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Past Articles Library | Trees | Growing Olives


Yes, I said growing olives.  The olive tree is very adaptable to many different climates.  It also can live in many different soil types.  The only requirements that the olive tree is really picky on is the lowest temperature, soil drainage, and the amount of sun.  If your area sees temperatures that dip down below 41 degrees Fahrenheit, this could be a problem but it is solvable.  The second requirement is the amount of sun.  Olive trees love to be in the bright sunlight but they can tolerate some shade.

The soil drainage requirement can be a challenge to deal with but it is not impossible.  If your soil is clayey, do not fight it.  Simply build a raised bed to plant your olive tree in.

Now that we know the growing requirements, the next step is to talk about propagation.  Yes, olives can be grown from seed but that can be tricky and most people are not successful at this approach.  There are several reasons why this is the case but the key is the fact that you have to use seeds that are fresh from the tree.  Unless you have an olive tree in your yard, this can be a problem since they really need to be fresh.

The next choice you have is to purchase a seedling.  These are not very expensive.  They can be planted out in your garden space or in a pot.  Just keep in mind that if your winters are cold you will need to bring in your olive tree.  You will also need to plant your tree in a location by which it is sheltered from strong winds.

Ok, now that we know our choices, how do we plant our seedling?  To begin, let’s start off with planting the olive tree in your garden.  As stated before, this tree is very flexible as long as the temperature and sunny light is right.  If the area and climate is fine, the next step is to dig the hole.  The golden rule when it comes to planting a tree is to make sure that the hole is twice to three times the width of the container and the same depth.  If you receive your olive tree as a bare root specimen, make sure to dig the hole wide but keep the depth the same as the longest root length. 

Once the hole has been dug, cut the container by which your olive tree is planted in.  Gently loosen the soil around the roots and place the tree in the hole.  On the other hand, if you have purchased a bare root tree, just place your plant in the hole.


Next, fill in the hole with soil.  To move the air bubbles out of the soil, water the olive tree in and fill in as necessary.

Now that you know how to plant an olive tree in your garden, the other technique will be discussed but before we get to that we need to do a little homework.  The homework I am referring to is cleaning your container.  While this may sound a little weird but it is very important to do for both new and old containers.  To properly clean your pots starts with bucket of water that has had a capful of bleach added to it.  Once you have this, place your container in the bucket and allow to soak for a few minutes.  Next, scrub off any grime and hard water stains.  Finally, rinse your container in clear water and set out to dry. 

After your container has dried, the next step is to prepare it for planting.  The best approach is to add some type of drainage material to the bottom of the pot.  This will serve two purposes.  One, it will allow the excess water to drain away from the roots and two it will create weight by which it can balance the tree.  When I am looking for a heavy drainage material, I do consider using broken terra cotta pots.

Once I have my drainage material in the bottom of the pot, the next step is to fill the container with an all-purpose potting soil.  Next, plant your olive tree in the container and water in.

Now, that your olive tree has been planted, you may be wondering on where to put it.  You will need to place it in an area that gets as much sunlight as possible.

Beyond watering, olive trees do require some feeding in the spring.  The best fertilizer to use is one that is balanced.  A good choice is well season manure or compost. 

Ok, what do you do with your olive tree when the temperature dips down below 40 degrees Fahrenheit?  Well, the best approach is to move your tree inside but only do this at the last minute.  Olive trees require wind to properly pollinate.  This is not a problem if you are only growing your tree for decorative purposes but if you want fruit, you will need to place it outside as soon as possible.

To keep your olive tree looking its best will require you to do some pruning.  A gently trim can occur in the early spring.  If you need to do something a little stronger, wait until later on in the spring and up to early summer.  Never prune the olive tree in the autumn or winter.

While this tree is a slow grower, there will come a time that you will need to change the container.  There are two thoughts on this process.  One says that you never really need to upsize the container.  Yes, the roots will eventually fill the pot but you can have some control over this by pruning away any roots that appear growing from the drainage holes. 

The second train of thought is to replant the olive tree once the roots have become impacted in the container.  Either approach will work but I promise you that it will be a long time before you have to make this decision. 

Many people believe that growing olive trees can only occur in Italy but as you can see this is not true.  With a little care and understanding of this plant’s requirements, you too can have your own olive tree.



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Gardening-tip:



Is space a problem for you?

Then you might want to consider growing your vegetables, fruit, citrus, or annual color in tubs, 1/2 wine barrels, window boxes or hanging baskets.

All make great areas to grow columnar fruit, citrus, beans, tomatoes, herbs, or even onions or lettuce.

Get creative! What can you think of that would grow well in a small space?


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