Native to coastal areas of east Mediterranean Basin, olive is a species of the Oleaceae family. The fruit is called olive and is important as the oil extracted from it in most Mediterranean diet. It grows only in an agreeable climate of a long and hot growing season, which is a major consideration and requirement for olive trees.
It is an evergreen tree that grows not more than 50 feet high and 30 feet wide. The foliage is feather-shaped, arranged opposite to one another, with a gray-green appearance because of tannin. The tree does not shed leaves every year, with new growth occurring simultaneously in the spring every couple of years.
For an olive tree to grow and fruit, it needs a long, hot growing season, else the fruit won't ripen. No late spring frosts or extreme winter chills. This is the reason most olive cultivation and production in America is concentrated in the warmer coastal valleys of California.
Transplanting needs to be done carefully. The tree should be planted together with the root ball, ensuring no damage to its roots has been done, especially when pressing it down to firm the plant. Experts recommend that after planting, the surrounding soil should be covered with straw to minimize water loss from the soil.
Young trees are more prone to dying out because of improper irrigation, hence water regularly during the first 2-3 years. For more number of trees, a drip irrigation system is recommended. Olive trees should be fed with nitrogen rich fertilizer annually, well ahead of the flowering development time. Organic compost is equally beneficial.
Pruning is essential to control the plant's growth, maintain its shape, and increase the yield. Most tree heights can be controlled at 20-25 feet, for easier access to yield.
Pruning is done to develop the tree along a central leader style and develop a strong structure. Old branches are cleared before the setting of flowers and fruit to increase yield, and the last prune is done after fruiting to get rid of old, weak, and diseased branches.
The main pest problem suffered by olive trees involves the olive fruit fly and medfly. Olive knot is another problem which can be controlled with pruning. Fungal disease verticillium is another problem with olive tree, and the only cure is to get rid of the infested branches.
As olive is eaten with the skin intact and used in oil extraction, too many pesticides should be avoided. Indoor care of olive trees involves exposing them to well-lit ares, fertilization, and a good measure of irrigation.
With adequate olive tree care the olives will grow nice and healthy. Pick your olives, green, but only after they have reached full size.