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olive trees

john smith


Joined: Aug 14, 2010
Posts: 70
Location: western u.s.
19x44 area

1 manzanillo olive tree + 1 mission olive tree

using only rainfall from the winter
soil:  hard clay, soft soil 2 feet below ground
plan:  fill holes and basins with wood chips, for holding more rain this winter

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tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 2980
Location: woodland, washington
    
  49
where are you at?

I'm not really in olive country, but I've got a few growing.  from what I've read and heard, olives like a pretty well-drained soil.  if you punch through that clay layer and the dirt under it drains, I think you'll be alright.  if you just dig a hole in the clay, you'll likely end up with a big hole full of water and wood chips and the olives may suffer.

this does depend on where you're at.  supposing there isn't too much rain, maybe my concerns are unfounded.  I think they're at least worth considering, though.


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john smith


Joined: Aug 14, 2010
Posts: 70
Location: western u.s.
Tel, thank you for your reply and suggestions. 

I'm along the Central California coast, 13 miles from the ocean. 
Average rainful is 14 inches a year. 

What do you suggest after punching through the clay, mixing in compost or sand?
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 2980
Location: woodland, washington
    
  49
I would go with compost instead of sand.

with only 14" average rainfall, the wood chips could work well for you, so long as you make it through that clay.  in your case, that the hole may collect water will probably be an advantage if excess is able to drain through.  placing the wood deep, at the bottom of your hole could work.  so could putting it on top as a mulch.  doing both might work even better, or it might tie up too many nutrients.  either way, don't be tempted to mix the wood up with the soil.
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Lime might also help to open up the clay. I've used gypsum, and it has worked well.


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john smith


Joined: Aug 14, 2010
Posts: 70
Location: western u.s.
Tel,
Another consideration is to put rocks around the root areas of the trees, as especially the Mission Olive could get quite large.  Hopefully that would help.  I read about someone who planted one in a gravel pit and it still grew quite large. 

Perhaps I can make that whole area into a basin, with drainage at the bottom, filled with mulch, higher areas for the trees, and for a hedge at the bottom of one side.

Joel,
The soil here is rather alkaline so I'm not sure about lime.  I'd like to gather as much water as possible in the winters.  Sometimes there is quite a bit of rain in the winters, and sometimes they are sparse.  For example this year there were 9 inches of rain in January, and that was about the only rain for the year.

- - -
The garage is on the high side of that area, with 1/2 the roof sloping downward.  It looks like there will be plenty of water, as long as it can be retained in the ground.  Perhaps I could plant other things there besides the two olive trees, the hedge (opposite the garage), and white dutch clover.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 2980
Location: woodland, washington
    
  49
does rain typically leave as runoff where you're at?

depending on the topography of the land you're on, you might consider mulch pits.  similar to what you initially proposed: dig a hole, fill it with mulch, plant a tree just downhill of the pit instead of in it.  probably not as effective as more extensive earthworks, but quick and easy and capable of improving things substantially.

limiting the size of your trees: root restriction can work.  again, I don't have much experience with olives, but I've tried it with a fig.  dug a hole way too big, then lined the outside of it with concrete rubble.  the fig died before it got big enough to need root restriction, so I don't really have personal experience with that either.  it's a tried and true method, though.  however: olives' home territory is dry and rocky, so artificially creating those conditions may just make them more vigorous.  I don't have enough experience to say for sure.

your clay may provide all the root restriction you need, though.  once the roots grow outside of the area enriched by compost, they'll encounter the native clay and perhaps that will slow them down substantially.  I'm speculating at this point, so seeking other advice would probably be a good idea.
john smith


Joined: Aug 14, 2010
Posts: 70
Location: western u.s.
tel jetson wrote:
does rain typically leave as runoff where you're at?


Yes, runoff and probably quite a bit to evaporation.

depending on the topography of the land you're on, you might consider mulch pits.  similar to what you initially proposed: dig a hole, fill it with mulch, plant a tree just downhill of the pit instead of in it.  probably not as effective as more extensive earthworks, but quick and easy and capable of improving things substantially.


Maybe pits full of rocks will be helpful, and having the rocks around the trees, providing drainage to the soil, and having mulch on the top.

I'm going to plant figs in the spring, brown turkey, honey, and mission, in espalier fashion, and will also like to limit their roots.  One possibility is filling a bottom layer with rocks, and lining the sides with cinder blocks, filled with rocks.  Why do you think the fig didn't make it?  I would keep trying and plant more of them.  Home Depot has really good prices for trees.

Gophers are an issue around here, both for the figs and the olives.

olives' home territory is dry and rocky, so artificially creating those conditions may just make them more vigorous.


Yes, good points.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 2980
Location: woodland, washington
    
  49
johnlvs2run wrote:
Why do you think the fig didn't make it?


didn't have anything to do with the rubble.  cold winter after a hot summer before it was very well established.  there could have been a vole or two involved as well.
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
I hope to plant olives some day, likely under similar conditions of climate & soil.

I've read a 10 year cycle of coppicing keeps them young and productive indefinitely, with the only real drawback being that mechanical shakers can't be used to get the fruit down for harvest.

If you're only managing one crown, you might cultivate ten stems from it, cutting the oldest one each year & leaving one new waterspout from each year's crop of shoots.

By the way, olive wood is good for carving utensils. If a natural-length stem would take up too much space, the end can be pollarded, producing a nice burl for a very strong-bowled spoon.
john smith


Joined: Aug 14, 2010
Posts: 70
Location: western u.s.
Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
I've read a 10 year cycle of coppicing keeps them young and productive indefinitely, with the only real drawback being that mechanical shakers can't be used to get the fruit down for harvest.

If you're only managing one crown, you might cultivate ten stems from it, cutting the oldest one each year & leaving one new waterspout from each year's crop of shoots.


Joel,
How is that done? 
I've read that olive trees make attractive hedges.

Olives can be harvested from trees by laying a sheet down and then shaking the limbs.
Getting a rope over branches would help in shaking them from the ground.
john smith


Joined: Aug 14, 2010
Posts: 70
Location: western u.s.
Here is a nice photo of rainwater being directed down a slope through an olive tree orchard,
similar to the arrangement of Zephaniah Phiri Maseko's plentiful orchards in Zimbabwe.

Aljaz Plankl


Joined: Feb 18, 2010
Posts: 291
    
    4
What about planting some plants that would brake this clay soil with their roots? Alfalfa, comfrey, ...?
Paula Edwards


Joined: Oct 06, 2010
Posts: 411
I would like to plant olives, to have the yummy oil, but our land is swamp filled with bad soil and our climate cool temperate down to -5°C in winter nights and we get nasty winds. We have plenty of sun though.
We have a small sheep paddock, were the olives might go and must be protected from then sheep.
I might build some mounds (maybe as hugelbeet) and we have got more than enough stones.

I don't know which ph the fig likes but maybe the concrete rubble was too alkaline?
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
johnlvs2run wrote:
Joel,
How is that done? 


The article I read talked about an orchard that was divided into 10 sections. Each year, they would cut one of these to the ground, and also go through the one they had cut three years before to thin out growth from the center of the crown. A healthy set of roots will send up lots of waterspouts, and this will all be young wood, so the tree will produce as though it's in the prime of life, indefinitely.
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
johnlvs2run wrote:
The soil here is rather alkaline so I'm not sure about lime.  I'd like to gather as much water as possible in the winters.  Sometimes there is quite a bit of rain in the winters, and sometimes they are sparse.  For example this year there were 9 inches of rain in January, and that was about the only rain for the year.



Gypsum does not raise the pH like other forms of lime - the calcium is balanced by sulfate, no net change in acid/base balance. But if you are trying to keep the water, you might not want gypsum either ... it could loosen the clay or help break up a hard pan.
Paula Edwards


Joined: Oct 06, 2010
Posts: 411
You must take care with gypsum (I read it somewhere and I can't remember too much of it) but it seems that most of the gypsum has chemical  residues, if I recall it right there is arsenic in it amongst other niceties.
 
 
subject: olive trees
 
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