Jane’s Garden: Long-Lasting, Hardy Olive Trees | lifestyle – Low Calorie Diets Tips

Long-lived olive trees (Oleo europaea) are attractive, low-maintenance, evergreen fruiting trees that can be grown in subtropical central and northern Florida and the mild temperate southern United States in cold zones 7 or 8 through 10, depending on the variety.

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Jane Weber

Jane’s garden

Wild olives were originally domesticated and grown in the temperate Mediterranean basin, coastal regions of southern Europe, northern Africa and eastern Asia.

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Hardy to about 22 degrees Fahrenheit, olive trees are killed by winters with days of freezing temperatures. Protect them in frosty nights and mornings. Olives require about 200 hours of chilling below 45 degrees to initiate flower development, so cannot be produced in hotter zones like South Florida. These important fruit trees are resistant to most diseases and pests and produce an excellent edible oil when cold pressed.

CC Jane's Garden Olive Tree near Temple 2

An olive tree over 1,000 years old near the 6th-4th century BC Greek temple. in Agrigento, Sicily.

In spring, between April and May, self-pollinating olive flowers have both male pollen and female parts that develop drupes with a pit with one or two seeds inside. The harvest can span two months in late summer to early fall. Many cultivars flower and bear fruit during menopause. To ensure a more consistent harvest, homeowners should plant two varieties side-by-side to allow pollinators and wind to aid in cross-pollination.

Olive fruits start out green. When ripe, the fruits of different varieties turn blackish-purple, green or bronze-green. Most olives taste bitter and contain oleuropein compounds that need to be leached out or “cured” to become palatable. Removing some developing fruit in spring will cause the remaining olives to grow larger.

Too much rain or watering will result in flower drop before pollination and fewer fruits. Overwatering and wet soil conditions can lead to root rot and eventual tree death.

Pruning is done in spring when the tree is in bloom, as older branches that are not in bloom can be easily identified and removed. Pruning controls height and shape, and more importantly, allows air to circulate, reducing the potential for fungal disease.

CC Jane's Garden under the olive tree

This European olive (Oleo europaea) is documented to be over 1,000 years old. It has no irrigation, poor sandy soil on a windswept limestone ridge in the ruins of a 6th-4th century BC Greek city. BC near Agrigento in Sicily, Italy. The walled tree ring is about 18 inches high and about 15 feet in diameter. The tree is about 25 to 30 meters high.

Lower branches that get too much shade, drop leaves and don’t flower can also be trimmed cleanly provided no stub is left and the surrounding undamaged collar of branches is allowed to heal over the wound to prevent infection.

Olives prefer nutrient-poor, sandy, well-drained soil, full sun from six hours a day, and rainfall or watering every one to two weeks. Since April and May are traditionally Florida’s dry season with no frost after March, the climate is perfect for growing olives.

Fertilize olives lightly with low-nitrogen fertilizers during the growing season, but not after August. Too much nitrogen fertilizer encourages sucker growth rather than flowers and fruit.

Easily available olive trees include the following varieties.

The popular Spanish Arbequina is self-fertile, coldest to around 10 degrees in zones 7-10, and drought tolerant once established. It has attractive grey-green, silvery leaves. Creamy white spring flowers smell. Because clones are propagated from cuttings that are then grown in containers for several years before being sold, Arbequina will start producing fruit after about three years in the home garden. If kept in a large container, it will become root bound and will need pruning to stay small.

The Koroneiki and Arbosona cultivars can aid in Arbequina pollination if planted nearby. Another Spanish variety is Mission, the common black, edible or table olive. It is self-fertile and can be suitable for Florida gardens, nutrient-poor sandy soils and warm climates.

Attractive, long-lived, low-maintenance olive trees were probably planted in the 1750s by Menorcan settlers on Florida’s warm temperate coast near modern-day Daytona Beach on Dr. Turnbull’s New Syrma Plantation introduced. The San Diego Mission in Spanish California had olive trees around 1769. Small dooryard groves were planted around 1795.

Jane Weber is a professional gardener and consultant. She is semi-retired and grows thousands of native plants. Visitors are welcome in her garden in Dunnellon, Marion County. Contact them at jweber12385@gmail.com.

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