Training young apricot trees

Apricots are very lively trees in general, meaning they have a considerable growth rate and produce a significant number of shoots even when still in the plant nursery. Thus, pruning and training are essential growing techniques that an apricot grower should perform annually. However, there are also rootstocks available in the market with reduced liveliness that produce easier trees to handle and maintain their shape.

We have 2 main pruning categories. 

  1. Tree training
  2. Production Pruning

Training includes all the prunings performed in young apricot trees during their first and second year to shape them into the desired form (crown skeleton). The shape is very important and can affect the level of fruit yield, the quality of the products, and the harvesting or other farming activities in the orchard. 

The most common shapes of Apricot crown-canopy are:

  • Open Center

The Vase consists of 3-5 main branches, which are formed at 23.6-27.5 inches (60-70 cm) above the ground and have a 50 to 80º angle with the trunk to facilitate mechanical harvesting. These main branches are selected during the first year and are cut back by one-half. The farmer removes all things that grow downwards or to the center of the canopy. Vertically grown limbs with strong growth should also be removed from the base. During the second year, the efforts should be focused on maintaining the general shape (given in the first year) and developing the secondary branches. In the open center training system, each scaffold branch has two secondary branches (6-8 inches or 15-20 cm apart). The tree crown configuration must be completed in the minimum possible time and with minor operations.

  • (Modified) Central Leader (and Trellis training)

The central leader shape is a new technique that is especially suitable for apricots grafted to dwarf rootstocks. It has become one of the most common training systems in apricots and other fruit trees since it facilitates all the operations, needs less labor for pruning and thinning, and the trees are smaller and easier to handle. This method has an increased installation cost, especially when it requires support by trellis and wires (in the trellis training system). The central leader consists of a central head branch (the leader) at 4ft (1,2m) height and 7-9 well-shaped limbs. During the first year, the central leader should be headed 5-6 feet or 1.5-1.8 m above the ground. The grower should also select 4-6 side branches that should not compete with the central leader, are well spread along the trunk, and grow at an angle of 40-60º of it. These secondary scaffolds should be headed back to 2-3 buds. All the other lateral branches grown at 12 inches (30cm) from the leader are removed. After the third year, the tree should look like a triangle. This system is also suitable for warmer areas with strong light exposure to protect the primary scaffolds from sunburns. 

Pruning bearing apricot trees 

Pruning provides good ventilation and access of sunlight in the inner part of the tree. Therefore, it is very important for the tree’s health. After determining the tree’s shape, the farmer needs to prune his/her Apricot trees to maintain that shape and balance vegetative growth (renewal of branches) and yield. To facilitate harvesting, trees should be maintained at a height of 7-9 feet (2.10-2.70m) by shortening last year’s main branches by 25-30 inches (64-76 cm) (around 20-30% of their length). Additionally, the apricot grower should remove branches that grow straight down, are parallel and too close to each other, or cross paths, and open up the inner part of the tree to improve aeration and sunlight penetration. Around 25% of the branches of the tree are usually removed. Spurs of apricots can bear fruit for more than one year (up to 5 years). After a side shoot has given fruits for 3-4 years, we can remove it to promote rejuvenation and boost production. Be careful to leave 0.25 inches (0.63 cm) distance between the pruning cut and the flowering bud and always keep an opposite 45º  angle from the bud. All these activities should be performed during the trees’ dormant period in early spring. However, growers prune their trees to the petal fall stage in colder areas. Moreover, the apricot grower is advised to remove all broken or infected branches on a yearly basis. At the same time, suckers or watersprouts should be removed when still short (2-3 times per year). All the previous operations promote fruit production in the long term. The frequency of mature tree pruning ranges from once a year to once every two years. Remember to sterilize your pruning shears and saws in alcohol, disinfectant, or 10% bleach solution when moving from one tree to another or/and after removing an infected branch.

Fruit Thinning is a fundamental technique in which producers remove a significant number of small, non-uniformed, or defective fruits from the tree to let the tree redirect its resources (e.g., nutrients, water) to fewer fruits of higher quality. On average, it is best to maintain a distance of 3-5cm (1-2inch) between the fruits on a branch. The right time for thinning depends on the variety of the tree and, of course, the pruning technique. Producers thin early varieties right after the blooming stage while in late varieties they wait until the pit-hardening stage (6-8 weeks after bloom). Thinning is mainly done manually, either by removing flowers-fruits or by pruning some fruit-bearing branches. Some producers also apply chemical thinning (Ask your agronomist).


Apricot Tree Information and Varieties

Nutrition Value, Health Benefits, Uses, and Interesting facts about Apricot

Growing Apricot Trees for Profit

Apricot Soil Requirements, Soil preparation, and Planting

How to Propagate and Pollinate Apricot Trees

How to Train and Prune Apricot Trees

Apricot Trees Irrigation – How to water Apricot trees

Apricot Tree Fertilizer Requirements

Harvesting Apricot Trees – Apricot Tree Yield and Storage

Apricot Pests, Diseases, and Physiological Disorders

Apricots in Bulk Wholesale Prices


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