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Arbequina Olive Tree Care
Arbequinas are very adaptable and can be grown in all areas of the United States. The trees may be planted outdoors in growing zones 8 – 11. The plant should be container grown in all other zones. We recommend bringing them outdoors, during the summer months, in order to get the most fruit production. Planted outdoors, the trees reach about 25’–30’ in maturity. They thrive in hot summers but will tolerate coastal regions too. Winter temperatures shouldn’t drop below 22°–25°F (green fruit will be damaged at 32°F), but average winter temperatures above 50°F will inhibit fruiting. These drought resistant trees grow in alkaline soils with little fertilization. Plan your planting location to provide good drainage. Too much water is the olive tree’s worst enemy. If your soils are too heavy and/or tend to hold excessive water during extended rainy periods, you will have to improve the drainage. Although olive trees are drought resistant, they will need irrigation when young in order to establish themselves. Olive trees that are irrigated when young will often fruit earlier. A rough estimate of water needs for a new tree for the first year is 2.5 gallons once a week. Water the ground surrounding the tree, applying 1 inch of water from a garden hose. Do not over water to the point that the soil becomes soggy.
Weed management for young olive trees is critical. Do not allow weeds to grow within three feet of the tree. Mulch with loose straw mulch and make sure it is kept 4”-6” away from the trunk. If you live in a wet climate the mulch will retain too much moisture and other weed control strategies should be used.
Pests: Check young olive trees for scale insects. These insects appear as hard, immobile lumps 1/8 to 1/4 inches in diameter, on the trunk and branches. Spray areas showing signs of scale using a ready-mixed horticultural oil insecticide.
Fertility: Olive trees require little fertilization. A pH of 6-7 is ideal, though olives tolerate 5.5 to 8.5 pH. Fertilize the "Arbequina" olive tree with a high nitrogen fertilizer in the spring when new, active growth appears.
Pruning & Harvesting: Prune very minimally the first four years, limiting pruning to tasks like removing suckers and water sprouts. Harvesting is facilitated by limiting the height of the tree to 12’, but do not top the trees. Olives can withstand heavy pruning for ornamental use. Olives can stain concrete pavement.
How to Grow an Olive Tree in a Container
Arbequinas are easy to prune to a manageable size when grown in containers. Olive trees are semi-deciduous, meaning they only drop their leaves in extreme cold. If you bring them indoors, they keep all their leaves throughout the winter time. Choose a large pot, something in the range of 24 inches wide and at least the same depth, and fast draining potting soil.
Sun: Choose a spot in your home that gets at least six hours of direct sun a day, such as a southern exposure window. Avoid letting the leaves touch window glass, which can intensify the sunlight and burn them.
Watering: Allow tree to dry out a bit in between watering. When the soil is dry in the first two inches, it’s time to water. We recommend using a moisture meter to avoid over watering. Leave about an inch between the soil and the rim of the container so you’ll have room to water. Use a saucer underneath the container to catch drips; sit the container on some bricks or blocks so the water can drain easily out of the holes.
Fertilizer: Feed with a high nitrogen fertilizer, something like a 17-6-10 timed release would be perfect.
Pruning: Thin out young plants to 3-4 main branches. Prune the growing tips of your tree after it blooms if it threatens to outgrow its space as a houseplant, and to keep it bushy. If needed, prune out some branches to keep the tree open in the center so the foliage gets plenty of light and air.
Winter Care: If you live in zone 7 or lower, bring your tree inside for the winter. Leave it in a cool room, away from a heater or furnace, near a south or west facing window. Your tree probably won’t set fruit indoors. It needs a drop in daytime and nighttime temperatures, as well as about two months of temperatures below 50 degrees F to stimulate flowering. If you keep your tree as a houseplant, wait until all danger of frost has passed before moving it outside in spring. Help it acclimate by keeping it in a sheltered spot for the first few days and gradually expose it to more sunshine and wind. Keep checking to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out. After 7 to 10 days, put your olive tree in full sun. It can vacation outside until frost. Before you bring it back in, reverse the acclimation process. Move it back into a partially shaded spot for a week to 10 days to help it adjust to the lower light levels in your home.
Pests: Inspect the leaves each time you water for the presence of green-bodied aphids, yellow to brown speckling caused from feeding thrips and spider mites, white fuzzy mealybugs or brown, red or white scale. Spray infestations with insecticidal soap or neem oil to eradicate these pests. If your tree is indoors, be sure to choose an insecticidal soap approved for indoor use.
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