Apricot trees are grown for their delicious fruit and beautiful spring blooms. The delicate nature of the blooms with relation to their low cold tolerance often means tree growers do not see crops annually. Some trees only produce fruit every third to fifth year because of the climate they are in. Fertilizer will not help with this problem but can help once you know your tree has set fruit.
Description of Apricot Trees
The apricot tree is a deciduous tree that is easy to grow. Its fruit, the apricot, is a stone-bearing fruit like peaches and plums. Apricot trees have a quick rate of growth and live an average of 20 to 30 years. They are self-pollinating which means they do not need another tree nearby to pollinate the flowers. The flowers and buds are highly susceptible to cold and frost damage.
Fertilizer When Planting
When planting the apricot tree, the first thing to consider is the pH of the soil. The pH should be between 6.0 and 6.5. A soil test can reveal your pH. A starter fertilizer mixed with water or some bone meal can be added to the planting hole. Regular fertilizer should not be added at this time as it is too strong for the young apricot tree.
Fertilizing First Year Trees
After planting, wait 3 weeks or until rains have caused the soil to settle fully around the tree. Use a general purpose fertilizer 10-10-10. Spread ½ pound around the apricot tree about 18 to 24 inches away from the trunk. Too much fertilizer or fertilizer applied too close to the tree can cause fertilizer burn.
Fertilizing in Subsequent Years
Measure the diameter of the trunk one foot above ground level. For every inch of diameter, use one pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer. Apply at a distance of 18 to 24 inches from the trunk. Alternately, you may wish to spread a 6 inch band of calcium nitrate at a rate of 2/3 pound per inch of trunk diameter within the drip line of the trees branches and broadcast ½ pound per inch of trunk diameter a mix of sulfate of potash-magnesia (sul-po-mag). Apply ½ the dose in April and the other half in May.
The above recommendations should be followed if the tree is setting fruit. If the tree is not setting fruit, do not add fertilizer. The lack of fruit is not necessarily a sign of low soil nutrients but could be the result of a spring frost that damaged the flowers or young fruit. Wait until the following spring to see if the tree bears fruit. If it does not, a soil test may help determine if the problem is nutritional.
Sources: Utah State University Extension: Apricot – The Versatile Fruit
University of New Hampshire: Fertilizing Fruit Trees