Apricots As Wall Fruits

Apricots are the most difficult of all the fruit grown outdoors in more northerly latitudes. They are only just hardy, and in the north of England, for example, will succeed only if they have the protection of a conservatory, or a lean-to greenhouse on the side wall of a house. In the south, they need a sunny wall and a sheltered position, clear of the risk of frost. Of the varieties that are still available: ‘Moorpark’ is the one most commonly found, brown-orange fruits with brown spots, ripening late August; ‘Early Moorpark’ is similar, but ripens up to a month earlier; ‘Breda’ is hardier than most, has orange fruit flushed red, ripens in mid-August; ‘Hemskerk’ is similar but less hardy, has a fine flavour, and ripens in August; ‘Alfred’ has yellow-orange fruit, best for bottling or jam-making, ripens mid-July.

Apricots As Wall Fruits

All these will grow to a height of 2.4m (8 ft) when fan-trained on a wall, with a spread of 3.6m (12 ft) – except for ‘Alfred’, a vigorous variety that will go to 3m (10 ft) high, with a spread of 4.6m (15 ft).

General care: Plant three-year-old fan-trained trees in November in any good, well-drained garden soil, preferably against a south-facing wall. Give a mulch of conic post, and continue this annually unless the tree shows signs of making too much vegetation at the expense of fruit. Water in dry summers. Fix horizontal wires 22.5 cm (9 inches) apart on the wall and train the tree to it, pruning back to buds that will maintain the fan shape, and tying in new growths to the wires as the tree grows. Remove any shoots growing into or away from the wall. When the fan is established and the tree starts production, routine pruning consists of removing shoots when they have fruited and tying in replacement laterals. Apricots flower very early, usually in February, and the blossom should be protected from frost or cold winds by draping fine netting, old curtains, or muslin over them. Apricots are self-fertile, but may need pollinating with a camel-hair brush because of the absence of insects when they flower. The fruits should be thinned in May to about 10 cm (4 inches) apart.

Propagation: Apricots can be grown from stones saved from imported fruits, but these are unlikely to succeed in Britain. The usual method is budding or grafting.

Pests and diseases: Birds peck at the fruit and leave holes for wasps to enter. Net against the birds if this is a problem. Aphids cause the young shoots to twist, and scale insects make brown sticky patches on the leaves. Give a winter tar oil wash, or spray with malathion. Silver leaf is a fungal disease which causes the leaves to turn silvery. Remove affected shoots well below the infection, and avoid pruning in winter.

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