I like apricots, more than any other fruits, that's why one of the fruit trees I have in my garden is an apricot. I was amazed of how much it grew, compared to the cherries, but I've learned that that was normal. My apricot's fast growth started to be a problem after the third year, when its branches were much too high, with blooms only on the tips of the branches, so I had to trim it, in order to revive it and get more blooms. I had no clue about trimming fruit trees, but it was time I learned - which I did and trimmed all the fruit trees successfully, meaning that they all grew well afterwards, bloomed more and made healthy fruits. I had no ladder, that's why I couldn't trim the apricot too short, however the tree did very well and the crop was huge.
In the meantime, I kept on researching and learning about apricot care. I've found out that, because of its rapid growth, apricot can deteriorate and die after only a few years, especially after abundant crops, which can exhaust the tree and expose it to insects, fungus or other disease attack, such as brown rot. This disease is caused by the Monilinia fructicola fungus and causes blight branches and twigs, twig and branch canker(like a deep, black oval crack in the branch). During prolonged humid springs, Monilinia spores spread fast on apricot's (or any other fruit tree) flowers, then attack the green fruits, causing them rotten round spots as they ripen, until all the fruit is rotted. The fruits shrivel like mummies and get covered with grey mold spores. Spores spread to leaves too, which wilt and shrivel, then dry off and become brown. The branch or twig affected by brown rot dries off on the surface and gets brown inside.
One of the most important and dangerous, but inevitable disease is the well-known apricot's apoplexy. This disease can cause apricot's death with no appearing reason : one year the tree is healthy and fruits, but the following year it just dies. I was lucky that mine didn't die, but it is in great danger, a deadly one! Causes aren't very well known, but the specialists seem to agree that several factors can cause apricot's apoplexy such as, excessive humidity due to a rainy season, abundant crop, lack of spraying treatments or improper trimming.
I can identify with all these causes, although I gave my best, but the main cause - which I had no control of- is the excessive humidity we had all last year, especially during summer. Let me clear this out.
Every February, on the last three years, I trimmed my fruit trees and sprayed them all immediately, following the instructions I received through a television gardening show. The specialist who answers the gardeners questions advises only for insecticides which don't kill bees, but keep away the bad insects and fungus from the tree. And even though I truly believe in organic gardening, it seems that the actual weather conditions force us all to use insecticides, if we want to maintain our trees in good shape. Other trees or shrubs may thrive without it, with the help of beneficial insects, but apricot isn't one of those. I knew that from the beginning, but never imagined that it can be so bad.
I noticed one tip of a branch wilting and drying from the first year of my apricot's life, but since I didn't know much about what that could be, my common gardener sense told me to cut it back and spray with a common insecticide I had, for using against the bugs on my flowers. The second year I saw another tip of a branch wilting and drying, so I used the same treatment. The third year, as I said above, I got informed and knew more about apricot care, so I started trimming it and spraying it with copper sprays for fungus control and spray oil emulsion for insects control. Only more copper sprays should have continued afterwards, at some specific periods of the tree's vegetation : for apricots, when the leaves were a pigeon's egg size and for cherries, before the buds opened (pink bud) and after the blooms were fading.
I didn't do these other treatments, although I knew about them, but since the trees did so good, I prefered to pass on them and keep the trees as natural as possible. That went well until last summer, when it rained more than usual and the summer heat wasn't as usual either. After a rainy May and June, I noticed a long, wilted branch on my apricot, with fruits on it. I consulted with other fellow gardeners and decided to spray all my fruit trees against fungus, caused by the excessive humidity. Afterwards, the cherries did good and the crop was even higher than the last one. But the apricot was already sick of brown rot. The advice I got didn't tell me to spray more, nor the television show revealed anything, but later even they realized they weren't expecting such humidity and so much rain. For the moment, the treatment seemed to be good, the apricots grew healthy, but as they started to ripen, some started to rot, then covered with grey mould spors, while others shrivelled like mummies, even before ripening. I hurried to harvest the fruits which were still healthy, although they weren't ripe as they should. The fruits on the long blight branch also got covered with mould. I picked up the rotten fruits and threw them away. Even after doing an online research, I wasn't yet sure what had happened to my apricot and what I should do. The television show provided some information, but they said that I should cut back the sick branches or wait until February, when the tree would be in dormancy. They also confirmed my suspicions, that my apricot was under a brown rot attack.
I left the tree as it was until this February, when I trimmed and sprayed it. Moreover, I got a ladder and finally could trim the tree shorter. I was very content, but soon I became worried, when I realized the buds won't open. What could have happened? Some of the twigs I brought inside to force blooming, after trimming the tree, had bloomed and sprouted. I knew that I might have a smaller crop, since I trimmed many of the one year twigs -which are the ones that fruit- but never imagined the tree won't have leaves either. The television show helped me again and answered to my problem. By watching it every week, I realized that many gardeners have the same problem with their fruit trees, the brown rot attack. The specialist's advice was to cut back all the dead branches -the ones which didn't bloom or sprout- to 4 inches(10 cm) below the dried area on the twig or branch. Only I had four out of five thick branches I had to cut back and I had hoped I could save some of them - not a chance! Besides the fact that they had no leaf at all, all four had the symptoms, including branch canker -if I needed more reason to cut them back- while all the buds were black and dry. As I was cutting off the branches, I saw small or big brown spots on the cut and had to cut down to where the cut was clear. It was a huge work, not to mention exhausting, but I did it.
The sick branches need to be burned, otherwise the fungus spores, blown by the wind, will attack other trees or come back on the same tree. I sterilized the tools also for prevention, as I've already noticed a few blight twigs on one of my cherries, which means that the brown rot spread through my garden. I trimmed those back too, including the blight buds I also found. Finally, I copper sprayed all the fruit trees and made a note on my calendar on that day, so I should know that in two weeks I will have to spray the second -out of five- copper spray treatment. It's sad, but this is also gardening, so don't dispare if your trees get sick - treat them!