Is your olive tree looking a little worse for wear? Perhaps you’ve taken it off someone else’s hands and it’s not received enough love and attention. Or perhaps, you’ve simply been busy with work and home life and it’s slipped your mind. Whatever the case, your olive tree will hopefully not be beyond saving. With the right approach and good timing, you should be able to restore it to good health.
The question is, when is the best time to prune a neglected olive tree? Should you wait for a certain time of the year? Does the timing change whether the olive tree is in good health or not? In this article, we will explore these questions and see what we can come up with.
Pruning neglected olive trees
Pruning neglected olive trees and rejuvenating them is not as difficult as you might imagine. Let’s break it down in steps to make it easier to process and follow, including some general olive tree maintenance to help you keep it fresh and healthy in the future:
Olive tree maintenance
Step 1 – Check that the tree isn’t actually dead
Pruning neglected olive trees begins by making sure that they are still alive. Olive tree leaves can fall off simply because they’ve dried out and not because the tree is dead. The best way to tell is by checking the trunk and roots for any new growths or sign of life. They should feel pliable and firm. If they are brittle and mushy in texture, then that’s a noticeably clear indication that the neglected olive tree is dead and beyond saving.
Step 2 – Trim away the dead or diseased branches
Assuming that your olive tree is in the land of the living, the next step will be to trim away the dead or diseased branches. You can begin by clearing away the dead leaves and then pruning your way along the branch a third at a time, keeping an eye out for signing of life. New branches can grow out of freshly trimmed ones if done properly.
How to Prune an Olive Tree
But how do you prune an olive tree? What is the proper practice?
- A few well-placed cuts over many small ones
- Use proper pruning sheers
- Open-centre or vase pruning is the most common (removing centre branches to increase fruiting surface area)
- Once you’ve shaped your tree, pruning, and trimming only involves removing growths that begin to fill the centre
- You can manage height by pruning out the tallest branches (recommended for trimming olive trees in pots)
- Use thinning cuts in olive tree pruning and not heading cuts (heading cuts stimulate tall growth)
- Very tall and old olive trees may need a lot of pruning to restore
- Space out every two to three years (unless in a pot)
Step 3 – Determine what is causing the issues
What caused your olive tree to fall into neglect? Are you not feeding it enough? Have you watered it too often? Could it be a case of not receiving enough sunlight? Or perhaps it is a pest problem. Whatever the case, you’ll need to find the root of the issue and resolve it. If you find yourself stuck, a tree pruning specialist should be able to advise you accordingly.
Step 4 – Soil Moisture and Watering
It is good to establish a regular watering schedule for your newly rejuvenated olive tree, particularly if you want to keep it in good health. It is important to keep the soil nice and moist, but don’t over do it. A crucial part of olive tree maintenance is keeping it in well-draining soil. If the soil that you are using doesn’t drain particularly well, it could be that it is a clay soil type or far too loamy. In this case, you must swap it out for a more suitable alternative that your olive tree can thrive in.
Pruning olive trees in pots
Pruning olive trees in pots varies somewhat from regular olive tree pruning. In a nutshell, potted olive trees prefer light pruning once annually, as opposed to more heavy pruning every two to three years as tends to be the case with a planted olive tree.
Trimming olive trees
Trimming olive trees in pots is similar to pruning. You want to be as conservative as you can so as not to over do it. Trimming a young olive tree might help you to encourage a certain shape or growth direction, but again, you must exercise restraint.
Shaping olive trees
Shaping olive trees is easiest when starting out from a young age. Some of the most common shaping techniques used for olive trees are open-centre and vase pruning. This is done by removing the central branches allowing more sunlight through and to increase the surface fruiting area.
- Pruning young olive trees should begin rather early on in its life but be certain not to over prune as it can stunt the young olive tree’s growth. You can couple this with a central leader
- A central leader trunk can assist growth in the early stages of its development
When is the best time to prune olive trees?
The best time to prune an olive tree is between the end of winter and the flowering season. You can prune olive trees in the spring or during early summer once it has started the flowering process. The best time to prune olive trees is always when in bloom as it allows you to accurately assess the likely crop yield before trimming anything away. Olive trees are vulnerable to frost so be mindful of rushing and not waiting until spring.
Pruning fruitless olive trees
Pruning fruitless olive trees is similar to regular fruiting olive trees, only you aren’t trimming or shaping to increase the bud development or the amount of fruit that you can harvest. This means that you don’t need to shape the tree in any particular way.
You should wait for the winter months when pruning fruitless olive trees as you can easily inspect the branching patterns without foliage.
There’s a lot that goes into pruning neglected olive trees, fruitless, and young olive trees. You just have to be careful not to mix up your pruning patterns as every tree varies. That said, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, you can always seek professional assistance. There are many qualified arborists that will be able to help you prune your neglected olive trees and have them restored to their former glory!