by Kay Nason
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Master Gardener
More and more gardeners want to include peaches and apricots in their Front Range landscapes. Why not, since these are favorite fruits for many and the difficulty of raising them is easily offset by the possibility of delicious juicy produce. There are, however, some problems to overcome.
CHOOSING A TREE
Peaches and apricots in general are self-pollinating, thus, requiring only one tree to set fruit. Trees come in three sizes - dwarf, semi-dwarf and standard. The smaller size trees are easier to maintain (spray, prune and pick) but the standard trees make nice shade trees that sometimes give fruit.
Many varieties are available and they differ in taste, color and size. Just let your personal preference guide your selection. If you are unsure, try several kinds at the Farmers' Market to see which ones you like best.
With the short growing season in Colorado, early varieties do better than later ones, especially with peaches. Catalogs and hang tags will give approximate ripening times which can vary depending upon where they've been grown and labeled. Hardiness is another consideration so make sure that the variety is marked as cold hardy for Northern areas of the U.S. (at least Zone 5).
WHERE IS THE FRUIT?
Because of cold winter temperatures and frequent late spring freezes, peaches only form on Front Range trees once every three years on average and apricots tend to fare even worse. Anytime the temperatures fall below minus 13 degrees F in a preceding winter, the fruit embryos are killed and no flowers or fruit will form the next spring and summer. A below zero reading in the minus 10-degree F range late in the winter (March) will often yield the same result. Temperatures of minus 25 degrees F. can damage or kill a peach or apricot tree but planting them in a protected area can lessen the chances of freeze damage. Finally, late frost while the tree is flowering or setting fruit is another hazard to peaches and apricots.
If the fluctuating temperatures, extreme cold, late snows, frosts and freezes don't kill the fruit, diseases and insect problems can shorten the life of an already short-lived tree (especially the peach). In spite of all of these problems, most people still find peach and apricot trees worth the trouble.
PLANTING FRUIT TREES
Trees are available bare-root or potted. Bare root is usually less expensive but bare-root planting is limited to the dormant period between late March and May. Potted trees may be planted later in the spring or fall. Pruning is not recommended before planting or immediately after except for dead or damaged branches or roots. Soak the roots for four to twelve hours in a bucket of water before planting.
Prepare the soil before planting by digging a wide yet shallow hole that is wide enough to accommodate the spreading roots with plenty of extra room. A deep hole is not needed. Plant only as deep as it was previously planted (a mark should be visible). Press the soil firmly around the tree, but do not pack down or walk on it, as this will decrease needed oxygen to the roots. Water well and water weekly until established. Additional watering is usually necessary during dry fall and winter months.
Question: When will the downtown farmers’ market start this year?
Answer: The Larimer County Farmers’ Market starts on Saturday, July 6 from 8 a.m. to 12 noon. It will be located on Remington Street between Oak and Olive next to the Elk’s Lodge.
Question: My neighbor told me not to plant grass around my new tree, but to build a good-sized mulched ring around it. Why should I do this?
Answer: This is a good idea. The main reason is to protect the tree from lawn mower, weed whacker, and other accidental hits. These accidents are detrimental to tree health since they leave an opening for insects and disease as well as stressing the tree. The mulch also retains moisture, keeps the weeds down and improves the soil as it breaks down.
Question: My strawberries seem to be thinning and flowering less after only 4 years. What should I do?
Answer: Strawberries naturally wear out after a few years. Plan to replant a strawberry patch every three to five years.
Question: How can I keep my raspberries from taking over my lawn?
Answer: Raspberries are so invasive that it requires diligence to keep them at bay. Regular mowing of the suckers while they are small will help.
A white garden is at its best in the evening when you are there to enjoy it. White flowers are often more fragrant after dusk, too. Try white roses, the shrub sweet mock orange, white evening primrose, nicotiana (but get the straight species – it’s more fragrant than the newer hybrids) and white oriental lilies for your fragrant moonlight garden.
Remove faded flowers after your roses bloom. Cut back to a 5-leaflet node. Fertilize and water deeply to encourage reblooming. Mulch the plants to conserve moisture.
Container gardens and hanging baskets dry out very quickly in our arid climate. Water when the soil is dry - - which may be every day. Use a timed release granular fertilizer once or twice a season or use a diluted water soluble fertilizer every week. Keep your plants blooming all summer by removing the faded blossoms.
Freeze fresh mint leaves in ice cubes and use them to cool lemonade or ice tea or just plain water for a refreshing drink.
Tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa) is not a tomato as the name implies although it is a member of the Solanaceae family along with tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and potatoes. Tomatillos have a citrus tang while still pale green and are used in salsas. Once they ripen to a pale yellow they will lose their punch.
The authors have received training through Colorado State University Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener program and is a Master Gardener volunteer for Larimer County.
Gardening and Insect Fact Sheets are available on-line by clicking HERE.
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