From ancient years we have been passed down beliefs, that when an olive tree is planned, it can take care of itself alone.
The French writer Columelle, calls the olive tree “the first of all trees and tree of excellence.” He says that the olive tree doesn’t require much care and can stand bad treatment and neglect, better than any other tree.
The Latin poet Virgil, in his Georgics (written the years 37- 29 B.C.) in honor of Maecenas, says that the olive tree doesn’t need cultivation and Pliny, a Roman natural philosopher agrees with him.
The olive tree needs a certain amount of care in regards of pruning to give us the best quality of oil, the extra virgin olive oil. There are places in Europe and Africa, where many olive trees have never received any kind of care. Even without any care, the olive tree still keeps giving us the priceless olives and olive oil. Sometimes when it hasn’t been cared for a long time and its production isn’t the best, if the ground around the tree is dug, the yield revives, as before.
According to Reynaud, a French author, in the south part of France, the production of the olive tree is abundant, even with minimal cultivation.
Modern writers say that the olive tree should be pruned and fertilized.
I remember in Greece, the olive growers in my hometown in Sparta, saying that the olive tree doesn’t need the ground to be ploughed, but a good pruning is essential. Because there is rocky and steep land in Greece and Africa, it is impossible for tractors to get access, so a couple hoeings a year, are good for the fast development of the olive tree. Heavier soils need to be stirred often, lighter soils don’t.
Fertilization has many advantages in the development of the olive tree.
An olive tree that hasn’t been pruned, gives a heavy production of olive oil one year and a small production the next year. It is like it needs its rest for its hard work. Trees that are pruned, give us regular yearly crops and great quality of olive oil.
Du Breuil, another writer, tells us that the good crop of an olive tree that has not been pruned is biennial.
The pruning of the olive tree should be done to prevent the tree from reaching heights, where picking the olives is difficult, to allow ventilation and light in all its parts and to make sure that an average crop is developed every year. Usually new planned olive trees are left without pruning the first 2 to 3 years. Pruning starts after the third year.
All these writers are talking about ancient years. In later years new methods were developed and later in the 1900s, the branches which do not bear fruit and prevent circulation of the light and air into the center of the tree, are cut off. Another reason is that when the top parts grow too high, the result is the lower parts do not produce and the picking of the olives on the top part is very difficult.
The suckers that grow in the base of the tree , should be removed and remember that the horizontal branches are very productive. Pruning is a method that allows the trunk to grow strong and the crops come quicker and abundant.