Olive tree pruning 101

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How to Prune an Olive Tree

Three Parts:

Olive trees grow slowly and generally require little pruning each year if they are healthy and well-maintained. You will want to begin shaping your olive tree when it’s young, or about 2 years old, and then check it each year in the late spring or early summer for some maintenance pruning. You can look forward to a long fruitful life of 50 years or more with your olive tree with some moderate yearly care.


Cutting Your Tree with Proper Tools

  1. Have sharp, clean pruning tools.Make sure your pruning shears or saw are both sharp and clean. If they are old and you’re not sure if they are sharp, you can either sharpen them yourself or take them to your local hardware store to have them sharpened for a small fee.
    • To clean your shears or saw, dip the blades in isopropyl alcohol for 30 seconds to disinfect them, then carefully wipe them dry with a clean towel.
  2. Use shears for shoots less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter.Use clean double-bladed shears for your smallest shoots and branches, available at your local hardware store. Consider using shears with shock absorbers to reduce your fatigue while you’re pruning.
    • Look for double-bladed gardening shears at your local hardware store.
  3. Use a hand saw for branches up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) in diameter.For branches in the densest, internal part of the canopy that are between 1–3 inches (2.5–7.6 cm) in diameter, use a clean hand saw. You will want a saw with a rigid blade that is at least 15 inches (38 cm) in length for the best results.
    • 15 in (38 cm) hand saws are available at most hardware stores.
  4. Use a chainsaw with caution for major branches.If you are pruning an old, neglected tree and need to remove large branches, you may need to use a chainsaw. Use a lightweight chainsaw to avoid fatigue and take frequent breaks. Stand on the ground or a stable platform and wear a helmet, goggles, gloves, and heavy-duty clothing.
    • Avoid operating a chainsaw if you have any health conditions that cause weakness from physical activity or if the saw is too heavy for you to easily maneuver.
  5. Make slanted cuts that are flush with the branches.Cuts that are slightly slanted will help deter water from soaking into the cut and having your branch get infected. Make cuts that are right against the larger branch that the branch you’re removing is growing from.
    • Avoid leaving stubs when you make cuts. Make a clean, slanted cut right up against the larger branch.

Creating Your Olive’s Basic Shape

  1. Begin shaping when your tree is 1 metre (3.3 ft) tall.When your tree is about 2 years old and 1 metre (3.3 ft) tall, with 3 or 4 strong lateral branches, you can begin the first stages of shaping.
    • Your tree will not be bearing any fruit until it is about 3 or 4 years old, so this pruning is just to start getting it formed into a shape that will be conducive to healthy growth and fruit bearing.
  2. Prune once a year in the late spring or early summer.When your tree does start bearing fruit, it will be in the fall, so the ideal time to prune is right before it’s about to begin its new growth for the year. Try to prune your tree on a dry day so that the new cuts don’t get too wet and vulnerable to infection.
    • Olive trees grow slowly and overall don’t need a lot of pruning. Pruning once per year is plenty.
  3. Avoid cutting too much on young trees.It’s important to maintain a balance between shaping your tree into a form that will be its main structure for life and allowing your tree to grow and build energy reserves. Too much pruning will stunt a young olive tree’s growth.
    • If your tree is a few years old and still isn’t 1 metre (3.3 ft) tall with a trunk and more than 3 or 4 strong lateral branches, you can hold off on pruning for another year.
  4. Aim for a martini glass shape.The healthiest olive tree shape is that of a wide martini glass, with the trunk being the glass stem. Most branches should grow laterally and slightly up. The center of the “glass” remains light in branch density to allow light into the center of the tree.
  5. Choose 3 or 4 strong lateral branches to form your main shape.To begin achieving a martini glass shape, choose 3 or 4 strong branches that are growing mostly out and slightly up from the trunk to keep as the main structure for your tree. Leave smaller branches coming off these branches, even if they are growing down.
    • You can cut other small, weak, or vertical branches aside from these main 3 or 4.
    • If your tree only has 2 strong lateral branches, you can prune others that seem very weak or too vertical, but next year you’ll want to look for another 2 strong branches to keep. Eventually you want your tree to have 4 strong lateral branches for its main structure.

Maintaining Your Olive with Annual Pruning

  1. Observe your tree at picking time.Once your tree is bearing fruit, you will notice that its main lateral branches get weighed down by fruit. These are branches you’ll want to keep at the next pruning time. You will see other branches that are growing vertically, or some that look old or weak.
    • Make notes of these vertical, old or weak branches that you should prune the following year.
    • Your tree may take a year off from fruiting every other year. Light annual pruning is still a best practice for encouraging new growth.
  2. Remove vertical branches.Branches growing straight up, especially those near the top that are thin and weak, should be removed. You also want the inside of your martini-glass shape to not be dense with vertical branches, so remove those as well.
    • A rule of thumb is that a bird should be able to fly through your olive tree. If your tree is too dense with vertical branches in the middle, a bird would not be able to do that, and you should remove more vertical branches.
    • Fruit only grows on lateral branches, so another reason to prune these vertical branches is to give your tree more energy to put toward fruit-bearing branches.
  3. Cut lateral branches that have become exhausted and weak.As your tree ages, some of the lateral branches growing off your main branches may become old. When you observed your tree at picking time, these are the old branches that maybe bore fruit at one time, but they have stopped.
    • Cut these branches to encourage your tree to grow more fruitful branches.
  4. Remove suckers from the trunk’s base any time.Any growth below the main fork of the tree, going down the trunk to its base, should be removed. These branches are usually small, grow vertically or downward, or otherwise look out of place to your tree’s main shape.
    • You can remove these suckers any time of the year, whether its your annual pruning time or not.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    My 20yr old olive tree is getting yellow/brown leaves? Help is it sick?
    Allison Batera Sullivan
    Community Answer
    These branches may be dying and should be pruned to give your tree more energy for its healthy branches. If your entire tree is getting yellow and brown leaves, it may be sick from overwatering or poor soil drainage. Make sure that the soil around your tree does not stay damp from puddles very long after rain.
  • Question
    How do I prune it to grow bushier?
    Community Answer
    Most olive varieties produce a heavy crop every other year and this helps to even out the fruit production. Prune off suckers, as they rob the canopy of water and nutrients. Remove dead, damaged or crossing branches. If the tree is overgrown, reduce the main leaders by about a quarter.
  • Question
    We have a wall of olives, more like a bush. Any special restriction on pruning?
    Allison Batera Sullivan
    Community Answer
    The branches lower to the ground may not be producing fruit anymore, so you can prune these branches. Also prune vertical branches that are crowding the interior of the plant. Aim for a martini-glass shape, with the trunk being the glass stem, and around 4 strong lateral branches working out from that.
Unanswered Questions
  • How can I encourage my olive tree to flower?
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Quick Summary

To prune an olive tree, choose a time either in late spring or early summer and make sure your tree is at least 3-4 feet tall before pruning. Choose 3-4 strong lateral branches to form your main shape and make slanted cuts to remove branches. Once you've established a shape, be sure to also remove old wood, weak branches, and branches that are growing straight up.

Video: Pilot Video: Pruning a Medium Density Olive Tree

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Date: 11.12.2018, 03:37 / Views: 71254