That is the question.
The answer is: PRUNE
Olive trees are sturdy and resilient.
An beautiful Italian saying “Prune your olive trees so that a swallow can fly through without touching its wings”
This beautiful saying gives the olive grower a visual target for pruning.
Pruning and Training Systems for Modern Olive Growing, Riccardo Gucci and Claudio Cantini, CSIRO Publishing 2004
Here are some tips for pruning
- Lift the trees’ skirts. Keep the branches from touching the ground
- Bring the tops down to harvest height – you prune to harvest. Mark says you do not want to harvest by helicopter.
- Clean the inside and all dead wood from all the branches.
- Take off all old fruit – called mummies – that were not harvested last year. They are a harbor for the olive fruit fly.
- The goal is to help shape the tree into a goblet or vase shape.
- Prune to allow wind and sunlight into the center of the tree, to prevent mold, scale and mildew.
- Feed your trees.
- Always prune suckers that arise from the base of the trunk
- Prune only 1/3 of the tree each year.
- Remember that olive fruit grows on second year growth in the presence of sunlight.
- Olives are alternate bearing; so plan your heavy pruning after a heavy harvest. Conversely light prune after a light crop. This helps to try to equalize your production over the years.
If you have enough volume, have your olive oil certified, both by chemistry and by sensory analysis. The results will help you understand your crop, the right harvest conditions, and the oils characteristic over time.
Don’t forget to spray for Olive Fruit Fly. Spray weekly, from pit hardening in the spring to about two weeks before harvest.
- Pruning and Training Systems for Modern Olive Growing, Riccardo Gucci and Claudio Cantini, CSIRO Publishing 2004.
- Olive Growing, Ed. D. Barranco, R. Fernandex-Escobar, L. Rallo, Gruppo Mundi-Prensa 2010.
- Olive Production Manual , Ed. G Steven Sibbett, Louise Ferguson, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, 2004.