Horticulture: The olive tree, the tree of all legends

Horticulture: The olive tree, the tree of all legends

The olive tree is the Mediterranean tree par excellence, decorated with all the virtues. If very old trees are sold, it is best to encourage planting a young tree at home. Explanations.

The olive tree has been planted around the Mediterranean for thousands of years. The subject of many legends, so much so that the olive branch is a symbol of peace. It is increasingly popular in our gardens in the Southwest where it can produce fruit. Unfortunately, we often present venerable trees, torn from their original habitat. Out of respect for them it is better to plant young trees.

It fears very heavy soil

Rustic and thrifty, it grows in full sun in poor soil, and withstands heat and cold down to -12°C. Fears heavy soil. Before planting, the soil must be deeply loosened.

Flowering occurs from April to June. When there is fear of spring cold, the choice will fall on late varieties. Cross pollination is necessary. Therefore it is necessary to combine several varieties that fertilize each other. It is best to identify locally the suitable varieties.

Water to enhance olive production

Flower buds form on the previous year's wood, which grow at the same time as the fruit. In order to produce every year, it must be watered during dry periods. In Greece or Crete, many olive groves are irrigated using drip irrigation.

The color of olives depends on the time of harvest. At the end of summer, olives are harvested green, then they turn purple, then black after the first cold weather. It is not consumable as is: it must lose the acidity and bitterness in the brine.

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Size of olive tree

In the first years, training pruning is done to obtain a short trunk (0.80 m) on which the main branches are arranged. Maintenance pruning is then carried out by removing unproductive wood, which is dark and faded and bears olive stems harvested the previous year. Vertical branches growing in the middle of the tree must also be removed because they form shaded areas.

An olive tree trunk killed by frost can start again at the base as happened after the great frost of 1956 that destroyed olive groves in the Southeast. Often, after cutting the stem, we see regrowth at the base. After allowing them to develop for a year, we selected the prettiest regrowth from each strain. Based on this rejection, we then determine the training size. We can still see many olive trees through this regrowth.

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