This is post number 2 of How to grow olive trees. I hope you have had the opportunity to watch post number one. In today’s post I’ll cover cultivation, site preparation, layout and when to plant.
And remember this, I am neither scientist nor pundit, just a keen observer of the olives.
Olive Tree Cultivation Systems
There are basically two olive tree cultivation systems I have seen thus far, super-intensive and non-intensive.
There are other cultivating systems between both. Today I’ll talk about both super-intensive and non-intensive with a slant toward super-intensive.
Growing olives in a super-intensive cultivation system has gained a lot of attention over the last several years.
The main reason is olive growers are looking for ways to reduce cost.
A super-intensive system produces more olives per hectare than any olive growing method.
The trees are planted just as you would grapes and are grown on a central axis system. This orchard has one thousand seven hundred Arbequina clone I-18 olives trees on each hectare.
After deciding what kind of olive and cultivating system you wish to pursue the next consideration is site preparation.
Site preparation means clearing the land of unwanted debris. Other trees must be removed to prevent shading because olives trees generally will not produce olives on shaded parts of the tree. The land must also be leveled to facilitate mechanical harvesters.
If the land is virgin ground it may be necessary to deep plough to destroy weeds.
It is also advisable to plant a crop of legumes for a 2-year period to kill off any remaining roots from any previous cultivation.
This will also help prevent root decay of the newly planted olive trees.
At this point you’ll need a soil analysis. This is done by taking samples from different areas of the land at depths of 30, 60 and 90 cm.
Usually growers will add potash and phosphate fertilizers with the last plough to help the young plant grow a strong root system within the planned layout of the field.
Traditionally olive trees are planted in a 7 x 7 m, 8 x 8 m, and 10 x 10 m layout.
However in this super-intensive orchard the trees are planted at 135 cm apart.
To facilitate harvesting the trees are allowed to grow to a height of 2.5 m on a central axis system.
When planning the layout of your future olive grove you’ll get to a point where you’ll have to decide how the olives be harvested.
In a non-intensive system and depending on the size of the operation you may need anything from a hand held picker to a tree vibrator to harvest the olives.
In the layout planning for a super-intensive system what you are trying to facilitate harvesting.
Harvesters are basically modified grape pickers. They are slowly driven over the olive trees removing about 98% of the olives.
The holes where I saw olive trees being planted was dug mechanically to a depth and width of 20 X 30 cm respectively.
In dryer a climate the holes should be 5 to 10 cm deeper.
When to plant olive trees
When to plant olives depends on the climatic condition.
If the area is generally mild then it is best to plant the young olive tree in November or December. Colder areas are best planted in February and March. What you are trying to avoid with the timing is the frost of spring damaging the vegetative cycle of the new olive tree.
If you are planning on growing olives in a super-intensive manner you can expect to achieved cost savings in the following areas:
- Early enter into production. The average 3-year-old super-intensive olive grove will yield 5 to 6 tons of olives per hectare with a maximum sustainable production of 12 tons per hectare.
- Reduced labor input because the olives are 100% machine harvested
- Up to 98% fruit removal
- You can harvest 1 hectare in two hours
- Harvesting cost is between 30 – 60 US dollars per ton
- Greater and more uniform yields
- Less bruised fruits
- Better quality olive oil due to reduced interval between harvesting and processing. Better quality olive oil means more income.
Now this video is an overview on how to grow olives if you would like more specifics, I have included three excellent reference sources below this post for learning how to grow olive trees. Go ahead and use them. I do all the time.
In my next post I will cover fertilization and pruning.
And If you haven’t yet subscribed to Olive-Abacus.com go ahead do so now. Be among the first to know when a new video post about olives is uploaded.
I am D’Olive Branche until the next time.
Louise Ferguson and G. Steven Sibbett: Olive Production Manual, University of California
Paul M. Vossen: Organic Olive Production Manual, University of California