Planting an apricot tree is simple to do, and if done correctly, will help your tree grow into a strong fruit-bearing specimen in just a few years. Apricot trees grow happily in zones 5 through 8 but don’t do well in heavy clay soil. Want to know how to plant an apricot tree? Let’s take a closer look.
What You'll Learn Today
Where Is The Best Place To Plant An Apricot Tree?
You can avoid running into problems in the future if you carefully plan where to plant your apricot tree. Things to consider include:
Just like other plants, trees use sunlight to give them energy. This helps them to grow and stay healthy. It’s all to do with photosynthesis. Although some species of trees prefer to grow below the canopy of other larger trees, apricots require full sun to truly flourish.
They will survive in partial shade, but to enjoy the largest crops of ripe, succulent fruits, you really need a position in full sun.
The ideal soil for your apricot is a light loamy type with plenty of humus. Apricot trees like moist, free-draining soil, but they don’t like heavy, wet, clay soil.
To test the consistency of your ground, dig a hole and pour in a bucket of water. After a couple of minutes, take a trowel full of the dirt from the bottom of the hole and squeeze it in your hand.
If the soil remains damp and crumbly when you poke it with a finger, then it’s good, but if it forms a hard ball, it is probably clay, and your tree won’t be happy. If it’s gritty and falls apart as soon as you open your hand, then it’s probably sandy soil and will require some well-rotted compost to increase its nutrient-holding properties and fertility.
If your soil is clay (too heavy, holds too much water and not enough oxygen) it can be hard to change unless you deal with it on a large scale. You can improve it by adding plenty of organic matter such as compost or coco-fiber mixed with potting compost but this cannot only be where you plant your tree.
The reason for this is because when it rains the clay soil that surrounds your tree will work as a barrier and drown your tree.
Once you have the right soil, you’ll need to test the pH. It’s easy to buy a soil testing kit online. Ideally, you are looking for a slightly alkaline soil of around 6.7 to 7, but between 6.5 and 7.5 will be OK.
You can add some lime, wood ash, bone meal, dolomite, or even ground eggshells to raise alkalinity if your soil is too acidic.
If you only have a small yard, then don’t be tempted to get a standard size tree. Instead, opt for one of the smaller dwarf varieties or even a cute miniature one.
In order for the fruit to ripen properly, your tree needs space all around it so that light can get to every branch.
You also need to think about the roots. When the tree grows, it puts out not just deep tap roots but many closer to the surface. Roots can damage things like water pipes and sewer lines.
You also don’t want the roots to interfere with the foundations of your home and other buildings or things like patios.
Try to envisage your apricot tree when it is fully grown and the impact it will have in your plot. You need approximately 20 to 25 feet around the base of a standard tree, 10 to 15 around a dwarf tree, and 6 to 8 around a miniature variety.
Once your tree is getting established after just a year or two, it will be almost impossible to move it, so it’s essential to get the location right at the start.
Wind is your enemy. A young apricot tree can easily be snapped in two by a strong wind, and it can also blow off all of your blossoms in spring or break fruit-laden branches in summer.
To prevent this, a good precaution is to plant your fruit trees where they are protected from prevailing winds. The protection can come from a building or by placing trees on a slope, where the wind will blow over the top of them.
Avoid planting on top of a hill where your apricot tree is very exposed, or at the bottom of a valley where water will collect and potentially drown it.
Although most apricot tree varieties don’t need another apricot tree to pollinate them, it is still advantageous to have more than one when possible. This is because cross-pollination will increase fruit yields.
How Deep Do You Plant An Apricot Tree?
Young apricot trees come in a variety of different forms – bare-rooted, potted, or even as tiny seedlings. Depending on the type of young apricot tree you have, the way you plant it can vary, as you’ll see below.
Bare Rooted Trees
Your bare rooted tree will usually come with the roots wrapped up in cloth or plastic, although this isn’t always the case. If they are wrapped, carefully remove the covering until the roots are revealed. You’ll notice there is no soil.
- Choose a warmer day to plant your tree. If temperatures are still freezing, not only will the soil be very hard to dig, but it won’t benefit your tree.
- Soak the tree roots in a large tub of water for a minimum of one and a maximum of six hours. Don’t allow them to soak for more than six hours, as this can damage the tree.
- Using a garden spade, dig a square hole that is one and a half times as large as the roots of the tree you are planting. Square holes encourage roots to spread and help prevent them from balling.
- In the bottom of the hole, place some well-rotted compost, mixed with some of the topsoil you dug from the hole. This should be at a ratio of 1/3 compost to soil. Only use the topsoil as this contains the most nutrients that will be beneficial to the tree.
- Mix the rest of the soil with a bit of coco-fiber to make it nice and fluffy. Roots prefer soil that is loose, as it is easier for them to get established.
- Place some of this into the bottom of the hole over your compost layer. This is to prevent the compost from touching the roots of your tree.
- Place the tree in the hole and check that it is at the right depth. You should be able to see on the trunk a point where the bark changes slightly just above the roots. This is where you want the soil to come to.
- Place the tree in the hole carefully, so you don’t damage the roots. Cover the roots carefully with the coco-fiber/soil mixture while being very careful not to leave any empty voids or air pockets.
- Once the soil is in the hole up to ground level, tramp it down firmly.
- If planting in spring, with the remaining soil, create a ring around the tree on the edge of the hole you dug. Make sure it goes all the way around. This mound should be at least two inches high.
- Make sure you make the mound firm, as it will act as a water barrier to help keep the roots of the tree well watered in the first summer season.
- In fall, remove the ring and spread the soil evenly around the base. This will stop water pooling around the trunk and freezing in winter.
- Give your tree a deep watering by allowing the water to sink into the soil several times.
- In the final watering, add some tree starter fertilizer to give the apricot tree an extra boost. Follow the directions given on the packaging.
- You may find that the soil around the tree compacts, and you will need to add a little more to bring it back up to ground level.
- Finally, add a good layer of mulch. This will help protect the roots from frost if you’ve planted in fall or late winter and help retain water if you planted in spring.
In this video, the parts of a bare root fruit tree are explained along with how to identify at what depth it should be planted:
It is very common for apricot trees to be grafted onto rootstock. You can often see this by looking closely at the bottom of the young tree, and there will usually be a visible bump in the trunk or a change in the bark color.
It is essential that the graft is not buried when you plant the tree. It should remain at least two or three inches above the level of the soil.
When you bring your potted tree home, be sure to keep it watered regularly if you can’t plant it right away. This is because the soil in pots dries out very rapidly.
One common mistake before planting potted trees is to soak them in a water container. Do not do this, as it can rot the roots of the tree.
Next, follow steps 3 to 6 as detailed in “Bare Rooted Trees” above.
When you’re ready to plant your tree, carefully remove it from the pot. It will usually slide out relatively easily if someone grasps the pot on both sides while a second person gently eases the tree out.
If the tree is potbound (there are lots of roots growing through the bottom of the pot) then you may have to gently cut the pot off. Try not to break any of the roots while you do this.
Once your tree is out of the pot, follow the remaining steps, 7 through 16, as shown above.
One problem with planting in heavy clay soil, even if you do add lots of amendments to make the area where you will plant your tree light and fluffy when it rains heavily, the water still won’t be able to drain away and could suffocate your tree.
To prevent this from happening, there is a trick you can use. Do still amend the soil by digging a hole and mixing in compost and coco-fiber but don’t plant the tree in the hole. Instead, place the tree roots on top of the filled-in hole and spread them out across the area evenly.
Now cover the roots with the clay soil well mixed with coco-fiber so that when you add water to it and squeeze it into a ball, it breaks apart when you poke it with your finger.
Ensure the roots are well covered and add plenty of mulch. By mulching regularly with grass clippings and raked-up leaves, you will further improve the soil around the tree.
It is always advisable to stake young fruit trees and also surround the stakes with some fine mesh wire to prevent animals from chewing on them.
Staking your young trees will help to prevent them from being broken in a strong wind and enable them to grow straight.
You can add your stakes when you dig the hole, which lets you get them deeper into the ground and provide more secure support.
Ensure you always remove any tags, elastics, or other bits of plastic from your tree, as when the tree grows, these can cut into the bark and cause damage.
When Should I Plant An Apricot Tree?
The best time of year to plant an apricot tree is in the fall, as this will allow the tree to start rooting down before it goes dormant over the cold winter.
You can plant trees even in relatively cool temperatures; just avoid doing so when the ground is freezing or when a hard frost is anticipated.
If you prefer, you can plant your apricot tree in late winter or early spring, providing the risks from hard frost are past.
With spring-planted trees, you will need to be extra careful about providing sufficient water through the summer months.
With a bit of forethought and possibly some work to make the soil structure perfect, you can plant an apricot tree, or even an entire orchard of them, without too much difficulty.
By doing the hard work at the start, and getting the soil just right, many problems can be avoided.
Key points to remember are:
- Create crumbly, nutrient-rich soil that holds water without becoming saturated.
- Don’t let any part of the tree directly touch compost, as this can burn it. As the compost decomposes into the soil around the tree, it will help feed it.
- Keep the pH value to around 6.7 to 7 for best results.
- Don’t plant when the ground is frozen, or a hard frost is expected in the near future.
- Be careful not to damage the tree in any way during planting.
- Water deeply after planting.
- Water regularly during the first year, especially over the spring and summer months.
- Fertilize twice a year with a low nitrogen product.
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