Olive trees are the oldest fruit-producing trees on the planet. Greece claims to be home to olive trees over 3,000 years old in Crete that are still bearing fruit. This Mediterranean native tree is attractive in an unusual way and will make an eye-catching specimen tree in your landscape and in your landscape.
Use these tips to prepare soil when planting olive trees so you can enjoy a long-living, fruit-bearing, gnarly-trunked tree in your home landscape.
Olive trees grow best in the Mediterranean type climate. Thus, olive trees prefer to be grown in full sun, so select a planting location that provides direct sun for at least the majority of the day.
Remember the native habitat of the tree and try to provide the tree with all the comforts of home, like hot weather, full sun, and well-draining soil that remains a little on the dry side.
Soil Preparation For Olive Trees
Soil conditions are not much of a consideration when selecting a planting site. Olive trees will thrive in most soil conditions, even some clay, if the soil has good drainage. The only soil type this tree won’t tolerate is soggy soil.
Amending the soil with organic material is not needed but you may want to add some compost if the soil has a high clay content or takes too long to drain away excess rainwater. It’s best to plant the tree in native soil so it can adjust to the conditions of its new home quickly.
Do not add gravel or perforated drainage pipe under the planting hole as either of these will reduce drainage and can create a soggy soil situation for the tree.
Do not mix in any type of organic or synthetic fertilizer at planting time. Wait until the tree begins to produce new growth in the first spring after planting, then side-dress with a little compost or organic plant food.
Dig The Hole
Dig a planting hole about the same width of the container, and about 1-inch (2.5 cm) shallower. Water the tree thoroughly, remove it from its container and prune off any circling roots.
Place the root ball in the hole. Use the removed soil from the hole to backfill and mound up 1-inch (2.5 cm) of soil on top of the root ball. Grade the soil down from the trunk to the surrounding soil to allow rainwater to drain away from the tree trunk rapidly.
Add a 2-inch (5 cm) layer of organic mulch around the base of the tree to prevent weed growth. Use shredded tree bark or straw but not compost. Keep the mulch 2-inches (5 cm) away from the base of the tree trunk and create a 3-foot perimeter of mulch around the base. The young tree should not have to compete with weeds for nutrients and moisture.
When To Plant
Olive trees can be planted in the spring, summer, or fall, with spring being the best time to plant. Spring planting will allow the young tree to become adjusted to its new home and develop a strong root system during the summer.
If you miss the spring planting season, summer is good for planting but you will need to check the soil often and water the tree frequently. winter is also an acceptable planting time for olive trees and this time of year will allow the newly planted tree time to focus its energy on root growth instead of leaf, branch, and fruit growth.
Water Young Trees
Newly planted olive trees will need to be watered throughout their first summer. Apply 4-inches (10 cm) of water to each tree 2-3 times a week. Apply the water slowly so it can soak down to the tree roots.
After the first summer, do not water the tree except during times of drought.
Final Tips on How to Prepare Soil When Planting Olive Trees
• Olive trees prefer deep, well-drained, sandy loam soils
• Olive trees will not tolerate poorly drained soils, which can cause devastating root rot disease
• Improve heavy soils by combining large amounts of compost and a few buckets of gypsum into a planting area at least 6.5 ft (2m) wide. Mound the soil to approximately 1 -1.3 ft (30 – 40 cm) deep in the centre to improve the drainage.
• Olive trees tolerate both acidic and alkaline soils. Though the preferred pH is 5.5 – 8. If your soil is acid, add lime or other organic fertilizer when preparing the soil to bring it up to the preferred neutral pH
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