apricot branch - Illustration by Helen KrayenhoffOne of the fruits that I wait for every summer just happens to ripen right around the Fourth of July. To me, apricots are that sweet reminder that summer has begun.

Apricots (Prunus armeniaca) have historically been grown around the world for so long it is unclear where they originated. It is thought that Armenia could have been where they were discovered first. Some sources say cultivation may have begun in India as early as 3000 BC. Dried apricots were an important commodity on Persian trade routes, and to this day Iran and Turkey are top producers. Lucky for us, California is the leading grower in the U.S.

Many of us have been fortunate enough to enjoy growing and harvesting apricots here in the Bay Area. Unfortunately they can be a bit finicky due to our mild winters, heavy soil and foggy summers. As with most stone-fruits, apricots require winter chill hours (cumulative temps. below 45°F) for maximum flower set. This is generally not a problem except for some locations along the coast. Because apricots tend to flower early here (Feb-Mar), they can be hindered by frosts, hail or heavy rains. Or, sometimes a late winter heat wave can cause them to bloom too early resulting in little or no fruit production.

The sunniest, warmest spot in your yard protected from cold winds is the ideal place for planting. Amend hard clay soil for good drainage. Proper pruning increases air flow and light penetration. This can help “dry” them out in the summer, reducing disease problems. Average watering and feeding once or twice a year will also help keep your trees healthy. Some trees tend to bear heavily, so fruit thinning may be necessary to avoid damage to the branches. And we’re not the only ones who enjoy the ripe fruit. You may want, or NEED to protect your trees with some type of netting to keep the birds, squirrels, rats, raccoons…away from your bounty!

These historical trees have always been a garden favorite. Their spring blooms give way to sweet little summer treats followed by a great fall color display. We have a good supply of bareroot ‘Blenheim’, ‘Nugget’ and ‘Royal Rosa’ apricots to choose from. Take a look at our Fruit Tree and Small Fruits lists for available varieties with descriptions. Call or come in for a visit if you have any questions or would like to share one of your favorite fruit stories!