of breeding which, as the term easily suggests, provides for the definition of an enlarged shape of the crown that starts from a narrow base to widen upwards. This crop form is obtained by keeping the internal part of the crown well clean, which must be cleared of branches. Usually in this form of cultivation 3 main branches are left arranged at 120 ° away from each other.
Another form of breeding is that a Fusetto, a type of cultivation in which the plant needs support as the vertical growth of the cultivated plants is very strong. It is an intensive production cultivation that is implemented by placing the plants at a distance of 3 meters between one row and the other and at a distance of 4-5 meters between the plants.
Finally, as regards the last form of cultivation, that of Delayed vase, it is a method that involves the cultivation of small plants, which do not exceed two meters in height. A peculiarity of this form of cultivation are the lateral branches that start from the main branches every 20-30 centimeters and take a spiral shape. This form of training, in addition to being convenient for harvesting given the small size, is practical from the point of view of plant management as it requires a lower pruning frequency than the two forms seen previously.
There apricot pruning it is a cultivation practice that cannot be underestimated and to carry it out it is necessary to know the tree, its characteristics and cultivation methods.
Prunus armeniaca, or more simply apricot, is a tree belonging to the Rosaceae family and the Armenian name was given to it by Carl Nilsson Linnaeus, in Italian Carlo Linneo, Swedish physician, botanist, naturalist and academic, convinced that the plant came from Armenia. In reality, the apricot tree is native to northeastern China, has more than five thousand years of history and before arriving in Armenia it spread to Central Asia and then reached Italy and Greece thanks to the Romans. However, it was the Arabs who contributed to the promotion of the apricot tree in the Mediteranno basin and it is precisely from an Arabic word, al-barqūq, that the name of the tree which is now widespread in over sixty countries around the world derives.
The apricot is a deciduous and deciduous plant of medium size, between about five and seven meters, but it can also exceed eight meters.
If the foliage is umbrella-shaped, the branches and trunk are thin, while the leaves are about eight centimeters wide, have an elliptical shape with a tapered tip and serrated edge, and the flowers resemble those of the closest relatives: cherry and peach. The fruits, namely apricots, are velvety drupes to the touch, dark-yellow in color with orange hues that tend to take on a reddish hue when the fruit is particularly ripe.
In addition, apricots are rich in vitamins B, C, PP, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, calcium and potassium which make them an excellent ingredient to be used in the kitchen for the preparation of sweet, savory recipes or for summer juices based on fruit and vegetables.
Even the apricot seed, called armellina and present within the fruit stone, is used in gastronomy, especially in the pastry sector, where its slightly bitter essence is the perfect ingredient for amaretti, syrups and liqueurs.
A rigorous, careful and punctual apricot pruning it is necessary if what we want is a beautiful and healthy plant and to know how to do it, when is because it is important we have collected all the information in a practical guide dedicated to all green thumbs or aspiring ones.
It is preferable to proceed with the apricot pruning towards the end of the summer season and more precisely from the moment that follows the harvest and until the fall of the leaves expected, generally in the month of October. On the other hand, with the exception of special cases, apricot pruning should be avoided during the vegetative rest of the plant or in winter because the cold does not help healing.
There apricot pruning it serves to harmonize the shape of the plant, it contains its dimensions and helps to increase flowers and fruits. In addition, it helps prevent canker cancer caused by the attack of some fungi.
The methods of pruning apricot trees are divided into:
Here are some tips for a good apricot pruning:
As you will have understood by reading the previous paragraph, to prune an apricot you can choose between two types of pruning. So let's see in detail what these types of pruning are. The first of the two types is called breeding pruning and the second production pruning. To the production pruning, in the event that the type of cultivated shrub requires it, it is possible to combine the return cuts. Don't worry, it's nothing overly complex. It is only about cutting the branches that are very close to the lateral ones in order to make the others more productive. Obviously, this cut must be made rationally and taking great care not to damage the other branches in any way. In this case, in fact, the entire plant would pay the consequences. Farming pruning, on the other hand, must be carried out within the first four years of the shrub's life and consists of a cut through which it will be possible to give the foliage the desired shape. The subsequent cuts, on the other hand, will be used to eliminate all excess branches and, above all, to regulate the growth of the shrub. As regards, then, the training cuts, it is necessary to point out that they depend on the type of farming. In the funnel type, for example, the largest branches that interfere with the growth of the central branch are eliminated. In palmette breeding, however, only the lateral branches are shortened in order to facilitate the growth of the central ones. As you will have understood, therefore, pruning is aimed at allowing the plant to grow healthy and robust.
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The pruning described above is called "green pruning", it is usually carried out between spring and summer. It can be followed by a further pruning, in the months of June and July, during which the work started in spring is completed. In August you can proceed with a further small pruning to finish the crown but you have to act in a limited way. The plant in this period will be full of new buds and therefore it will be necessary to be careful in distinguishing the healthy buds (to be carefully preserved) from the dry ones (which will be removed). Between autumn and early winter you can proceed with further pruning. This pruning is called, in jargon, "dry pruning".
First of all, it must be said that the apricot tree is a perennial tree and has no particular needs regarding the soil, so you can plant it both in the home garden and in the countryside. Apricots usually begin to bear fruit as early as the second year of life, but reach full maturity between 3 and 5 years. The fruits begin to appear in late March and ripen no earlier than June. However, it may happen that the tree takes more than two years before offering its fruits and this can be justified by the presence of a particularly harsh climate or insufficient watering.
Plant the tree so that it is protected from any frost and in a place where it can enjoy the warmth of the sun. Be very careful: the chosen soil must not be too dry or too wet, to prevent any bacteria from multiplying and infecting the roots of the plant. Water the tree frequently and on a regular basis. Then fertilize with specific fertilizers, applying the product in autumn and spring. If necessary, spray a pesticide on the leaves to prevent insects from spoiling the fruit of your apricot.