Garden Detective

Garden Detective: Why won’t apricot tree bear a good crop?

Please help! Year after year, we hope for a decent apricot crop; at best, we might get a dozen. It’s been such a disappointment and my husband is ready to take the tree out. It’s probably about 10 years old, maybe a little less.

Do you have any suggestions? Is there something we can do to make a difference? Last year was a bust. We love apricots.

–Robyn Cuevas, Fair Oaks

According to UC master gardener Carol Rogala, additional information is needed to determine what may be wrong with your apricot tree and how to correct it. “I wouldn’t advise taking out the tree until you check further into what issues it has,” she said.

To diagnose why a tree bears few or no fruit, note whether the tree does not bloom nor set fruit, or blooms and sets fruit, most or all of which fall off before harvest.

More than 97 percent of all apricots grown in the U.S. are grown in California. That is a good start for the tree in your backyard. Apricots like it here.

In addition to pests that attack all stone fruit trees, there are some more troublesome to apricots. Earwigs can be a cause of serious problems when they invade to feed on ripening fruit.

Brown rot is the greatest disease threat to apricots. Shot hole, bacterial canker, jacket rot (green fruit rot), powdery mildew and Eutypa dieback also are major issues.

If your tree flowers in the spring you may have issues with pests and/or diseases affecting pollination for fruit production. Lack of bees or rain during bloom will reduce fruit set.

Also, pruning can impact apricot production. These trees bear fruit only on 1-year-old branches. If the tree is repeatedly pruned back to older branches, there will be little fruit. Unlike most stone-fruit trees, apricots are pruned in August instead of winter to prevent the spread of some fungal diseases that particularly affect these trees.

For additional information, visit University of California Backyard Orchard page on apricot trees, You can find information on pests and diseases associated with the apricot tree and a year-round checklist.

The Fair Oaks Horticulture Center (in Fair Oaks Park) holds workshops on care of fruit trees. The schedule for 2014 can be found at Master gardeners will answer questions while demonstrating pruning and grafting techniques at their next Open Garden, 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 22. In addition, call a master gardener for a telephone consultation at (916) 875-6913. Office hours are Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m.