What are the soil requirements for Apricots?
Although it is more tolerant to drought than a peach tree, the Apricot tree prefers deep, well-drained soil to thrive. On the other hand, poor, light, sandy, and dry soils are less suitable and require more fertilization and irrigation to compensate for yield load. Additionally, heavy soils with extreme soil moisture (waterlogged) should be avoided since there is a high risk of root rot diseases. As an optimum soil pH level, we consider the 6-7 while the plant is sensitive to increased salinity levels in soil and water. Farmers are advised to perform a soil analysis before planting their apricot orchard to get more information regarding the soil characteristics and nutrient availability and take any necessary measures to correct them.
Apricot Tree Soil Preparation
In conventional tillage systems, the farmers usually plow their fields at a depth of 20-27 inches (50-70 cm), aiming to eliminate perennial weeds (like field bindweed and quackgrass) and to loosen up the soil, which is necessary for unobstructed root development. A few days before planting, many farmers apply a pre-planting fertilizer such as manure (20-30 tons of manure per hectare or 8-12 tons/acre) or synthetic commercial fertilizer (well before planting the young trees) to increase soil fertility and improve soil texture. The next day is probably the right time to install the irrigation system. Following the installation, some farmers can apply soil disinfection substances through the irrigation system if soil analysis has revealed any infection problems (soil-born diseases). Ask a licensed agronomist in your area.
Usually, 1-year-old T-grafted apricot trees are used for new plantations. The trees should be healthy (purchased from a legitimate plant nursery) and up to 1,2 to 1,8 meters (4-6 feet) tall with 1.3-2 cm or 0.5-0.75 inch diameter of the central shoot. You have to keep the root moisture (not dry out) until planting by storing the plantlets in cool places or/and by placing moist packing material such as sawdust around the root ball. Apricot growers create raised beds at an average 3ft (90cm) width because the tree seems to benefit.
Apricot Trees Planting, Spacing and Number of Apricot Trees per hectare and acre
Planting of young apricot trees usually takes place in late winter to early spring (February to March) or in late autumn (October to December), when the trees are still dormant. If you choose spring, it is best to wait and plant after the last spring frost.
Before planting the young trees, you should observe the roots and remove any disease or broken parts by light pruning. The planting hole should be large enough in order to fit the roots without bending them. Generally, the young trees are planted as bare-rooted during winter, but if they have already started producing leaves, it is best to plant them together with the soil ball (potted). The seedlings are often planted at roughly the same depth as in the nursery (60 cm or 2 ft deep), and the graft union should always remain 5-7.5 cm (2-3 inches) above the soil line. When placing the tree in the hole (1,5 X 1,5 feet or 45 X 45 cm wide), you are advised to spread the roots out in all directions and cover them with plenty of surface soil. When adding the soil, we must press it gently until the complete filling of the pits to avoid causing damage to the young and sensitive root system. After planting, it is best to irrigate. If no pre-planting fertilization application has occurred, the growers can apply 60-113g (0.13-0.25 pounds) of a nitrogen-rich fertilizer per tree and 90 cm (3 feet) far from the tree trunk. Alternatively, 230 g (0.5 pounds) per tree of a 10-10-10 fertilizer can be used.
Apricot trees are generally planted in quadrangles (squares), rectangular, parallelograms or rows. You should keep in mind that there are significant differences regarding the vigor and production load among the different apricot varieties and the rootstocks used. This may affect the training of the young plants, and both will affect the planting distances of the trees. Climate and soil conditions are also crucial. Some producers prefer to plant the young Apricot trees on mounds or raised beds as they have noticed that the plants benefit from these “constructions” and develop healthier and stronger root systems. Below you can find some commonly used distances depending mainly on the training system that will be applied to the young apricot trees.
Typical distances of the quadrangle planting are 16-26 X 16-26 feet (5-8 X 5-8 meters), with most common the 18 X 18 feet (5,5 X 5,5 meters) and 20 X 20 feet (6 m Χ 6 m), resulting in 134 trees per acre or 330 trees per hectare and 109 trees per acre, or 270 trees per hectare, respectively.
Similarly, when planted in rectangular and the training system that will be followed is the ‘Vase’, the planting distances are 5m (16ft) x 3-4m (10-13ft). Following this pattern, we end up with 500-660 trees per hectare. When the ‘Central Leader’ training system is applied, the distances could be 4-5m (13-16ft) x 1.5m (5ft). Following this pattern, we end up with 1330 trees per hectare.
(1 hectare = 2,47 acres = 10.000 square meters and 1 tonne = 1000 kg = 2205 lbs.)
Apricot Soil Requirements, Soil preparation, and Planting
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