Among rock fruit, my favorite may very well be the apricot. Apricot trees are one of the few fruit trees with hardly any issues; however, you may observe an apricot skin cracking on occasion. What causes fruit split in apricots and how can you avoid splitting apricots?
Help, My Apricot Fruit is Splitting!
As mentioned, apricots are fruit trees with relatively few problems. Those they do have are brought about through poor care or environmental stress. The issue of apricots cracking open is no exception. Fruit split in apricots is most likely caused by an environmental stressor, namely a lack of irrigation followed by a sudden onslaught of water.
Apricot trees are rapid growers but only live for 20-30 years, so giving the tree the best care possible is crucial to good fruit set. To mitigate any apricot diseases or pest problems that can be passed down year after year, select a healthy, year-old specimen. Plant your new apricot tree in the early spring or, in mild areas, in the fall.
Apricots are self-fertile and do not need another plant to cross pollinate with; however, they do tend to have better production when planted near each other. You will be able to harvest apricot fruit when the tree is between three and four years old. Dwarf varieties can be expected to produce one to two bushels while standard cultivars garner three to four bushels per growing season.
For peak harvest, situate the apricot tree in a full sun exposure in almost any soil type provided it is well-draining. Dwarf varieties should be spaced between 8-12 feet apart while standard sized apricot trees should be planted at least 25 feet apart. Maintain a weed and grass free, 4-foot area around each. Mulch around newly planted apricots with several inches of organic matter, leaving 3-4 inches clear of mulch around the base of the tree.
Apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to the tree in the spring. Prune out shoots and suckers as well as any diseased limbs to promote an airy, well-spaced canopy and encourage fruit set. Pruning an apricot tree judiciously also allows the fruit to attain its maximum size. As fruit reaches 1 inch in diameter, thin to three or four fruits per cluster. This will increase the size of the remaining fruit.
As discussed, apricot fruit splitting is caused when there is a period of drought followed by a drenching rain. The apricot tree is so parched it sucks up the water faster than it can grow, causing the fruit’s skin to stretch and crack. The flesh expands with the sudden water intake while the skin isn’t allowed to expand as rapidly. The smaller the fruit, the greater the issue. A water drip irrigation system set on a timer is the best way to manage regular watering and thwart the problem of apricot skin cracking. Apricots are harvested before fruit has fully ripened on the tree. Once the fruit begins to color, stop watering to allow the fruit to ripen gradually without sudden growth.
By following the proper planting, pruning, feeding and providing a steady supply of irrigation along with careful monitoring for pests or disease, you should have a bountiful apricot harvest in July or August.