Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Question on Olive tree pruning

Hello people

I’ve been pruning our ten old and young olive trees for a few days, and am not sure if I need to cut them all down to the 3m stumps that a few places recommend. Or if I can leave some bits tall and bushy for shade, and cut others down to 2 or 3 m height?

I had read somewhere that “a bird should be able to fly through it” once pruned, so I pretty much stuck to that. And a local gardener had told me to get rid of branches with lichen growing on them, and dead bits. So I did that too. But it leaves the trees looking a bit strange: tall high bits beside short cropped ones.

Is there a rule of thumb? Like, if you crop back some branches you have to crop them all?

Few photos here.


Stephanie said...

I think you should leave the olive trees alone now so that your poor terraces can get some shade until some of the other trees and shrubs grow bigger. You're not going to get enough olives off them to make oil so why not use them to shade your over-sunny terrace and look beautiful. At a later date you could try more sophisticated pruning and see if some actual olives grow, but isn't shade just as valuable to you? I suppose you should actually even out the branches so the trees look more symmentrical. Lichen doesn't matter. In fact I've heard it is a sign of good health. Every fruit tree on the west coast of Scotland has it and some thrive, others don't but not because of the lichen.
I wouldn't cut them down to 3 meters but I think I would tend to even them up and not have huge great stragglers climbing upwards on their own like some weird unwanted limb. Can't you just let things be for the moment and concentrate on more important tasks? Like keeping the brambles down, laying cardboard, whatever..

Anonymous said...

Liked your site, love the water mills' idea.

There really are no strict rules on how to prune olive trees. In Portugal they grow tall in the North, but are kept short in the South. You should first decide what do you want. Olives' producers like the birds going through, naturalists like the birds to nest in. :-) I'd cut down dead branches and the ones with lichen, as they contribute to the decay of the tree. The more you cut, the more vigorous the tree will regrow, so you'll have shade for Summer. Of course, if you're a lover of Nature, also you can leave them as they are: once you clean de ground underneath and maybe add some fertilizer, the tree will be feel much better!

Now let me turn to a different subject: have you heard about the Andanças Festival? It occurs every Summer in a small village near São Pedro do Sul, lasts for a week and gathers some 25.000 participants. The whole Festival is organised by teams of volunteers (some 1200 last year...), one of which deals with environmental issues: we basically try do decrease the festival's environmental impact. I'd think you'd like to get involved. If so, please let me know asap:

All the best,

Magnus said...

Hey thanks Manuela
Good ideas. After reading my mum's (Stephanie) I was almost regretting over zelous trimmage. A local friend also told me that regrowth will me mega even in first year. I have cleaned around them and will go for some nice food for tree at some point.

Interesting about festival. I'll write you on email


Paulo said...

Make sure you use compost or manure rather than "fertiliser" or you will kill off the soil microbes. But you already knew that right?

Magnus said...

For sure. Anyway, fertiliser way more expensive. Biogas digester "fertiliser" prob best anyway...

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