Stark Bro's Plant Manual for Arbequina Olive

Getting Started

Acclimate

Plants grown in a greenhouse must be acclimated carefully before planting or placing them outdoors. This is especially true in hot or sunny locations. Many species should never be grown in full sun. Before purchasing a plant, learn about its sun requirements. Knowing the plants requirements can avoid any damage to the plant by incorrectly giving it the wrong conditions.

If your plant has been grown in a greenhouse, here are a few steps we recommend you follow:

  • After purchasing your plant, place it outside in a sheltered, shady spot or on your back porch.
  • Leave it there for 3-4 hours and gradually increase the time spent outside by 1-2 hours per day.
  • Bring the plants back indoors each night.
  • Water it regularly to keep the plant moist.
  • Occasionally spray the leaves with water.
  • After 2-3 days, move the plants from their shady spot into morning sun, returning them to the shade in the afternoon.
  • After 7 days, the plants should be able to handle the outdoor temperatures, if they stay around 50 degrees F.
  • After 7-10 days, your plant is ready to be planted in its permanent location. Try to do this on a cloudy day and be sure to water the plant well.
  • Observe foliage daily. If any type of leaf discoloration occurs, put the plant back into filtered light and attempt this step at a later date.
  • Special care must be taken to avoid burning the leaves.

With citrus, it will become necessary to move your container-grown citrus plants indoors to overwinter when temperatures drop below 60 degrees. Prepare your plants for this by gradually shading the plants over a 3-week period.

These are general guide recommendations. Some plants take longer than others to acclimate.

Location

The best way to succeed is to plan before you plant. Let’s discuss location: Do you know where you want to locate your new plant? Avoid many future problems by considering all aspects of the planting spot, such as:

  • Cross-pollination
  • Sun and good soil
  • Check out the surroundings
  • Space wisely
  • Leave space for future planting

Cross-Pollination

Is a pollinator variety present? Cross-pollination by a different variety, of the same type of tree, is key to the success of many fruit trees. In most cases, its absence is why trees don’t bear fruit or produce poorly.

Sun and Good Soil

Your tree would love a sunny place with well-drained, fertile soil. But it will be quite satisfied with six to eight hours of sunlight. Good drainage is required to keep your trees “happy.” If your soil has high clay content, use our Coco-Fiber Potting Medium or add one-third peat to the soil at planting time. We do not recommend planting fruit trees in heavy, pure clay soils.

Even if your yard isn’t the most ideal location, take heart. Fruit trees are very adaptable and respond well to fertilizers, so they can get along well even where the soil is nutritionally poor. Just steer clear of sites with extremely heavy soils or very poor drainage.

Surroundings

If you’d like your tree to become a landscaping asset, choose the planting place with this in mind. Imagine it as a full-grown tree and check everything out: Wires overhead? Sidewalk underneath? Does it obstruct something you want to see? Can you keep an eye on it from the house? Will other trees be in the way, allowing for their additional growth in the meantime?
Even a year or two after planting, your tree will be very difficult to transplant. So take the time to plant it in just the right place.

Space Wisely

First-time fruit tree growers often ask about recommended planting distances from patios, sewer lines, water pipes and so on. Ordinarily, patios will not be a problem because the soil beneath them will be dry and compacted. Therefore, the roots will not grow into this area as much. It’s still recommended, however, that you plant at least 8-10’ away from patios, water pipes and sewer pipes. You might not expect sewer and water lines to be affected since they are buried so deeply. But, since sewer and water lines tend to be wet, roots will grow to them and around them if the tree is planted too close. By planting your trees far enough away from these items, you can avoid this problem.

Spacing between trees:

  • Dwarf, 8-10’ (sweet cherry: 12-14')
  • Semi-dwarf, 12-15’ (sweet cherry: 15-18')
  • Standard, 18-25’
  • Miniature, 6’
  • Colonnade, 2’

Space for Future Plantings

Once you’ve found out about fruit growing goodness firsthand, you’ll want to expand your home orchard. It’s important to plan for tree spacing so that the future growth areas will be ready when you are.

One way to help you visualize your exact tree spacing is by staking out the positions of your present and future plantings. But how do you make sure the hole goes where the stake is? One method is to prepare a notched planting board. The planting board is used to show where the original position was after the hole was dug. To use it, simply put the stake in the tree notch as indicated and then put stakes on each end. Then, remove the board and dig the hole. When the hole is big enough to accommodate the roots, replace the board between the two stakes and place the tree in the tree notch. Use the planting board as a guide, keeping the tree erect. The planting board can be used over and over again.

Planting

Successfully establishing a young olive tree starts with your planting site and method. Once established, it needs little assistance to grow and bear fruit; but you’ll want to make sure you give your tree the right foundation.

Before you plant, check your soil pH. Contact your local County Extension Office for information about soil testing in your area, or purchase one of our digital meters for quick and accurate results. Olive trees need a pH level of 5.5 to 6.5. They grow well in almost any well-drained soil, but prefer deep, fertile soil with high moisture capacity.

Planting Tips

  • Olive trees need to receive at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Full sun is ideal.
  • Spacing should be about 10 feet apart.
  • Dig the planting hole about the same size as the container.
  • Untwist or cut any circling roots; otherwise, disturb the root ball as little as possible.
  • Do not add soil mix, compost or fertilizer to the hole.
  • Fill the hole with the original soil and water thoroughly.
  • No pruning necessary at planting time.

Soil Preparation

Preparing your soil before you plant will greatly improve your plant’s performance and promote healthy, vigorous growth. It is a good idea to have your soil tested to determine if it is lacking in any essential minerals and nutrients. This can be done through your County Extension Office or with one of our digital meters.

The goal of soil preparation is to replenish vital minerals and nutrients, as well as break up and loosen any compacted soil.

When To Prepare Your Soil

Soil preparation can be done at any time that the ground is not too wet or frozen. Your trees may be planted even when temperatures are quite cool. If a hard frost is expected, it is advisable to delay planting for a while until temperatures become more moderate. Generally, as long as your soil is workable, it is fine to plant.

How To Prepare Your Soil

  • Roots grow faster when they’re spread out. Dig the hole deep and wide enough so the root system has plenty of room to easily expand. Keep the topsoil in a separate pile so you can put it in the bottom of the hole, where it’ll do the most good.
  • To loosen the soil, mix dehydrated cow manure, garden compost or peat moss (up to 1/3 concentration) into your pile of topsoil. Make sure the peat moss you get is either baled sphagnum or granular peat. You can also add our Coco-Fiber Potting Medium or 2 or more inches of organic material and work in evenly with the existing soil.

Your lawn can provide you with ideal organic materials such as grass clippings and shredded leaves. Not only will the grass and leaves break down to provide soil nutrients, but they will help loosen the soil as well. You can gather these in the fall with spring planting in mind.

Common soil amendments:

  • compost
  • sand
  • manure
  • lime
  • peat moss

Adding organic materials, such as our Coco-Fiber Potting Medium and compost will improve most every soil type. Organic materials bind sandy soil particles so they retain moisture and nutrients better. They also break apart clay and silt particles, so that water can infiltrate and roots can spread.

Soil Types

  • Clay and silt soils are made of very small particles. They feel slick and sticky when wet. Clay and silt hold moisture well, but resist water infiltration, especially when they are dry. Often puddles form on clay or silt soils, and they easily become compacted.
  • Loam soil is a mix of sand, silt or clay, and organic matter. Loam soils are loose and look rich. When squeezed in your fist, moist loam will form a ball, which crumbles when poked with a finger. Loam soils normally absorb water and store moisture well. Loam soils can be sandy or clay based, and will vary in moisture absorption and retention accordingly.
  • Sandy soils contain large particles that are visible to the unaided eye, and are usually light in color. Sand feels coarse when wet or dry, and will not form a ball when squeezed in your fist. Sandy soils stay loose and allow moisture to penetrate easily, but do not retain it for long-term use.

Care & Maintenance

Fertilizing

Young olive trees may require fertilizing after planting, depending on the time of the year (see below). Established olive trees require fertilizer to stay healthy and produce every year. They need a balanced fertilizer with a 16-16-16 nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium ratio or similar.

Fertilizing Tips

  • Do not fertilize after August or before March.
  • Do not allow any type of fertilizer to touch the trunk of the tree, as the high levels of nitrogen can cause burns.
  • Feed your olive tree small amounts of fertilizer several times a month and water well after application.

Insects and Diseases

Every tree has the future potential for disease and insect damage. Factors such as location and weather will play a part in which issues your tree encounters. If available, disease-resistant trees are the best option for easy care; and for all trees, proper maintenance (such as watering, fertilizing, pruning, spraying, weeding, and fall cleanup) can help keep most insects and diseases at bay.

Olive Fruit Fly

Small dark brown with clear wings containing dark veins and small dark spot at the wing tip. Larvae are yellowish white maggots with a pointed head.

Natural Control

  • Traps
  • Remove and destroy all fruit (on tree and ground)

Other Control Options

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Nematodes

Small worms like insects causing swollen or knotted roots with above ground symptoms, yellowing, wilting, stunting and reduced yield.

Control

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Scale

Usually on bark of young twigs and branches, encrusted with small (1/16”) hard, circular, scaly raised bumps with yellow centers, may also be on fruit. Sap feeding weakens the tree.

Control

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Mites

Pinpoint size, many different colors. Found on undersides of leaves. Sap feeding causes bronzing of leaves. Severe infestations have some silken webbing.

Control

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Leaf Spot

Appears as black or brown spots on underside of leaves. Often the center falls out leaving a hole with a red halo. Leaves may turn yellow and fall. Fruit will also get spots, sunken areas and cracks.

Natural Control

  • Serenade® Garden Disease Control

Verticillium Wilt

Infected areas will have yellowing foliage, slowed growth, large seed production and death of branches. New canes will often wilt.

Control

  • Destroy infected plants.
  • Use plants resistant to the disease.

Other Control Options

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Pruning

Why prune? Pruning encourages light and air into the center of your olive plant, helping prevent pests and diseases.
When to prune? In order to maintain a manageable size and regulate production, you should prune your olive plant in early spring.

Pruning Tips

  • Olive trees will usually bear on the previous year’s growth but keep in mind that they never bear fruit in the same place twice. Therefore, you should carefully prune to avoid alternate bearing.
  • If you prefer a single trunk shape, prune suckers and only branches that are growing below the point where branching is desired.
  • If you prefer a gnarled effect of several trunks, stake out basal suckers and lower branches at the desired angle.

Spraying

Spraying is important to the survival of your trees. To handle potential diseases and pests, reference the guidelines below to know what you should spray, and when you should use it.

Before you begin, read and follow all instructions on labels.

Natural Control

  • Serenade® Garden Disease Control for leaf spot.

Note:

For Peacock Spot or Cercospora Leaf Spot, fixed copper fungicide is still the only thing proven to work.

Watering

Olive trees are among the most drought-resistant trees in the world. Use these guidelines to get your new trees off to a great start and to ensure a healthy life cycle.

General Guidelines

  • If summer brings about an inch of rainfall every 10 days or so, you won’t need to use the hose. But if it gets really dry, you can give your new tree a good, thorough soaking. The best way to do this is to let your garden hose trickle slowly. This gives the water a chance to soak in instead of running off. You can also use a soaker hose to water several trees at once. Give your tree enough water to soak the ground all around the roots.

Harvesting

Are you ready to enjoy delicious homegrown fruit? Harvest is the time to enjoy the results of your hard work. Keep a few things in consideration as you reap the fruits of your labor: the best time to pick the fruit from your tree, and how to store your harvest.

When to Harvest

  • Olives can be harvested from late August through November depending on locations and desired ripeness.
  • Olives become milder in flavor as they mature but can be picked at any point when they reach desired size, green or full ripe.
  • For fresh eating, it is best to hand pick to avoid bruising. Spread a tarp under the tree and shake the branch of the tree so the ripe olives will fall. You can beat with a broom or rake to loosen the ripe olives from taller branches.
  • Olives need to be processed immediately after picking.