From the UC Blogosphere...
Advice From the Help Desk
of the UC Master Gardener Program
Help Desk Response: Thank you for contacting the UC Master Gardeners about your apricot trees and their problems fruiting this year when your other fruit trees are fruiting well. You also asked for advice on growing vegetables in your home orchard.
There are many reasons why fruit trees will fail to produce with only a light crop. The main problems in our area tend to be weather related, either too warm in the winter or rains or frost at the incorrect time. Other problems may be related to pruning, either timing and/or amount of pruning. Based on the research that we have done on temperatures last winter and the moderate pruning that your trees received, I don't believe that those would have been problems for your trees. Although there were some cool temperatures in February that may have impacted pollination. The more likely cause of your problem was the March rains that we experienced. Apricots bloom in February and early March and spring rains leave them at particular risk for pollination and fruit set problems.
There is one other factor that may have contributed to the problems with your apricot production. You had mentioned that your trees received little water last summer due to the drought. Apricot trees initiate fruiting in early August of the prior year. This is a bit later than for other fruit trees. It is possible that stress due to the lack of water last summer may have impacted your apricots selectively.
Below are some links to more information that you might find useful.
The above link provides a useful calendar for apricot management. It also mentions the spring rain problems encountered by apricots:
This link provides cultural tips as well as guidance on pest control.
Veggies and Fruit Trees: You had also asked about planting vegetables in your orchard. You do need to be careful planting vegetables with fruit trees. While not recommended for the several reasons below, with very careful planning, you might have success. In this case, success (e.g., quantity, quality, type, etc.) would be in the eye of the garden owner, you. For example, one problem is shade. Most summer vegetables need 6-8 hours full sun. If you are going to plant, you would need to make sure that the vegetables are on the south side of the fruit trees to avoid shade on the vegetable plants. Another problem is water. Trees do best with relatively infrequent and deep watering. Vegetables typically need more frequent watering. If you are setting up new irrigation, you should separate the vegetable irrigation system from the orchard system. Here is some information on irrigation: http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/files/221116.pdf.
I thought you might also be interested in some general information on setting up and managing a vegetable garden: http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8059.pdf.
Good luck with your trees and your vegetables. Please let us know if you have further questions.
Help Desk of the UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa County (ECS)
Note: The UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 646-6586, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/ MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog (http://ucanr.edu/blogs/CCMGBlog/).
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