How to tell when to pick apricots off your trees

Bumper crop of apricots this year!

Apricot season is here and even though I didn’t get any on my apricot trees this year, many of my friends have offered me lots of them for which I am grateful. So far I’ve made 16 jars of apricot jam, dried a couple of gallons of them and I plan on making a apricot clafouti and an apricot/berry cobbler.

People ask me when they should pick apricots?

Should they wait till they are completely ripe or pick a little earlier. If you wait till they are completely colored up still on the trees, then you will be competing with the birds for them. Apricots are not like cherries where once you pick them, they stop ripening. The good news is you can pick earlier and most of them will continue to ripen if left out on trays in your kitchen. Then as they turn their beautiful apricot color and give to finger pressure, they are ripe and you can store them in a zip lock baggie in the refrigerator and keep adding more to the bag as the rest ripen. Of course they will only last a few days in the refrigerator but this will give you time to get enough of them and think about what to do with them.

Left-all green, 2nd light green-yellow, 3rd one starting to color, 4th one ripe but still needs a day to give to finger pressure

Above is a photo I took of apricots in various stages. The one on the far left is still ALL green and will NEVER ripen so throw those out or compost them. The 2nd one (from left) has a faint light green-yellow color and it will ripen up completely if left out on a counter. The 3rd one (from left) is definitely ripening and turning more yellow and the 4th one is ripe but still a bit hard so I wait till they give to finger pressure-just a touch of give before I use them in a recipe. Now you don’t have to compete with the birds!

2019 Garden Gratitude

In this topsy-turvey time in the world where everything is chaotic and polarized, I feel the need to reflect on the garden and what I was grateful for in the garden in 2019.

First and foremost is that I’m blessed with a big 3000 square ft garden that is almost finished-is anything really finished in one’s garden or is a garden something always in transition?

This last year I had a wonderful helper, named Janine (I always said I wanted a clone!) who I was blessed by meeting her at a class I taught.  Janine came out and weeded ALL the gardens while she was here for 2.5 weeks. Then I put landscape fabric down on the paths and wood mulch over the them to keep the weeds out. Works great. Now I’m not spending all my time battling weeds.

I finished up the last of my raised beds by framing them with wood. Now the soil and amendments don’t run off like my raked raised beds use to do, but instead stay contained inside the bed. Much better.

I bought hail netting which I’m sure will be great but we didn’t get hail here last season!  Go figure! Made me more relaxed though when a storm came rolling in and it kept the deer off of my crops which decided to come into the garden in the fall to nibble.

I am grateful for the abundant fruit crops my friends and I had this past season in 2019. And although we got no apples this year here at the mini farm from the apple trees, (they must be taking off a year after producing hundreds of lbs the previous year,) there was still so much fruit to harvest and share this year. Biggest year ever for me!

We got:

Cherries-10 lbs (from a friend)

Apricots-(last harvest was 7 years ago from our trees) canned lots of apricot jam

Peaches-30 lbs (from a friend’s peach trees)

Pears-20 lbs (from a friends pear trees)

Grapes, strawberries, rhubarb, blackberries and raspberries-all from my own garden. Abundant harvests.

I said when I planted raspberries 2 seasons ago that I wanted so many raspberries that I would get sick of them. Well, I didn’t get sick of them but was so overwhelmed by the number of raspberries that I opened up that patch to some friends to harvest some as our freezer filled up fast. Actually you can never get too many raspberries (or blackberries for that matter).

So what the veggie garden lacked in 2019, the fruit harvest was incredible.

Looking forward to a new gardening season!

Perennial fruit care in spring

Strawberries grew unbelievably with the addition of Azomite last year

As far as perennial fruit goes, I already cut back the new raspberry plants a few days ago. They are a fall variety called Polana from Norse nursery online. They were fantastic last year with us harvesting lots of raspberries in their first year. So this is their first trimming. I trimmed them back within an inch or two of the ground and they are all still alive. I wasn’t sure as I forgot to water them last fall for a few months but with all the precipitation we got this winter, they are fine.

I also cut back the new blackberry plants called Triple Crown, and saw lots of new start-ups that rooted that I will move. Now I won’t have to buy some to finish up the blackberry row. Hopefully I will get blackberries in their second year.

Today I pulled away all the dead leaves around the rhubarb (Victoria) and they are starting to come up too. A very hardy perennial plant.

I checked the strawberries and pulled all the dead borage plants that grow up in the strawberry patch each year from dropped seeds. Borage is a good companion plant for strawberries and the bees love them. The strawberries need a haircut too-but not too short. The strawberries did fantastic last year.

The verdict is out on the artichoke. It came back last year in its second year but I don’t see any signs of life yet this year. They actually are not supposed to be grown here as a perennial because we are in a colder zone than they like, so we will see if it makes it or not.

Next up is to prune back the grapes and the apple trees and other fruit trees. I’m late on the apple trees but they need to be desperately thinned and pruned now before they come back to life. Last year I put Azomite, a mineral supplement, in my veggie garden which really helped the crops and I have some leftover which I will sprinkle around the fruit trees this year.

Apple blossoms update

bee on apple blossom3_blog

After last week’s super cold spring weather of 20°F at night and then the snow (hey it least it was warmer) I’m happy to say that not all the apple blossoms died. This morning I noticed a lot more blossoms have opened and the bees are all over them which means I might get a reduced crop but won’t be wiped out completely unless we get another bitter cold night. Looks like we are back to warm days again as well. Yea!

Arrrgh! It’s too warm!

apricot tree unpruned1

Go away warm weather! Never thought I’d say that in winter but it’s too warm right now and the trees will be fooled into sending out their flowers, thinking spring is here (it’s not) and then wham another freeze will come along and kill all the blossoms on the fruit trees and we won’t get any fruit again this year-just like last year-Wahhhh!

Spring Maintenance for Fruit Trees

Spring apple tree maintenance-pruned, well expanded and mulched, sprayed and watered.

Speaking of fruit trees, let’s talk about what else we should do besides pruning before the end of winter or at the beginning of spring.

-SPRAY DORMANT OR HORTICULTURAL OIL ON YOUR TREES NOWDid you ever notice the leaves curling up on some of the apricots or peach trees in the summer? This could be one of two things that cause it. The first one is peach leaf curl disease. It usually comes in wet springs-no problem here with that! We rarely have wet springs here in Santa Fe. The second one is aphid damage which is more likely here. This appears on the trees as curling or shriveling of the leaves in the summer. Aphids lay their eggs on the trunk and limbs and the eggs will hatch when it gets warmer this summer.  To kill the eggs, spray horticultural or dormant oil on the trunk, branches and buds (especially in the crooks where the branches join the trunk BEFORE the blossoms bloom). That basically means now. Spraying will also work on a multitude of other pests that overwinter on the trees. The oil works by smothering the eggs and is organic.

-CLEAN UP THE MULCH IN YOUR WELLSI usually pull aside the mulch that I put on the previous year but don’t get rid of it because you are going to…

-DIG YOUR WELLS OUT TO THE DRIP LINE.I know your tree is getting bigger but until it is full grown, it will really help when you water the well to get it out to the roots where it needs it

-INSPECT YOUR DRIP LINES TO TREESDrip lines are great for the trees for awhile especially while they are small. So turn on the drip line on a warm day and test it. Replace emitters that are clogged. Then add more emitters if your tree has grown during the past year.

Don’t cover the base of the trunk. Trunks of trees don’t like to be buried so put the mulch up to it.

Fill it up a few times each time you water. If we don’t get any substantial water this spring be sure you water more especially with our spring winds. Your trees will thank you.

Do this before the trees leaf out because fruit blossoms will follow (probably in March-just watch your trees).

Time to Trim Fruit Trees Now in February

If you haven’t trimmed your fruit trees yet you’re not alone. I haven’t done mine but plan on doing them by this weekend. You should trim soon before the buds swell or you’ll miss your opportunity this spring. Below is picture illustrating where to prune an apple tree.

Picture courtesy of

Last year I trimmed the fruit trees heavily so I shouldn’t have to trim too much this year. I just have to take off the water sprouts and small branches that have crossed and are touching in the interior. I didn’t get ANY fruit last year, not even an apple (and I always get those) because of the bitter cold winter we had.

Different winter this year-much warmer with little bits of snow. Not enough snow to quit watering once a month but certainly enough to help. Hell, any moisture helps out here. One more thing to check off my to-do list.

Fruit Tree Pruning

Unpruned apricot tree with lots of little branches everywhere

It’s just a little orchard I keep telling myself!  I know I’m a little late for pruning but need to prune my fruit trees before they leaf out (which luckily they haven’t yet).  Since I didn’t do them last year I feel compelled to do it this year. Trying to use my ‘how to prune a fruit tree’ skills.  I don’t want them to get out of control!

Pruned apricot tree

Here are pictures of an semi-dwarf apricot tree before and after I pruned it. It desperately needed pruning. Apricots are notorious for putting out lots of tiny branches everywhere so it is best to keep up on them.  Notice how many branches I cleaned out but still kept the basic shape. I also cut the suckers growing at the base of the tree. When pruning fruit trees, we need to consider what type of fruit tree we are pruning. Most fruit trees like apricots, peaches, pears and plums do better with an open vase shape where sunlight can enter into the center of the tree except for apple trees that do best with a central leader.

Prune at an outward growing branch

One thing for sure is don’t top off the tree limbs. That will encourage rampant growth on top. Instead look at where you are pruning the limb and clip the branch where a new branch will grow outward away from the center not into the center of the tree. It took me awhile to see where the proper place is to trim and I’ve not always done well in years past. Some mistakes I can’t rectify like one of my apple trees that I pruned years ago into the vase shape. Still it seems to produce well. Perhaps nature is more forgiving than we think..