Although olive tree pruning may not seem like the most important factor when it comes to growing the tree and eventually producing olive oil, if the tree isn't properly pruned, you can't expect to produce the highest quality olive oil either. For this reason, proper olive tree pruning is essential to eventually producing the highest quality, best tasting, and purest olive oil. From the location of where the tree is planted, to how often it is pruned, cut, and cared for, it starts from an early age, and individuals who prune the olive tree have to know exactly what they are doing to ensure optimal growth, and the best tasting olive oil once cultivation of the oil begins.
When it comes to caring for an olive tree, you have to consider a number of factors. The wind, the temperature, the climate zone, where it will grow best, what type of soil to use, and so forth. Not only will proper care lead to a blossoming tree, but will also make overall care and maintenance easier for you as well. These are a few factors to keep in mind when it comes to caring for your tree.
1. The temperature - Your olive tree is going to thrive in warmer climate regions. Warm wet winters, and hot dry summers, similar to the Mediterranean regions, are the ideal location to grow your olive trees. Not only will they thrive in these regions, but they are also likely to grow quicker when they are produced and kept in these climate conditions as well. (In the US, states like FL, AZ, CA, and TX, are all great regions, as the weather conditions follow similar patterns).
2. Watering - When watering your olive tree, you should do a deep watering session once a month. Using a soaker setting on a hose, at the highest setting, and letting it sit at the base of the tree for at least a couple of hours, will help revitalize the tree, and help it during the slower growing seasons as well. If it is a larger tree, you may want to consider letting the hose sit for the entire day so the roots can really soak up the water. Other than the deep watering, you can water the tree daily (amount varies based on the size of the tree), to ensure the leaves don't dry out, and roots don't stop growing.
3. Maintenance - After the deep watering, you do not want root rot to occur which is a possibility with this tree. Therefore, you want to maintain a higher level of fertilizer around the roots. To properly maintain your tree, consider a raised bed of soil directly around the roots, in order to prevent rot, and to ensure the plant is going to produce after it has been planted in the ground.
4. Fertilizer - The best fertilizer solutions for growing your olive tree will be a ground up, seaweed based fertilizer, as this will help keep the plants happy. You only have to apply the fertilizer once a month, possibly twice if it is a larger tree. Your olive tree, unlike other trees, are light eaters, meaning you do not have to feed it as often. However, you do have to use some discretion. If the tree appears unhealthy, or isn't producing, then you may have to increase the amount of fertilizer, especially if it is a larger tree.
5. Wind (External factors) - It is imperative to protect your olive tree from extremely heavy winds and gusts, as this can cause a degree of damage to your olive tree. If it is planted in an area where heavy winds pass through, it is in your best interest to place some sort of barrier around the tree, to help protect it. The olives are shallow rooted, so heavier winds may potentially remove the tree from the ground.
6. Harvesting - When the tree begins producing olives and you are ready to harvest,, you have to do so gently. Remember that olives are lighter and delicate fruits, meaning they have to be dealt with using a specific care and attention to prevent injury. When plucking the fruit from the tree, it should be done gently, and you should have a dedicated location set aside for where you will harvest the fruit, in order to produce the olive oil.
What you need -
Now to the actual olive tree pruning. What you will use to prune the tree is obviously going to be dictated by the size of the tree, and the tools you have available to you. A pruning saw and pruning shears will go a long way to helping you eliminate leaves, weeds, and other items you want to keep away from the tree's base.
How your tools are used -
When olive tree pruning takes place, you need the right tools in place, but you also have to know what each piece of equipment is for. These are the basic uses of the equipment you will use:
1. Pruning shears - Will be used to cut shoots which are less than 1'' in diameter. You can use shears with shock absorbing capabilities, to help reduce stress and fatigue when working on a larger tree.
2. Pruning saw - For branches 3'' and wider in diameter, this is the tool of choice when olive tree pruning season approaches. Using a rigid blade saw you are going to attain the best results when pruning.
3. Pneumatic tools - In some situations, ladders, poles to extend your shears, and other pneumatic tools are also going to make the job easier on you. So, depending on the height of the tree, or if it is grown in an awkward location, consider having these tools around as well.
Purpose of pruning -
With mature olive trees, the olive tree pruning process is going to occur so that you can renew the fruiting surface, allowing new olives to grow. The more often you prune, the more yielding space you will have, allowing a new crop to grow, and allowing you to harvest the olive oil more frequently as well.
In certain circumstances, olive tree pruning is also required to eliminate abiotic stress. You may also prune the tree to reform the canopy from insect or wind damage, or to rejuvenate a tree which has been abandoned.
Pruning techniques -
Like pruning any other tree to harvest crops, different techniques can be used when it comes to olive tree pruning. The right technique will vary for each individual, depending on the tools you have, the frequency, and the time you prune the trees. So, knowing which technique works best for different situations, will help you in deciding on the right one for your tree, and to ensure you get the best results when pruning. These are a few of the most common techniques.
1. The thinning cut - With this method you will suppress the entire shoot by cutting close to a lateral shoot or branch. Doing this will reduce the length of the branches and canopy volume. This will also maintain fruit foliage closer to the plant's center.
2. Elimination cut - In this process entire shoots or branches are removed when fruits are visible in excess amounts. This method helps reduce competition between the shoots, without modifying the axis. When cutting, it should be made closer to lateral points.
Whether you are planning on eliminating different areas, or simply thinning down the canopy and overhead region, are some of the factors to keep in mind when you are deciding which method to use. Different times of year, may require you to use different techniques, so make sure you know how each is done, and what different tools you need to have handy in order to ensure the pruning process is properly completed.
The timing -
For olive tree pruning, timing and the right time of the year is everything. You should begin the process at the end of the winter season, and prior to the flowering season beginning. In mild climates, where you do not experience spring conditions, you can do your pruning during the winter months. In colder climates, you do not want to prune prior to bud breaks due to the fact that frost may ruin the tree, or ruin the crop for the year.
When dealing with smaller orchards, the pruning process can wait until the emergence of inflorescence. But you do not want to wait until after full bloom, as this will remove tissues from your tree, eliminating the potential of nutrients spreading through the tree. Although late pruning will not damage your olive tree, it will reduce vegetative growth substantially.
Summer pruning can also be done during the growth season, but should only be done when active growing is occurring during the year. Especially when it comes to cultivating the tree for the production of olive oil, it is not abnormal for olive tree pruning to occur during this time of the year, especially with larger trees and orchards of trees growing.
How often should you prune your trees? -
Before discussing the frequency and intensity, it is important to consider some commonsense points about pruning your olive trees. For instance, you only prune the tree when it is needed, and you reduce the frequency when you see growth is not as heavy. Further, you should adopt a free canopy system to ensure optimal growth in your orchard. Now, for the frequency and intensity.
In terms of intensity, you have to consider all factors. The growth, the crop, water availability, cultivar, age, and so forth. A general rule is the greater the intensity of pruning, the stronger the vegetative response will be. Older trees of low vigor should be pruned more intensively than younger trees, which aren't as fertile. Crop load consideration also has to be considered when determining the intensity of pruning. During heavy growth years, you will prune with less intensity to eliminate water sprouts and weaker shoots from growing in.
With most olive trees, the frequency of pruning should be once a year. With a rigid frame, annual pruning is optimal, as it will produce the greatest yield, and help prevent damaging your crop when it does grow. The current year's shoot growth is the greatest determining factor when it comes to deciding how frequently to prune your trees. If active growth is maintained, it is feasible for you to put off pruning until the next year. With irrigated orchards, which are well kept, you can go into the practice of pruning only every two years, as the crop is still going to grow, and you do not have to deal with the high cost, and need for equipment to prune the trees annually.
Before you prune -
The olive tree pruning process is quite simple, and similar to pruning of other similar trees. You will first remove any suckers growing from the base of the tree to ensure the tree is healthy during the growth season. If you see visible dead wood, this should also be removed prior to beginning the process, so that you get rid of dead growth from branches. If branches are crossing other branches these should also be removed or if branches are growing downward, these should be removed prior to pruning.
Although the olive tree pruning process will greatly vary from one season to the next, and from orchard to orchard, some of the basics will remain the same whether you are pruning a tree in your yard, or pruning trees in a larger orchard for commercial use. It is important to know when, how frequently, and which steps to take, to ensure pruning is properly completed. Further, you must properly care and maintain the tree year round, if you want the pruning to have any positive effect on the tree whatsoever.
Whether you own a larger crop and harvest, or a single tree, these simple tips will help you get started with the pruning process. Over time you will learn new tricks, along with the basics, allowing you to make changes were necessary, and prune the trees for your specific orchard, and the growth of your trees.
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