Monty Don reveals he came into gardening 'through soil'
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An olive tree can actually live quite happily with very little pruning. A trim when needed, especially for the Lollipop or Pom Pom variety of olive tree, will do them wonders and keep them looking pristine. Olive trees are generally slow growers, so they don’t need much pruning in their early years. By allowing foliage to form on the tree at this stage, it will help save energy and produce a stronger, healthier variety of olive.
When to prune olive trees
The best time to prune olive trees is in late spring or early summer when the weather is more mild.
However, you need to make sure pruning is done before any flowering occurs on your tree.
As the olive tree is an evergreen plant, new growth will be produced from the majority of the pruning cuts.
These fresh shoots will be vulnerable to damage from cold water, so watch out for them.
Water-borne diseases are also less likely to infiltrate the tree if cuts are made when the cold months have passed.
For the first few years of owning your tree, pruning is only needed to direct the olives’ growth and develop the initial framework.
If your tree is growing in a container, however, the growth will be quicker and you’ll need to prune the tree much quicker than you may think.
Olive trees flower and fruit on one-year-old wood, and fruit won’t be produced on branches that are shaded.
How to prune your olive tree
Using a lopper, begin at the base of the olive tree and remove any suckers or water shoots.
Getting rid of these is important as they will divert strength from the main tree, and you should pull them away by cutting as close to the base of the tree as possible.
Next, turn your attention to the crown which can become quite dense and block light from reaching the centre of the tree.
Stand at the trunk of the tree and look up through the canopy, at which point you should be able to see sunlight coming through between the tree’s limbs.
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If you don’t see sunshine, remove some of the branches using a pruning saw or loppers.
Start with dead or diseased wood and any other that detracts from the original shape of the olive tree.
Controlling the height of the tree by removing the tallest branches is also necessary for olive trees grown in pots.
Make sure you keep checking the olive tree throughout the summer and continue removing any suckers.
Repeating the process of pruning will unlikely be necessary in the Autumn, but any further dead or diseased wood can be taken down after harvesting the olives.
To bring back to life an old or unproductive tree, more drastic open centre or vase pruning techniques can be adopted.
This means removing the central branches, allowing more sunlight to infiltrate and penetrate the area, increasing the fruit produced by the olive tree.
While this may require some serious pruning, olive trees are fairly robust and new growth will always emerge from just above where the pruning was done.
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