I have an Apricot tree that is four years old. I'm surprised by how big it's grown since it's a dwarf tree. How much should I cut it back, and should it be done now?
I'm assuming your tree is a semi-dwarf apricot. Semi-Dwarf fruit trees are not as dwarf as people expect, growing to eighteen feet with a ten-foot spread. They're still classified as a dwarf compared to the larger growing standard apricot and other types of deciduous fruit trees. So when purchasing a dwarf tree, you should ask the question, How dwarf is dwarf?
Deciduous fruit trees are pruned annually when they're dormant in January and February. However, there is no problem with pruning in the fall, and it's recommended with apricots.
Apricots are susceptible to an airborne disease that enters through new pruning wounds, so they're pruned when there is a ten-day period of dry weather. We remove about twenty-five percent of the growth each year.
All apricots' varieties maintain the same general growth habit, so the same pruning rules apply to all varieties.
Prune out enough branches to evenly shape the canopy, selecting old wood whenever possible. This spacing allows the sunlight to penetrate all parts of the fruit-producing branches evenly.
The majority of the fruit is borne on second-year old wood. You can differentiate growth by color. The new growth is a light color while the older shoots are dark. The long whip branches that grew during the summer are the fruit-producing wood for the coming year, so do not cut them too freely.
The outside branches of apricots tend to lower each year with the weight of the fruit and foliage. They may be cut off the tree and replaced with new branches from the inside growth.
Apricot wood is brittle, so care should be taken not to let the branches spread laterally to a great distance. Favor erect growth whenever possible. A sturdy framework is desired even at the expense of fruit production.
Several pruning books are available that you can use as a reference, or you might attend a pruning demonstration this month at your favorite garden center.
How might one care for an artichoke plant over the winter? One of my friends said to chop them down to the ground to get more artichokes next summer. Any advice on how best to transplant them, as I will need to move some soon?
During most winters, you leave them alone except if you're going to divide them.
Artichoke clumps are divided every three to four years to keep the production high. They usually cut to the ground first.
I'd split the clump by digging it up and then segmenting it into smaller sections using a shovel or ax. The sections are transplanted in the new location.
If you cannot accommodate all the plants, save the biggest and give the others away. I would work lots of organic matter like homemade compost or blended soil conditioner into the new planting areas, add some starter fertilizer, and then water to finish the relocation.