Rising olives in your personal meals forest

Everyone knows the olive, a staple for cocktails and great in salads. But have you ever thought about growing olives yourself? Perhaps more importantly, is an olive a fruit or a vegetable?

Most people seem to think of them as vegetables. But those black olives on branches are definitely a fruit. They develop in different colors: purple, green, dark brown, black and even pink! Both dwarf olive trees and normal ones originate from western Asia and spread along the Mediterranean coast.

These beautiful trees are evergreen and are considered to be one of the longest-lived fruit trees. The average lifespan of these trees is generally between 300 and 600 years. However, some trees can live up to 4000 years. One of the oldest olive trees is on the island of Crete. It is believed to be over 4000 years old. The amazing thing is that the tree is still producing fruit!

The fruit is loaded with minerals. They're also rich in vitamins A, B, E, and K. Almost 20% of the fruit is oil, and that shows in its use. While these fruits are used in a variety of ways in the culinary world, olive oil is one of the greatest uses. Around 3.3 million tons of olive oil are produced annually.

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Brief instructions for care

Growing olivesGrowing olives takes a while but is worth the effort. Source: Frontriver

Common Name (s) olive
Scientific name Olea europaea
Days to harvest At least 3 years after planting
light Full sun
Water: Initially even watering, once established drought tolerant
ground Loamy soil or sandy, well-drained soil
fertilizer Balanced slow release fertilizer, 10-10-10 recommended
Pests Scale insects, weevils, olive flea seeds, olive fruit fly
Diseases Phytophthora root & crown rot, anthracnose, olive knot

Everything about olives

Olive trees in TuscanyThis view of Tuscany shows olives in their preferred Mediterranean climate. Source: ianloic

The botanical name of the olive is Olea europaea. Generally the fruit is named olive, and the tree is referred to simply as the olive tree. The tree generally reaches a height of 8 to 15 meters (26 to 49 feet) with a round and well-branched crown.

The leaves are long and oval. They have a leathery texture and are dark green on one side and gray-green on the other. The tree also produces flowers that eventually become fruit. The olive flowers are small and white. They usually appear a few years after planting, once the tree is established.

The tree grows quickly in the first few years of life. However, growth slows down as the tree matures. Different types of these trees are grown in all Mediterranean countries. It is also harvested in Australia, New Zealand, South America, South Africa, and the United States. Some popular types of olive trees include the following list: Arbequina, Mission, Gaeta, Kalamata, Nevadillo Blanco, and Bucida.

The fruit itself comes in a wide variety of colors and uses. While all varieties are technically black olive trees, many popular varieties are harvested early for their less ripe green fruits. For example, the manzanilla is one of the most popular green olives in the United States, and the arquebina is valued for olive oil production in its fully ripe black state. If in a green stage you don't find the taste to your liking, keep growing and wait for the fruits to ripen completely!

Planting olive trees

Old olive treesOlder olive trees can be very beautiful. Source: Paaddor

Planting olives can be a rewarding experience! But knowing when, where and how to do it is important. If you've planted in the wrong place, you may not have a tree that will last as long as usual. So plan ahead.

Usually, most of the olives are planted in the spring or autumn months. Limited summer planting is possible in mild weather. However, it is important that your tree has time to establish itself before the heat or cold sets in. For best success, spring planting is ideal.

Choose a location where olives can be grown. These trees prefer a Mediterranean climate that doesn't get too cold in winter. Also, olives are roughly 20 inches in diameter, so spacing can be vital. If your plan is to keep your tree more compact, you may be able to place the trees a little closer together.

Choose a location where underground pipes are avoided, as over time the roots can break through most types of pipes. Similarly, position your trees away from fences or walls and far enough away from buildings so that the roots cannot cause damage as they develop. Also, keep an eye on any hanging cables so your tree doesn't grow around the wires.

Those who opt for a multi-stemmed tree may be able to keep it a little shorter and still have a successful harvest. A tree with one trunk must use its entire canopy. In the wild, olives often sprout multiple stems from the ground, creating a bushier plant overall.

How to Plant Olives

Most of the trees in the local nursery come in a 1-gallon container with the sapling itself approximately 3 to 4 feet tall. You'll need to dig a hole that is the size of your container. When digging a hole, use the blades of your shovel to roughen the sides of the planting hole so it isn't completely smooth.

Do not modify your planting hole with good quality potting soil. This creates a "false pot" effect and can cause the roots to circle in the ground instead of spreading their roots. Instead, plant in your home soil, as this is where the roots have the most contact.

Once your hole is dug out, plant the sapling a little higher than quality and fill it in with more native dirt. Aim for about 1 inch of coverage of the root ball. If your area is not windy, avoid staking if possible. However, in windier areas, put stakes on either side of the tree to secure it. Pour everything in very well.

It is possible to grow olive trees in pots, but often you don't have a mature plant that large and it can be rooted easily. It may not produce as much fruit as a tree in the ground.


Olive trees in the wineryAn olive grove can be very attractive as you can see in this winery. Source: Ray in Manila

With proper care, this tree will provide abundant fruit for years. Let's go over the ideal conditions for growing olives and find out how best to make them thrive!

Sun and temperature

Grow olives in full sun, preferably in areas with mild winters and long, dry summers. Aim for at least 8 hours of sunlight a day.

Olives are exposed to frost or frost damage. Temperatures below -5 ° C can damage the trees. Temperatures below -10 ° C can kill the tree. Ideally, these should be grown in USDA growing areas 9-11, but zone 8 can grow olives with some winter protection.

Irrigation and humidity

Young seedlings have a higher need for watering than established trees. For ideal growth, water young plants well at least two to three times a week in the first summer. Keep the soil moist at the root level for best results.

Provide extra water for the second year and subsequent years in hot weather. However, you can gradually decrease the frequency of watering as the root depth improves. These species are drought-resistant when mature and can handle arid conditions favorably.


Olives grow best in non-stratified soils with a moderately fine texture. Ideal types for growing olive trees are loamy soil types – sandy loam, loam, and muddy loam. These provide good ventilation for root development and also have good water holding capacity. Better drainage of sandy soils is also an option. Avoid dense clay soils, as these can absorb too much moisture and promote rot conditions in the roots.

A wide range of soil pH is tolerated if these are grown – 5.5 to 8.5 pH is fine.


Do not fertilize your olives between August and March. In the autumn and winter months they do not need any fertilizer. A slow-releasing, balanced fertilizer in the ratio of 10-10-10 is suitable for spring and summer. Apply according to the manufacturer's instructions for the frequency of fertilization, but keep it away from direct contact with the trunk or roots as this can cause burns to the fertilizer.


If you are buying a very young seedling or growing from seed, the seedling can have multiple stems. It is best to avoid cutting away extra trunks until the sapling is at least 1 year old. After this point, if you want a tree with a trunk, choose the best looking trunk to keep the others clean and cut off.

The pruning should be done before the onset of the buds in spring. Whenever possible, ensure that all cuts have time to dry and scab before the next rain to reduce the risk of disease transmission. The fruit formation takes place on the wood of the previous year. Therefore, do not remove much of the recent growth or you may affect the harvest. Thinning to improve airflow in the canopy is fine. You shouldn't have to prune heavily as often. A good thinning every two years should be fine.

Always use sterilized loppers or scissors when pruning. Olives are prone to bacterial diseases that can be difficult to treat.


Propagation of olives can be done from seeds or cuttings. However, the best growing olives are often just beginning nursery because they are healthy and ready to be planted.

To start seeding, you'll need fresh, ripe green olives, harvested straight from a tree. Break open the meat and soak the olives in water to remove the seeds from the meat. Make a small incision to dent the pointed end of the seed coat with a sharp knife, then soak it again in room temperature water for 24 hours. You can then plant it, pointed side up, in a seed starting mix twice the seed size in depth. Please note that seeds may not produce an exact clone of their parent olive trees.

When growing an olive tree from cuttings, choose healthy branches in the first year that are about the diameter of a pencil. Remove all but a few leaves at one end and dip the cut end in root hormone before adding it to the pre-moistened seed starter mix. Caring for cuttings is fairly straightforward, and while it can take a while for such potted olive trees to develop roots, ultimately they are a perfect match for their parents.

Harvesting and storing

Olive harvestNets or tarpaulins can be spread out to catch olives that have been shaken off the tree. Source: Grigora

Olive trees can take a while to grow, but the harvest is worth it – whether you are growing for the fruit or for pressing olive oil!


Olive trees can be harvested at any time from October to December. Well-ripened fruits are black in color, but you can always choose between green, red-brown and black. To assess the condition of the products, pick a few olives and squeeze them. If the juice is cloudy, it can be harvested for processing as a topical color.

Well-ripened fruits fall from the tree with a gentle shake of the branches. Green fruits may need to be shaken vigorously or hand-picked. If you are harvesting for the fruit yourself, hand picking is best as the fruit can bruise easily.

The fresh fruit is not edible immediately after harvest, although at this stage it is well suited for pressing oil. Olives contain oleuropein, a naturally occurring chemical that makes meat extremely bitter. So let's talk more about curing and storage!


The easiest method for most people is to cure your olives in water. Dig or cut the olives to expose the pulp, then soak them in a weighed glass of water to keep them completely submerged. Add a sliced ​​lemon to the water to slow the discoloration of the fruit and put the jar in the refrigerator. Over the next few weeks, replace the water in the glass with fresh, rinsable olives once or twice a day. Remove the lemon after the first soak.

Once the olives have lost some of their bitterness, soak them in a solution of brine and vinegar for at least a week. Mix 100 g salt with 1 liter of water and heat until the salt has completely dissolved. This is a safe salt solution with 10% salinity. 150 ml of vinegar plus your liter of saline solution works wonderfully in stopping the healing. You can add fresh herbs to add extra flavor to your olives! You can eat your olives after a week, but they will be kept in the refrigerator for up to a year.

There are many other ways to preserve olives, but olive oil is one of the most popular. To do this, wash and dry your fruits and grind them – pits and everything – into a paste. You want the paste to be as fine as possible, and a food processor or blender can help you with this once you've chopped up the fruit for the first time. When oils are forming, it is time to squeeze the paste very well to extract all of the liquids from it. Once the liquids are extracted, let them sit for a few hours and then skim off your oil from the top. It'll be a year or two.


Green olivesOlives can be harvested when they are green or later when they are fully ripened. Source: Frontriver

Let's discuss some of the most common problems you're likely to encounter while growing olives. There aren't many, but the existing ones are problematic!

Growing problems

Frost damage is a real concern for your olive trees. As mentioned earlier, there are temperatures that damage or even kill trees. This is riskier for younger trees than for older ones. The older the tree, the better it will be adapted to your exact climate. Be sure to choose trees that will work in your growing zone.


Scale insects (particularly olive scales, California red scales, black scales, or parlatoria scales) can cause problems ranging from leaf death to a lack of fruit. They also produce honeydew, which can cause soot mold to form on branches or trunks. Applying a dormant oil around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentine's Day should prevent most dandruff insects from forming. Use dormant oil or neem oil for spot treatments.

Two forms of the weevil that Apple beetle and Garden weevilcan attack olives. They look like a very small beetle and can migrate from weeds or mulch into the tree at ground level, where they feed on the leaves. Using tape like a Tanglefoot trap around the trunk will drastically reduce the number.

Common in Southern California that Olive flea seeds is a sucking pest that causes yellowing and curling of leaves. It can also reduce the potential harvest by up to 30%, making it a major problem for regions in the San Diego, Orange, or Riverside counties. These "jumping plant lice" are treated by spraying them with insecticidal soap. Neem oil is also effective.

Another common pest found in the warm climates that grow in the American Southwest is the Olive fruit fly. These irritating little fruit flies attack the fruit directly. If left unchecked, they can drastically reduce the usable fruit yield, even to next to nothing. Yellow sticky traps identify the presence of the fruit fly. Apply a kaolin clay spray to the fruit as it develops to prevent flies from infecting the fruit. Spinosad can be used to poison adult flies. Some forms of fruit fly bait are also effective at catching them.


Phytophthora root and crown rot can affect many types of fruit trees. Olives are particularly prone to this type of fungal rot. Since it develops in excessively moist soil, it is best to plant in well-drained soil to avoid damage. Avoid clay soil or other moisture-resistant growing media when planting an olive tree.

Anthracnose is a common fungal leaf spot that can be easily treated with copper fungicides. Prevention is as simple as applying your dormant oil sprays in time of the year.

Olive knot is a bacterial disease that easily spreads to plant tissues during periods of excessively wet weather. It causes galls to develop on branches or even young olive tree trunks. The galls can cause girdling, preventing moisture from flowing through the wood and causing it to die. It is difficult to control and may require the assistance of a trained arborist to be treated with appropriate bactericides. Reduce the chance of olive knots on your olive tree by sterilizing between pruning cuts and avoiding freezing of branches or other open wounds on your tree.

frequently asked Questions

Olives Once cured, olives can be processed for storage in many ways. Source: Mr. Ducke

Q: How long does it take to grow an olive tree?

A: It depends on how old the tree is when you buy it, but generally you won't see any crops for 3-4 years. There are olive trees that have lived for hundreds of years if they are well cared for. However, expect a delay before taking advantage of the benefits!

Q: Can you eat an olive from the tree?

A: Technically, you can because it won't poison you. But olives on a tree are very bitter and should be properly cured after harvesting to reduce the bitterness.

Q: Do olive trees produce olives every year?

A: Yes, to the new growth of the previous year. If you exceed last year's growth in late winter or spring, you may not see strong production in the next year.

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