Olive trees are an excellent plant to have as an ornamental tree, this is because they do not usually grow very much, reaching a maximum height of about 15 meters. In addition, if you are a lover of olives you will have your own harvest at home, so it is also an excellent addition to a home garden.
It is not a very complicated plant to care if you know how to do it, and among its care, one of the most important is pruning; For this reason, in this article I am going to show you how to prune an olive tree.
In general, there are many reasons why an olive tree should be pruned, one of them is to help this plant maintain its health, eliminating diseased, broken branches or dead parts of the tree.
When to prune an olive tree
The olive tree must generally be pruned once a year, this is done just after the olives have been harvested. In most cases, this pruning occurs just at the end of winter, although it can vary depending on the olive tree and the time the olives are harvested. The idea of winter pruning is that the tree is in the best condition for spring, when it begins its cycle again.
There is an exception, which is during those years where the olive tree throws a huge harvest, in this type of situation, it is necessary to carry out a pruning in the middle of the year, more specifically during the summer, when the tree is at its peak of outbreak. In these situations, a rejuvenation pruning is usually carried out on the tree, and they are not very constant.
Tools to prune an olive tree
The olive tree, especially when planted in a garden, can exceed 12 meters, in addition to being a tree with relatively thick branches. Due to its proportions, there are several tools that are required to be able to carry out pruning. The tools to prune an olive tree are:
- Pruning shears, including also those special for pruning at height
- Protective goggles
- Safety helmet
- If you have olive trees, it is recommended that you have the tools that I mentioned below; this does not mean that you will need them all at all times. In general, the use that you will give to the tools will depend on the type of pruning you do, the intensity and also the age of the olive tree.
You should also consider always keeping a pruning disinfectant on hand, since it is advisable to disinfect the tools every time you are going to use them, in this way you make sure to avoid possible infections when pruning the olive tree.
Olive tree pruning techniques
Broadly speaking, it can be said that there are two olive tree pruning techniques, one of them is manual, which is the most common and the one that is usually carried out constantly. This particular technique is done using tools like saws and pruning shears; It is very labor intensive and is recommended only when there are few trees or sufficient labor, at least in the case of olive producing companies.
The second technique would be mechanized or industrial; It is a more aggressive technique that uses chainsaws to carry out the pruning of the olive tree. This particular technique is the one used during summer pruning, during those cases in which the olive tree produces huge harvests; The reason for this is because it gives better results during rejuvenation pruning.
One fact that must be taken into account is that mechanized pruning is also often used when working with large quantities of olive trees, since this pruning, in addition to being more aggressive, is also faster to complete; especially when you are working with very thick branches.
How to prune an ornamental olive tree?
If you have an ornamental olive tree in your garden or in your summer house, pruning it is not a complicated task; in fact, it is much easier to prune an ornamental olive tree than to prune a production one, since we must be “less careful” than with production ones.
Be careful, I do not mean that we can simply neglect pruning and make disasters, simply that we do not have to take care of the aspects that are taken into account so that the harvests are optimal; after all, we are pruning a decorative tree and not one for harvesting olives. Sure, you may still be able to harvest a few olives at home, but it won’t be the same.
To know how to prune a garden olive tree, you first need to know that to do it there are three stages to consider and which coincide with the life stages of the olive tree.
The first one is when she is young, this would be the training stage; during its adult stage, it goes to a production stage or pruning; Finally, when the olive tree is old, it enters the rejuvenation pruning stage.
How to prune a young olive tree – olive tree formation pruning
The pruning of the young olive tree is carried out as soon as the tree is planted, this pruning basically consists of giving the tree the basic directions for its growth, so that it grows as we need it; defining its architecture from the moment of planting.
After that first pruning, it is advisable to let the tree grow on its own, without pruning it for the first and second year or so. This is done so that the growth of the tree does not stagnate, since, when pruning it, the immaturity of the tree is prolonged longer than necessary.
If you do any pruning, it has to be as light as possible and should only be to correct any alteration problems that may be in the direction the tree grows.
In general, the date of the pruning restart is marked by the first olive harvest, so it is customary to prune the olive tree again after this.
In doing so, you should take advantage of the growth to start shaping the tree, it is best that, during the pruning of the olive tree, you give it a cup shape with 3 or 4 large branches that always go hand in hand.
How to prune an adult olive tree – Production pruning
At this stage, regular annual prunings are usually carried out, they are called production pruning since in general their objective is to maintain the production of olives in an optimal state. However, in the case of pruning ornamental olive trees, the effort that must be made is less.
The pruning that must be done is more similar to maintenance pruning, to maintain the health of the tree. It is advisable to eliminate broken, diseased or dead branches, as well as to remove shoots that prevent the correct entry of light to the entire tree and that obstruct the ventilation of the internal areas.
Another important procedure is to eliminate the suckers, which are a kind of shoot that grows perpendicular to the branches and that usually takes energy away from other parts of the tree, so they are quite annoying and can cause damage to other branches of the tree, in addition to make them lose their shape.
How to Prune an Old Olive Tree – Rejuvenation Pruning
The rejuvenation pruning of an old olive tree is the most drastic pruning you can perform on this tree, it is usually carried out between 20 and 40 years of the productive life of the tree, and its objective is mainly to rejuvenate the harvest of olives so that it continues to produce abundantly and with good quality.
There can be two types of rejuvenation pruning, the first of which is drastic pruning, in which you practically eliminate all the foliage of the tree so that it grows again, and the second type, which is progressive pruning, in which you prune from the top of the crown in succession until you finish pruning all the mother branches and they begin to rejuvenate little by little.
While the first method is simple and is usually carried out on weak trees, the second involves more work and a process that takes about 9 to 12 years is carried out.
- Drastic pruning: The tree is cut completely at a distance of 1 meter, removing all the branches and all the foliage of the tree. This pruning is done in winter, a few months before the beginning of spring. When the branches again begin to form abundantly, it is time when 4 new branches are chosen, which will be the main branches. You should be forming your olive tree around these 4 mother branches as it grows; doing their respective annual maintenance pruning.
- Progressive pruning: This pruning consists of going from the top of the crown to the base of the branches, pruning every 3 years one of the four main branches on which the formation of the tree was centered. It is important to prune diseased branches, suckers, and carry out daily care throughout this time, as well as make sure that the entire tree maintains good ventilation and lighting, the lack of which is usually one of the main causes of the decrease in production.
- Potted olive tree pruning
- If you have an olive tree in a pot you can also prune it, but this depends a lot on the reason why you have your olive tree in a pot. If you’re simply waiting for it to grow a bit before planting it in your garden or are transplanting, it really doesn’t need to be pruned any more than the initial training pruning.
However, if you are raising it with the goal of creating a bonsai olive tree, you will probably need to work on it more with pruning. The important thing is to know when to prune your bonsai olive tree, since it has to grow a little before you start pruning it. Remember also that in this case you will need relatively thick copper wires to prevent their growth and to give the branches the shape you want.
It is a more complicated job in which you will have to do periodic maintenance and training pruning. I recommend that you inform yourself well, since