How far apart should olive trees be? This is a question that most olive tree growers are faced with during the initial stages of planting. Like any other fruit tree, olive tree spacing has to be almost if not exactly perfect for optimal yield. So how much space should there be between olive trees?
The truth is, there isn’t an exact figure. The amount of spacing between olive trees will be determined by several factors. These include soil type, terrain, spread, olive variety and pruning needs just to name a few. This article will look at how these factors influence olive spacing. At the end, it will also attempt to recommend the most efficient type of olive tree spacing option.
This is probably the most basic determinant of final spacing in an orchard. For instance, among the varieties grown in California, Mission, Sevillano and Ascolano tend to grow into massive sizes and therefore require more space. On the other hand, Manzanillo is moderately large and requires less space.
The spread, for most farmers, tends to form the basis for olive tree spacing. Olive trees produce thick foliage, which tends to be wispy. They grow to a maximum height of 50feet and as they do so, their limbs spread out to more or less 20feet. To prevent intertwining and to give them adequate space for sunlight absorption, it’s best to plant olive trees within twenty feet of each other. This distance also allows fruit to grow on the lower canopy.
For about 30 years, hedgerow configuration has become quite popular among commercial olive gardeners. This practice involves planting the trees closer together within rows than between rows. In such cases, the distance between the trees is 8feet. While this still allows for optimal fruit growth, planting multiple rows with this spacing may pose some risk. The dense canopy formed may prevent o sunlight from striking the lower branches hence impeding fruit production. To prevent this, a distance of 16feet to 25feet is recommended. This spacing has additional advantages. Hand harvesting, with or without machinery, is easy.
This planting design involves planting the trees intensively close together, about 4 to 5feet apart. The rows are 12-13feet apart. This spacing design is employed to shorten the period which olives take to full production. Rather than taking 8-10 years to mature, they take 4years. The only shortcoming with SHD is that it only works for three varieties of olive namely Arbosana, Arbequina and Korneiki.
Unlikely as it seems, soil type does dictate spacing between olive trees. Generally, olive trees grown on nutrient rich soils tend to have widely spread roots than those grown on shallow and nutrient deprived soils. As a result, olive trees grown on rich and fertile soils need to be grown further apart so that their roots don’t compete for space. A maximum distance of 30feet between trees is recommended for rich soils. This spacing ensures that all trees have adequate nutrients.
For those not into a hedge shaped olive grove, pruning the canopy so that it does not grow into an unwanted shape is necessary. Trees planted in a high density design will also require frequent pruning to prevent the canopies from growing into a massive canopy. Depending on the size of the orchard and how often one can prune, olive trees can be planted within 8feet to 30feet of each other.
Traditionally, olives were planted with a spacing of approximately 30ft. This was mainly to compensate for the fact that they were dry formed. Over the years, however, traditional spacing has become less and less popular. This was probably due to the fact that planting olives closers yields better harvests. The modern plantings are also easier to manage.
Different factors will fuel different spacing options. Super high density orchards are most preferred by farmers with 4ft-6ft between trees, and 12ft-13ft between rows. Putting into consideration tree shape, sunlight penetration and equipment use for optimal fruit yield, this has proved to be the most efficient olive spacing design.
Oil Spacing for Oil Olives by Paul Vossen and Alexandra Devarenne.
Super High Density Olive orchard Specifications. URL: http://www.sierragoldtrees.com/html/olive_orchard_specs.html
How Far Apart Should Olive Trees be? By Amanda Rodriguez. URL: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/far-apart-should-olive-trees-be-44028.html
Olive Production Manual by G. Steven Sibbett and Louise Ferguson.
Organic Olive Production Manual by Paul Vossen.