Pruning is one of the most important operations in olive growing and requires some care to ensure satisfactory production in terms of quantity and quality.
to exist several ways to prune an olive tree : each olive-growing area has developed its own pruning system which takes into account the different varieties, the characteristics of the place (humidity, wind, type of soil, etc.) and the cultivation technique chosen, but certain basic principles are common because they are related to plant physiology.
let’s see then how to prune this tree and when is the best time to do it , always keeping in mind respect for the plant and the environment. The point of view is that of organic olive growing, so it is important to preserve the health of the tree in the first place, as well as obviously stimulating the production of olives.
Another vision of olive pruning is the respectful pruning method proposed by Gian Carlo Cappello, it may be interesting to consider Gian Carlo’s observations on the subject.
The olive tree is a very important plant for our country: it has great historical and cultural value and is a symbol of peace. Its most noble derivative, extra virgin olive oil, is the basis of the Mediterranean diet and of our culinary tradition. For this reason, in Italy there are several olive-growing areas, where the production of olives and oil is one of the main economic activities. A good pruning is important both for the production of professional income and for those who have few olive trees, for self-production of oil or for ornamental purposes.
When pruning the olive tree
Breeding pruning in young olive trees
which branches to cut
When pruning the olive tree
The olive tree in production can be pruned at two different times of the year, so we are talking about” dry pruning » or in winter, because it is done between January and March , and is the main intervention. In summer, on the other hand, the « green size which essentially consists of cutting suckers and suckers.
The olive grove is harvested before winter (the olive harvest period is usually between October and December) and pruning is not recommended during the production phase. After harvesting, the cold comes immediately, so it is advisable to wait until the end of the winter months and cut in March. The olive tree is particularly affected by cutting during the frost period, so it is not recommended to intervene until the weather becomes mild again. However, it is necessary to prune before the flowering period. In northern Italy it is pruned between March and April, in warmer climates it may be earlier than January and February.
Pruning breeding in young olive trees
The olive tree is a very hardy plant and it is common to find very old specimens, but pruning is good to start at planting, fixing the shape of the foliage since the plants are young. This initial time is called reproductive pruning and refers to trees within the first 3 or 4 years after planting.
We are all used to seeing olive trees as trees, in fact the plant spontaneously tends to become bushy . Maintaining a single stem is hampered by the plant’s tendency to always produce new woody structures from the pedal, that is, from the base of the trunk. With the pruning we direct the olive tree in the form of a tree, for a simpler and more rational management. A good training pruning is important both for the olive grove and for the ornamental olive trees that are planted in the garden.
after planting if the plant still has a stem as a stem, it is necessary planted about 60-70 cm from the ground . The branches present must be thinned out, leaving the 3 or 4 that will form the main branches. . In this way, the plant begins to form the basic skeleton, while the next year it takes the desired shape.
However, in the first 2-3 years after planting the plants, cutting interventions will be limited and will generally be limited to cutting suction cups and pacifiers that is to say to the vertical branches which originate in certain so-called “dormant” buds, in the trunk or in the branches.
The most used forms of olive cultivation are:
- Vase . This is the most common form, even for garden olive groves. The 3 or 4 main branches are open outwards and in opposite directions, so that the foliage is light and airy, the general shape of the plant being a truncate, conical or cylindrical cone.
- Polyconical vase. In this case, the branches are located 0.8-1.2 m above the ground, which allows it to work well under the foliage.
- Free form and bushy. To obtain this shape, no cutting is done during the first 10 years after planting, except for the thinning of the lower branches, about 50 cm from the ground. The plant assumes its natural bushy habit, even when trained with a minimum of basal order and cleanliness. The disadvantages of this choice are related to excessive shading and crowding of the basal branches, so that the plant from 10 years old will have to be pruned more drastically with the lowering of the upper part and the thinning of the branches. bass.
- Ball . To obtain a globe olive tree, we cut the stem at a certain height, but we do not then choose 3 or 4 well-spaced branches, we rather let the existing branches grow in no particular order, at different heights. The plant then takes on a globular appearance. The aesthetic effect is appreciated, so it may be worth choosing it for garden olive trees.
- Other forms . There are also olive trees grown with a free palm, a dense pot, an elongated or widened bush depending on the orientation of the rows, or even hedges, where several plants in the same row form a compact mass of vegetation.
Once the plant is mature and productive, the grower must intervene annually with production pruning, which has several very important goals.
- keep your hair healthy, balanced and in good condition.
- Adjust the arrangement and growth of branches.
- Promote a good relationship between leaves and wood.
- Repeat successful training.
- They allow good penetration of light into the canopy and a good aeration, unfavorable to certain attacks of parasites.
- Reduce overproduction and control as far as possible the phenomenon of production alternation, that is, to alternate between a year loaded with olives and a year unloaded. It should however be noted that sometimes pruning alone is not enough to limit this marked characteristic of the tree, which is also due to climatic reasons. In fact, the olive tree has the ability to sacrifice a year’s production, in the event of adverse weather conditions such as summer heat and drought, saving to keep it alive.
which branches to cut
Dry winter pruning plays a crucial role in the management of the olive tree and to carry it out it is important to know that the plant bears fruit on the branches of the previous year which are mixed branches and toast .
The mixed branch has wood shoots at the top and as it grows, it bends down to become what is called ” gutter “. At the point of maximum curvature of the gutter, new twigs are formed, and some of them must be cut, while others will become the future gutter, which will replace the current one, which is shortened. This mechanism allows constant rejuvenation of fruiting branches and containment of lateral plant expansion.
The juices, straight and vigorous, must be eliminated both in dry pruning and in summer pruning. In the summer size it is precisely removal of suckers and hickeys the main work we should focus on.
Moreover, as a general rule, which applies to all fruit trees and therefore also to the olive tree dry or diseased branches should always be removed .
There are also exceptional cases in which an extraordinary pruning of the olive tree is necessary, such as:
- rejuvenation waist for example in the case of the recovery of abandoned olive groves that have not been pruned for a long time.
- cull size , when it is decided to change the whole conformation of the plant, but also in case of death of plants as a result of events such as fire or frost. To achieve this type of pruning, as well as the previous one, it is good to choose the winter period.
- Slupature ; Intervention to cure plants affected by decay, also called “burl”, a disease of the olive tree that causes the death of the internal wood. With the slupatura, diseased wood is removed with special tools such as axes or chisels, but also chainsaws, even healthy wood, which must then be carefully disinfected with a cupric product.
Details to be respected in the size
There are a few important “rules” to always keep in mind when pruning an olive tree.
- Oversize is never positive : they create unnecessary injuries in the plant and lead to a vegetative-productive imbalance.
- The cuts of branches and branches must not leave stumps, from which rejections could be generated and the cavities pathogen could be insidious. Nor should they be overshaven otherwise healing will be difficult.
- Cuts should be clean and angled to avoid the stagnation of raindrops.
L tool quality (scissors, saws, hooks, cutters and other easy-to-harvest tools to pick the olives from above) is a fundamental aspect and its ease of use is useful for us to work safely. In any case, always wear suitable gloves and be careful.
After pruning we can spray a propolis-based product to prevent pathogens and pests from entering the cuts.
- The remnants of the waist generally abundant in the olive grove, perhaps bio-ground and used for composting, mixed with all other organic agricultural and domestic waste. Of course, branches of interesting size are ideal for the fireplace, if we have one.