Olive trees are oh so easy

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - Tino Carnevale

GIVEN my name, some people are slightly shocked when I tell them I am not that keen on olives. Don’t get me wrong, I can drink pints of olive oil, but when it comes to the fruit I want to like them but, sadly, I don’t.

How­ever, the plant it­self is a dif­fer­ent story – the gnarled stems, their sil­very- green leaves and even their bit­ter yet colourful dru­pes make this one very at­trac­tive plant.

An es­tab­lished olive tree is a hardy or­gan­ism and is well suited to our cli­mate.

It will not only sur­vive but will fl our­ish through long pe­ri­ods of hot, dry weather and will even bear fruit.

They will tol­er­ate a wide range of soil types and pH lev­els but pre­fer a slightly al­ka­line soil that is fer­tile and, most im­por­tantly, drains well.

I like to ap­ply a mix of dolomite lime and gyp­sum once a year as well as a dose of blood and bone in spring and, if needed, an­other one in early au­tumn.

There are many great ways you can train your olives, but if you want a pro­duc­tive plant, then you need to give it a bit of an iden­tity cri­sis.

The nat­u­ral habit of an olive is that of a large shrub, but for many rea­sons it is far bet­ter to grow it as a tree.

Train­ing the tree to an open gob­let shape is ideal. This way the tree will be less prone to pest at­tack, as it will be eas­ier to man­age, it will pro­duce more fruit of a bet­ter qual­ity and just gen­er­ally look a lot bet­ter.

Where I grew up, Con, the old guy up the street, had two large olive trees both with thick stems and masses of bushy growth on top.

One day I walked past and he was prun­ing them with a chainsaw! He cut them down so there were only the two trunks left.

I lamented the loss of the trees to him, say­ing how beau­ti­ful they were. He laughed and as­sured me they would be OK.

Sure enough, a few weeks later there was growth and in no time they were look­ing like trees again.

If you are want­ing to learn how to prune or train plants, try an olive tree, as they are so tough but also very mal­leable as a plant and re­spond ex­tremely well to prun­ing.

Olives are grown all over the world and there are many va­ri­eties de­vel­oped in dif­fer­ent coun­tries, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia.

Some va­ri­eties are good for oil, such as the Ital­ian Fran­toio ( pic­tured, above in­set) and the French Verdale, some are good for fruit, such as the Amer­i­can Californian Queen or UC13A6 and, of course, there’s the fa­mous Greek Kala­mata.

Ko­roneiki is a good va­ri­ety in ex­tremely windy ar­eas, Lec­cino is tol­er­ant of ex­treme cold and Hardy’s Mam­moth is just ex­tremely tough all- round.

Blood and bone can help de­ter rab­bits – they can eat the soft bark on the trunk of the tree and can eas­ily ring­bark it. Scale in­sects are the main prob­lem most people en­counter. They will weaken the plant and pro­mote sooty mould, a fun­gus that coats the leaves and stops it pho­to­syn­the­sis­ing.

You can con­trol scale with biodegrad­able dish­wash­ing soap and wa­ter or white oil, but the ants are the true cul­prits, as they trans­port the scale onto the tree and farm them. To keep the ants off you can wrap a band of plas­tic around the main stem and smear it with Vase­line.

Birds will clear a tree of its fruit in no time. De­ter­rents like mir­rors can work, but netting is a more cer­tain pro­tec­tion mea­sure.

Olives are ex­tremely bit­ter straight off the tree and need fairly ex­ten­sive treat­ment be­fore they are ed­i­ble.

If you have a small num­ber of trees or just one very pro­duc­tive tree, there are businesses where you can get your har­vest pressed into oil for a fee, or al­ter­na­tively you can try one of the many cur­ing recipes and de­velop your own.


This recipe may take a while, but it does pro­duce a great end re­sult and, as they say, good things come to those who wait.

Take 1kg of olives and add 70 grams sea salt, three cloves, one- quar­ter stick of cin­na­mon, the peel of two lemons, two bay leaves and two crushed cloves of gar­lic.

Fill with wa­ter till olives are just cov­ered. Leave for about three months and stir reg­u­larly, then rinse and re­peat the process. Af­ter an­other three months they should be ready.

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