Apricots are a flavourful stone fruit best used for baking, jams or savoury stews. The apricot is one of the first stone fruits to ripen, heralding the onslaught of peaches and plums to come. While fresh apricots sometimes have a slightly bitter in flavour, the sweetness of the fruit really pops when it's cooked. For best crop results and continued health of the tree, apricots should be pruned annually.
Since apricot season begins--end ends--earlier than its peach cousins, apricot trees should be pruned in the fall rather than winter. Pruning in the fall before the weather gets too cold means that the tree won't be in the typical shock that follows a good pruning when winter hits, leaving it susceptible to disease. A common plague is the Euypta fungus that can infiltrate a tree through open wounds, according to gardening expert Buzz Bertolero of the Oakland Tribune. Euypta thrives in the cool, damp winter weather and can cause parts of the tree to die. The best defence against this fungus is pruning early.
Pruning annually will help your apricot tree maintain healthy branches, since pruning stimulates new growth. When pruning your tree, inspect the bark for damaged or hollow limbs and remove these with clippers. Also remove any suckers and trim away branches that criss-cross other branches.
Keep in mind your goal: an open canopy that lets in enough light to ripen the fruit. Pruning away these interior branches that clutter the tree will allow the sunlight to hit the fruit and concentrate sugars necessary for flavour development.
If you have a young or delicate tree, you may wish to thin the fruit in the early spring. This is fairly similar to pruning. When thinning, look for thick clusters of fruit that are originating from a single spot on the branch. Pluck most of the fruit, leaving 1-2 developing fruits per cluster. You should thin in March or April, when the blossoms have faded and you can tell where the tree will be bearing fruit. Use your discretion when thinning. While thinning aids fruit flavour, you also want to thin flimsy branches that may break as the fruit develops. This helps your overall tree health.
Without thinning, the tree is putting its energy into a great number of fruits that won't develop significant flavour. When you thin, you intensify the flavour of the fruit that is left. You also help the fruit develop properly, since fruit that rubs against other fruit or against the bark will bear a slight scab on one side.