Arbequina Olive Tree Planting Guide

There's something about an olive tree . . .  the promise of your own delicious olive crop, the appeal of "extending an olive branch" during devisive times, the long history of olive trees and their association with health and peace, and just the bushy appeal of these little silver-leaved trees. Whatever sparks your interest, here's how to care for your olive tree. 

Planting Information

Choosing a Site

Choose a site in full sun. In warm regions, zones 8-10, feel free to plant outdoors.  Consider that your mature olive will grow to 12 feet tall and about 10 feet across; select a site with appropriate space.

If you're growing your olive tree indoors, choose a sunny window - your tree need 8+ hours of sun daily. These trees originated in sunny Spain and love lots of light.

Soil Prep

Outdoors, look for a site with soil that drains well. If there are still puddles several hours after a rain, scout out another spot. Loosen the soil to a depth of 12-15", turn in a bucket of compost before starting to plant and mix well.

If you're planting your olive in a large pot, use any good commercial potting soil.  It's ideal to take your olive tree outdoors for the summer. If this is part of your plan, think about weight as you select a container for your tree. 

When to Plant

Plant any time during the growing season. As with most plants, a transplanted olive tree will need regular watering outdoors for the first couple of weeks, especially if moved during summer's heat. Indoors, your tree may need a bit less moisture. Strive to keep the soil very slightly damp but not wet. Consistently wet soil encourages root rot.

How to Plant Olive Trees

Loosen the soil to 12-15” deep. Plant your tree so the soil level from the pot is even with the level in the planting hole, in other words, don't sink or raise the tree. When you remove the grower's pot, plant your tree as is, leaving the rootball intact. Do not wash the original soil off the roots before planting.

During the Growing Season

Olives need 1-2” of water a week from rain, irrigation or a combination of the two during the spring when they are actively growing, spring through fall. While olives are drought tolerant once established, they benefit from regular watering when first planted. 

At Season's End

For olives planted outdoors, adding a winter mulch the first season will help mitigate temperature swings. Straw or bark chips work well. Keep the mulch 4-6" away from the tree to avoid having moisture held by the mulch promote disease on the tree's trunk. Olive trees typically go through a winter dormancy period where some leaves are shed and growth stalls. With spring warmth and longer days, fresh foliage will develop and the trees begin to actively grow again.

Olive trees grown indoors require a winter rest period. When the leaves begin to drop in mid to late fall, reduce water and move the pot to a cooler spot. Direct sun is not needed at this point because the plant is not actively growing. Allow the plant to rest for several months. Water very lightly during the dormancy period, just enough to prevent the soil from becoming bone dry. In March, move the tree out to a warmer, brighter site and water once generously. Tiny leaves will begin to appear and as they grow provide a little more water each week. Allowing olive trees to enjoy the summer outdoors helps support normal seasonal temperture and sunlight needs. 

Insider Tips

  1. These are self-pollinating trees. They don't require a second tree to produce fruit, but having a second tree nearby tends to increase yields.
  2. Fresh, uncured olives are bitter tasting; real mouth puckerers. Curing olives in a saltware brine to mellow the flavor is easy but takes weeks or months depending on the final taste you want to achieve (and are worth it!) Search "brining olives with salt" for recipes and tips.
  3. These olives are ready to harvest in the late fall and ripen over several weeks rather than all at once. 
  4. The fruits of the Arbequina olive tree are small to medium in size and ripen from green to a deep purple-black color.
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Success Snapshot

Light: Full sun 

Soil: Average soil; enrich with compost

Depth: Plant container level with garden soil

Water: Average moisture

Uses: Delicious olives and olive oil

Tip: Home cured olives rival store-bought, anyday

GUIDE: Arbequina Olive Tree

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