domenica 1 agosto 2010

Olive tree pruning

The Tuscany countryside attracts many strangers that deside to live here maybe in a farm house surrounded by olive trees and vignard. So today I decide to write in english a simple guide to prune olive trees effectively.

When you prune olive trees there are two fundamental objectives:
  • keep the olive form (shape)
  • get product

Here in Tuscany the olive trees are vase-shaped with three or four main branches.
Olive tree pruning
Personally I prefer to contain the height around 4-5 meters. In this way, the most of the pruning and harvesting can be done from the ground avoiding use of stairs with safety advanteges. In the past they preferred taller plants to get firewood and to prevent livestock to damage the lower leaves.

Plants must be sized for the nutrition available.

The photo below shows an abandoned, unproductive olive grove. The vegetation is present only in the upper.

Olive tree pruning
This happens even after a frost, a fire or when the plant is infested with weeds. In this case, perhaps, it should be better to cut the plants to the base and raise basal shoot. This shoot then becomes a new plant.

Anyway, within 15-20 years a plant can be cut to the base to rejuvenate. The wood must not prevail.

We must also keep in mind that the olive tree is a basitone plant and if not pruned it grows as a bush.

  
It is preferable to prune from mid February till April or May. The plant suffers from frosts and are more vulnerable in case of large pruning cuts. The olive tree is however a rustic, sturdy plant.

With pruning the plant gets a proper balance between wood and vegetative part. If there is too old wood and few new vegetation you should operate more large cuts. The relationship between wood and vegetation also depends on the variety of plants. The Leccino plant, for instance, has dominant branches with shoots up to 60 cm while the Frantoio plant do not exceed 40 cm. This variety is also recognized because it has silvery leaves.

We must also create a good balance between vegetative and reproductive function observed in the volume and density of the foliage.

Normally vertical shoots must be removed 

Olive tree pruning
  
The number of shoots is an important factor. If they exceed, there is something wrong. A bad shoot is vertical and very close to the shaft. Absorbs the energy of the plant weakening the other branches.

A good shoot can be refined so that they bend even more. This also balance the plant because the excess of energy (which generates the shoots) ends up in good vegetation. If you can bend it, even putting it under another branch, it becomes good vegetation.

Olive tree pruning
You should also empty the plant by cutting all the shoots inside the three main branches to take more light.

Olive tree pruning

Each part of new wood will bring wood and flower gems. The flowers are formed on the twigs at the tip while the proper fruiting branch is the one that grow ahead respect to the flowers. After some years the branches are exhausted and can be cut.

Olive tree pruning
The shape of the plant is important for the subsequent pruning, harvesting, access to agricultural machinery and treatments.

Summary of the basic pruning operations.
  1. observe the plant
  2. avoid too large pruning cuts
  3. remove basal shoots
  4. emptying the inside of the plant from all shoots
  5. remove bad shoots from branches
  6. refine good shoots
  7. run cuts back
  8. cutting internal old exhaust vegetation

After learning the basic logics my advice is to observe the plant and make small trials.

P.S:
I would appreciate your contribution to correct any linguistic mistakes.
Leave me a comment for eventual clarifications on olive pruning.

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