Your ‘standard’ olive tree could not be any less standard. If you’re looking for a new added extra that will add something a little more personal to your garden, an olive tree can do more than that! Olive trees are evergreen trees that will add a Mediterranean scent to your garden or patio and in some cases produce fruit. However, the olive trees that are grown in this country are mainly used for an architectural look. Many of our customers ask how we keep them well maintained and cared for, here we give you our advice and techniques for looking after your new tree.
Position Olive trees generally need as much sunlight as possible. In other words, the more light they have, the longer your olive tree will remain healthy and in its best condition. Although, a little shade can be tolerated with a few precautions. Olive trees are extremely strong; however, a chilly wind can be very damaging below a temperature of -5°C and could penetrate the bark. We recommend to our customers that they invest in wind protection if possible. Ideally, when deciding where to position your olive tree, you should consider facing them south or west with some protections away from the north and east winds.
Hardiness While olive trees are hardy down to -10°C, a frigid wind can be devastating to young olive trees. Serious cold damage to olive tree branches mainly starts at -5°C, though lesser damage to fast growing branch tips could occur at 3°C if frost is present. Temperatures in the mid-teens that last for a long duration could cause considerable damage to larger branches and trunks. However, the extent of the damage may not be obvious for some time. Duration of cold temperatures is a crucial factor to understand; if the temperature falls to below 20°F early in the evening and persists until the early morning the damage will be much greater than if the temperature only lasted for a few hours. From research, we have noticed that many people have grown olive trees in areas that are considered too cold for them to live. These people have taken extreme measures to protect their trees at times of low temperatures. If you live in a cold environment and you’re unsure if the temperature is suitable. Don’t risk it; we recommend covering or wrapping your trees during winter or cold temperatures – just in case.
Planting Without exception, olive trees require well-drained soil. They can tolerate most soil types but unless the dampness at the roots can easily pass through they will slowly decline and die. Don’t panic! Here a couple of ways to get around this easily.
- Dig the planting hole roughly the same size as the container. Remove the tree from its container and examine the roots, without disturbing the root ball as much as possible. Before planting, the tree should be well watered. When placing the tree in the hole try planting it slightly higher than ground level and leave about one inch of soil from the surrounding area on top of the root ball. Most experts have recommended that you should not add massive quantities of organic matter or soil mix, compost or fertiliser to the planting hole; it can create an artificially good growing medium. The tree must grow into the native soil; adding a good soil mix to a large hole even if mixed with native soil, may create a potted effect and could limit root growth out into the natural soil.
- Alternatively, (and probably easier), If your tree is in a nursery container, turn it upside down and gently slide the tree out and separate the roots without overly disturbing the root ball. Place the tree in the new container and add more soil no deeper than it was in the original pot. Leave an inch between the soil and the rim of the container, so you’ll have room to water. Use a saucer underneath the container to catch any unwanted drips; allow space for easy drainage from the soil. If you are wondering when is best to water, stick your finger about an inch into the pot, if the soil feels dry, that’s when you should water.
Pruning You don’t need to worry too much about pruning your olive tree – just a trim when needed. As a rule, you should not be doing any pruning after August. If you are removing any bulkiness, this must be done in the summer months, smaller shoots should be removed in the spring. This will ensure the tree has enough time to heal before winter sets in. This is due to wintry weather potentially causing an olive tree to shed some of its leaves. Pruning an olive tree to maximise fruit production is something that most owners of olive trees consider, although it is not a requirement. Pruning is a simple matter of reducing the length of stems by the amount that they are growing each year or as often as you want to.