Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Why we had no apricots this year

We’ve several theories regarding what's gone wrong – conspiracy theories involving neighbours, blackbirds and the Government among them – but, first, the facts.

We had a couple of dozen fruit set and matured on our one and only Goldcot apricot tree last year, the first year after it was planted on the sun terrace where it was sheltered by a four-foot wall behind it facing south-south-east.

We managed to keep the birds from just a dozen or so fruits which were delicious and we looked forward to a bigger crop this year.

The variety itself was developed as a late blossoming variety for the British climate, the idea being that it avoids late frosts. And it is a dwarfing type too: it shouldn’t get much beyond seven feet tall but has grown fairly bushy already.

I took out one significant branch which was growing in the wrong direction and blocking our movement around the sun terrace and I also removed a handful of spindly branches that were growing into the wall and could have got damaged in the wind.

There was still plenty of good fresh growth left. And, for the record, apricots bear fruit on spurs borne on both older wood and one-year-old wood. So I could have pruned everything out.

We had a mild, wettish winter with very little frost and that could be a key factor. But the tree itself came through nicely and produced plenty of fresh green leaves in the spring – apart from on one three-foot branch – about as thick as a finger – which had clearly died. I’m not sure why it died but I removed it anyway. It didn’t show any sign of disease.

But then we had no blossom at all and, consequently, no fruit.

The tree has continued to grow nicely, with no sign of disease – a little insect grazing on some of the fresh leaves early in the year – but, apart from that, it seems perfectly healthy.

So what could be the problem?

Reading up on this it seems apricots, like cherries, need a cold period in winter – less than 45F or 7oC – to prompt them to blossom. Different varieties need different lengths of cold, ranging between 300 and 900 hours.

Surely our winter wasn’t that mild? Three hundred hours is just 25 or so nights and 7oC isn’t much more than chilly. But perhaps 900 hours or 75 nights presents a little more of an issue.

I’ll do have to do some more research to find out and get back to you with an answer but all suggestions are welcome!