The olive tree is an elegant, slow-growing, long-lived plant which is ideal for a sunny, sheltered spot. The olive tree retains its silver-grey leaves all year and, in the summer, it produces tiny, fragrant, creamy-white flowers. The olive fruits ripen in the autumn.
Olive trees are one of the oldest and most revered plants in the world. Grown in ancient times, there are some trees in the Mediterranean Basin that may be more than 3000 years old. Olive trees give us their fruit, from which we derive oil, and a close grained wood prized by woodworkers. A mature olive tree can produce enough fruit to make 3-4 kgs of oil a year. The olive fruit is too bitter to eat straight from the tree, but treated with lye and brine becomes the olives you buy in the store.
When planning to plant olive trees, be aware that temperatures below -10C can damage even mature trees. If your locale will be warmer than that even in winter you will be able to successfully grow these historic trees. Olives prefer poor, sandy soil, and like an alkaline soil. There are hundreds of varieties of Olive trees, but keep in mind when choosing which ones you want that Olives are rarely self fertile, and you will need a pollenizer. Pendolino is the most popular, but Leccino and Maurino can also be used. Most growers plant between 120 to 220 trees an acre, but if you are using intensive methods you will be able to plant more.
In the nursery, look for sturdy, single-trunked specimens that appear free of disease and deformation. Once you have your young olives, use drip irrigation to water them for greatest efficiency in both labor and reduced water wastage. Prune as needed remembering that fruit is borne on second year wood, and fertilize in the spring for greatest production. Fertilizing more than once a year is not necessary. Once you have your olive orchard established, the trees should begin bearing in three to four years.