The apricot is a fruit species native to Central Asia and China which then spread widely throughout the world, reaching Europe as early as Roman times. Apricots represent one of the most important and healthiest summer fruits due to their high content of beta-carotene and valuable mineral salts.
Originally the apricot tree was a plant adapted to continental climates characterized by a certain winter cold, but thanks to the presence of new varieties with low cold requirements, it is also found in temperate and subtropical climatic zones.
In the mixed organic orchard it is possible to introduce many varieties of apricots at different times of ripening and to manage them in a natural way, it is possible to obtain excellent productions, as long as there is perseverance and skill in the interventions that are carried out. Among cultural practices, pruning is particularly important and must be done knowing the plant and its productive attitude.
When to prune apricot
The winter pruning of the apricot tree can be done towards the end of winter, but since this species does not tolerate large cuts, it is better to avoid it and prefer pruning at the end of summer , for a period that goes from the moment after the harvest until the fall of the leaves in October. In this way, the plant heals better and does not emit the characteristic gums of reaction to the cut. The pruning practiced at this time also has the advantage of favoring the preparation of the flower buds for the following spring.
In the spring you can do some interventions in green around April-May , in order to illuminate the foliage, control the vigor and size of the plant. Interventions consist mainly of pruning and thinning the vigorous mixed shoots, but also thinning the fruits, which avoids production alternation and guarantees a good size for the remaining apricots.
During the first years after planting, the plants must be directed to the desired shape by means of very precise pruning interventions which constitute the reproductive phase , an important and delicate period for the construction of the skeleton of plants. Apricots are usually grown in pots and palmettes.
The pot is the form of cultivation that best adapts to the natural tendencies of the apricot tree, and also the most adopted in the mountainous areas typical of the cultivation of this species. The potted apricot tree is also suitable for the small mixed garden or for placing a fruit plant in the garden. Being a well open shape, the lighting obtained inside the roof is optimal and the height of the plant remains limited (2.5-3 meters maximum), which allows most operations to be carried out without stairs. . The first scaffolding of the main branches is 30-40 cm from the ground, which means that when the plant is planted, the stem is marked to facilitate the delivery of these future 3-4 branches.
Apricot trees are generally grown in the form of an open-air palm grove, an arrangement suitable for professional installations which requires the installation of a support system consisting of posts and horizontal wires. In plants of medium vigor it is possible to adopt seedlings of about 4.5 x 3 meters and immediately after planting the stems grow about 60 cm from the ground. In the following spring, the shoots that will form the first scaffolding of branches are chosen, and those that grow in the direction of the gap and those that are too close to the future branches are removed or discarded. After the first scaffold was built, it moved on to the second, maybe even the second year after planting, to the fourth year with the third scaffold formed, using the intervening period to remove the suckers, gills and mixed branches that are formed in excess in the branches.
The apricot tree belongs to the Rosaceae family and within it, to the group of Drupaceae , characterized by the production of fruits on mixed branches, mixed toadstools and on flowering stingers, the so-called “clusters of May”. Apricot varieties are not all the same in terms of the prevalence of fruiting on either type of branch and generally speaking we can make the following distinctions which also influence pruning methods.
- Varieties like Antonio Errani which bear fruit mainly on darts and toasts: at the end of August-September, the remaining mixed branches are removed and the darts and toasts are thinned out.
- Varieties such as Bella di Imola, apricots that bear fruit on all types of branches and show a constant and abundant production: in this case, pruning is carried out taking care to renew the fruit-bearing formations, eliminating mixed branches in the foliage and making cuts back to renew branches and darts, and also make leafy branches in the green.
- Varieties such as Pisana and Piera , trees which produce mainly on spurs and on vigorous mixed twigs, giving fruits of good size. Over time, these plants tend to become empty and not have much vigor, which is why pruning the apricot tree requires vigorous back cuts in the secondary branches of 2-3 years, which allow the renewal of productive spurs and also the emission of branches. mixed. During green pruning (April-early May), the excess mixed branches are thinned out and the most vigorous ones grow, in order to stimulate the emission of the expected branches (those that open from the shoots of the same year of training) productive.
- Varieties like Aurora and Orange , which bear fruit mainly on darts, toadstools, mixed branches and early branches. These are vigorous, low-fruiting apricot plants that can be pruned in late summer by removing tangled inner branches and excess branches, thinning out knots, and back-cutting dart-bearing branches to renew them. In green pruning, some mixed branches can be seen at 10 cm to stimulate the emission of early branches.
How to prune: some criteria and precautions
On the other hand, certain precautions are still valid for correctly pruning an apricot tree plant, these are criteria which deserve to be specified to be taken into account during pruning work.
- Mixed branches should be thinned out if excessive vegetative apricot trinkets can become reproductive over time and can therefore be left behind, while mixed trinkets should be thinned, removing excess ones that tend to cross.
- The floriferous spurs are borne by the lamellae, which must be thinned at the end of summer by backcuts to obtain new spurs which produce better fruit.
- The suckers, very vigorous vegetative branches which originate at the base of the plant, are frequent especially in apricot trees grafted on mirabolan, which tends to suck. In these cases, cutting interventions are necessary to eliminate them at the base, to prevent them from unnecessarily drawing energy from the plant.
- The suckers, vertical shoots which nevertheless come from the branches, must be removed at the base, except in cases where they can replace the missing shoots at the most empty points of the foliage.
- Pruning cuts in apricot trees, as in other garden plants, should be on a bud and should be angled and clean, avoiding defibration of the wood.
- When parts of the plant show symptoms of certain pathologies such as monilia, coryneum or powdery mildew, they should be cut to contain the spread of the pathogen to parts that are still healthy.
- Pruning tools should be disinfected when some pruned plants have shown disease symptoms, especially if they are viral.
To keep the plant balanced and healthy, cuttings should never be overdone, both because the apricot has difficulty healing and because large cuttings have no productive benefit, but rather stimulate the plant to put out new growth.