Olive trees are one of the most naturally resilient trees on earth, and are capable of surviving in practically any climate and environment. However, if you’re planting the tree exclusively for its crop, then particular care must be taken to ensure consistent and bountiful yields. It is quite common for olive orchards to be harvested well over its hundredth year; in fact, there are a few thousand-year-old olive trees found in the Garden of Gethsemane in Israel that continues to bear fruit to this day!
Regardless of whether you’ll be planting in the garden behind the house or in a commercial orchard, the key lies in the preparatory work and upkeep during the early days. With that in mind, we’ve compiled below a list of six tips that will steer you in the right direction in your olive tree planting project.
Test the acidity of your soil well in advance of planting as olive trees are more suited to alkaline soil types – or at the very least, neutral. If the soil is too acidic, consider treating it with agricultural lime (calcium carbonate) or other PH balancing agents.
Planting trees in 5m x 8m (16ft. x 26ft.) blocks is the optimal layout in terms of nutrient distribution, soil circulation and harvesting. This will average out to about 250 trees per hectares (2.5 acres).
For hand-harvested small gardens, you could probably reduce the block sizes to 3m x 6m (10ft. x 20ft.) while maintaining short term yield ratio - provided the area is regularly watered and occasionally treated with fertilizers.
Soil should be treated with manure prior to planting. Manure will instantly increase the health of your soil by introducing new microorganisms and micronutrients into the ecosystem. Typically, one cubic meter of manure can be spread across twelve 5m x 8m blocks.
It is also advisable to spread a layer of volcanic basalt (blue metal crusher dust) a couple of days after the manure is laid out, at a ratio of 1:1. Volcanic basalts contain non-water soluble nutrients that are crucial to tree roots. Often times, nutrients are drained away from the tree during watering period and rainy days.
Next, rip your soil to a depth of approximately 60 centimeters at 3 meter intervals to circulate the soil properly. Try not to do this during rainy seasons to prevent top soil leeching.
Technically, olives can be planted throughout the year. However, planting in temperatures below five degrees Celsius will require specially irrigated groves to protect it from the elements. Otherwise, your stems might not last till spring.
Mark the planting locations in advance with your stakes, ideally made from bamboo or treated polyethylene, for an uninterrupted planting experience and a more organized layout. The stakes should preferably be about 1.5 meter (5ft.) in length and about 1.2cm (0.5in.) thick.
Wet the end of the plant stems and push it firmly into the soil next to the stake. Tie the stems to the stake gently. Pat the ground around it to remove air pockets. Subsequently, spread a circular layer of organic mulch around the plantings. This will discourage new weeds from growing and siphoning away valuable nutrients from the soil. Organic mulch will also improve the quality of the soil as they gradually decompose.
After planting is completed, let the field rest for a few hours before watering them. Take great care not to aim water streams directly at the plants and mulch. Observe the flow of water to see if there are any soil inclinations that will hold water. The absence and excess of water can greatly affect the health of young olive stems.
Keep a very close eye on the presence of weeds in the first few days of growth. Culling of weeds are usually very taxing and time consuming. However, left unattended, these weeds could spread all over the field within just a couple of weeks, and deprive your young olive trees of sorely needed mineral and nutrients. Herbicides may be used after six months, but not sooner, as it may dampen the young soil ecosystem and mulch decomposition.