How and when should I prune back sprouts to encourage more lateral growth without prompting more water sprouts on my apricot tree??
I have a hardy apricot tree that flowers nicely each spring, then all fruitlets fall off or are severely damaged by insects. This spring I pruned it very hard so I can reach branches and better monitor for insects, tie on maggot barriers. All branches have sent out dozens of sprouts due to pruning, many are vertical. My question is how and when to prune back those sprouts to encourage more lateral growth without prompting more water sprouts? I was going to try to leave the branches that are fruit bearing, and are more horizontal in pattern.
Apricots are marginally hardy for Maine and many years you will lose your crop to frost damage. That is why no one grows them commercially in Maine. For home gardeners it is worth the risk as you don’t have a farm enterprise dependent on them.
This is what our Growing Fruit Trees in Maine publication has to say about apricots:
Apricots and Plum-Apricot Hybrids
Apricot trees are generally hardy through the winter, but quickly become tender as temperatures rise in late winter. Consequently, they suffer from winter injury and have a short lifespan in cold climates. Plum-apricot hybrids, called plumcots, and apriums, also have a short life span in cold regions. Spring Satin is a plum-apricot hybrid with fruit that closely resembles a plum, but does not tolerate the freeze-thaw cycles of late winter.
The many water sprouts are likely due to the hard pruning you gave it this spring. I would summer prune them out now to encourage the lateral growth as you say. Prune them right down to the base.