How to Grow and Harvest Olive Trees : Lawn Fly

Team McFly Sep 02, 2023
3 People Read
olive tree
Table of Contents
  1. "Green Gold in Your Garden: Tips for Successfully Growing and Harvesting Olive Trees"
    1. Choosing the Right Olive Tree Varieties

"Green Gold in Your Garden: Tips for Successfully Growing and Harvesting Olive Trees"

Growing olive trees is an excellent choice to add a touch of the Mediterranean to your backyard. Not only do they produce delicious fruit, but they also provide aesthetic appeal and environmental benefits. However, successfully growing and harvesting olive trees requires some knowledge and effort. In this article, we'll guide you through the essential steps, from choosing the right varieties to pruning and caring for your trees.

Key Takeaways

  • Plant olive trees in well-draining soil and full sun for optimal growth.

  • Choose the right olive tree varieties for your climate and intended use.

  • Carefully prune and maintain your trees to promote healthy growth and maximum fruit production.

Choosing the Right Olive Tree Varieties

Before planting olive trees, it's important to consider the varieties available and select the right one for your specific climate and purposes.

Here are some of the most popular olive tree varieties:

  •   Variety Description 

  •   Arbequina is Best suited for mild climates and produces small, flavorful olives.  

  •   Manzanillo is Ideal for warm, dry climates and produces large, plump olives.  

  •   Picholine Thrives in a Mediterranean-like climate and produces medium-sized, tangy olives.  

 When choosing a variety, consider factors such as the amount of full sun the tree will receive, soil drainage, and the temperature range in your region. Some varieties are more tolerant of waterlogged soil or hot, dry summers, while others can handle cooler winters.

No matter which variety you choose, select healthy trees from reputable nurseries to ensure the best chance of success.

Planting and Caring for Olive Trees

Olive trees thrive in a Mediterranean-like climate, with hot, dry summers and cool winters. They prefer well-drained soil with a pH level between 5.5 and 7.5. When planting olive trees, ensure they receive full sun and avoid waterlogged soil.

Watering your olive trees regularly is important, particularly during the first two years after planting. However, be careful not to over-water them as this can lead to root rot. Olive trees generally require little maintenance, but pruning is essential to promote optimal growth.

  Task When to Do 

  •   Pruning Every spring to remove any dead or damaged branches.  

  •   Fertilizing Every year in the spring before new growth begins.  

  •   Harvesting When the olives turn from green to black, usually in late fall or early winter.  

  •  To prune your olive trees, remove any dead or damaged branches and any crossing or rubbing against each other. This will help to promote proper air circulation and healthy growth.

  • Finally, watch for pests and diseases affecting olive trees, such as olive knots and fruit flies. Preventative measures include maintaining proper hygiene and using insecticides when necessary.

Pruning Olive Trees for Optimal Growth

Pruning olive trees is crucial to their growth and fruit production. Regular pruning can make your trees more manageable, leading to good quality fruit and disease.

When to Prune Olive Trees

The best time to prune your olive trees is in the late winter or early spring, just before the growing season begins. This allows your trees to heal any wounds before new growth emerges. Avoid pruning during summer, as this can stress your trees and make them more vulnerable to disease.

How to Prune Olive Trees

Start by removing dead, damaged, or diseased branches, returning them to healthy growth. Then, identify any branches growing inward or crossing over each other, as these can cause rubbing and damage the tree. Cut these branches back to their parent branch or remove them entirely.

It would help if you also thinned out your tree's canopy, removing any small or weak branches to allow more light and air to penetrate. This promotes healthy growth and better fruit production.

When pruning, always use sharp, clean tools to avoid damaging the tree or spreading disease. Make clean, angled cuts just above the next branch or bud, leaving a small amount of wood to protect the tree from disease.

Remember to remove any suckers that emerge from the base of your tree. These are non-fruiting shoots that can take away essential resources from the rest of the tree.

These pruning techniques can help your olive trees grow strong, healthy, and productive, ensuring a bountiful harvest for years.

olive tree

Common Olive Tree Diseases and How to Prevent Them

Olive trees are generally hardy and disease-resistant, but certain conditions can make them susceptible to various diseases. Here are some of the most common olive tree diseases and how to prevent them:

  1. Verticillium wilt: This fungal disease causes leaves to turn yellow and wilt. It can be prevented by planting in well-draining soil and using proper irrigation techniques. See more...

  2. Bacterial leaf spot: This bacterial infection causes spots on leaves, leading to defoliation and reduced yield. It can be prevented by avoiding overhead irrigation and ensuring proper pruning and sanitation measures.

  3. Olive knot: A bacterial infection that creates hard, blackened growths in the branches and trunk, eventually leading to dieback. It can be prevented by avoiding wounding trees during pruning and sanitation measures.

  4. Peacock spot: This fungal disease causes brown spots on leaves and fruit, reducing yield. It can be prevented by proper irrigation techniques and planting in well-draining soil.

  5. Black scale: These insects feed on the sap of olive trees, causing yellowing, wilting, and reduced yield. Prevention measures include proper pruning and sanitation techniques, as well as the use of insecticides.

    Following these prevention measures can help keep your olive trees healthy and productive. Regular monitoring and prompt treatment of any signs of disease or pests can also help ensure the long-term health of your trees.

Harvesting Olives: Picking and Processing

When it comes to harvesting olives, timing is crucial. If you wait too long, the olives will become overripe and oxidize, negatively affecting the oil's flavor. On the other hand, if you pick them too early, the oil yield will be low, and the olives will not be fully developed.

The best time to pick olives is in the "veraison stage," when the fruit changes color from green to purple or black (depending on the variety). This usually occurs in late fall, around November or December.

Two main methods for picking olives are by hand or machine. Handpicking is a more traditional method used for high-quality olive oil production. Using a machine is more efficient but can result in lower-quality oil due to mixing leaves and twigs with the fruit.

  Handpicking Machine Harvesting 

  • Select only the ripest olives

  • Handpick using rakes or by shaking the tree

  • Collect into containers - Vibrating machines are used to shake the trees

  • Nets are spread at the base of the tree to collect the olives in bulk  


Once harvested, the olives must be processed within 24 to 48 hours to prevent them from fermenting or souring. The olives are washed and cleaned before being crushed to extract the oil or preserved in brine for eating.

Pressing is the most common way to extract olive oil. The olives are crushed into a paste, spread onto mats, and pressed to extract the oil. The first press produces extra virgin olive oil, the highest-quality oil with the most health benefits.

Brine curing is a popular way to preserve olives for eating. The olives are soaked in a saltwater solution for several weeks, which removes their bitterness and adds flavor. Greek-style curing involves using lye to remove the bitterness and soaking the olives in freshwater before storing them in brine.

During the processing phase, it's important to keep the olives in a cool, dark place to avoid oxidation and preserve their flavor. It's also important to prevent fruit flies, which can lay their eggs in the olives and cause them to spoil.

jar olives

Curing Olives: Brine and Greek Style

If you've successfully harvested your olives, it's time to cure them! There are two popular methods: brine curing and Greek-style curing. Each offers a unique taste and texture that can take your olive game to the next level.

Brine Curing

In brine curing, olives are soaked in a saltwater solution until they are ready to eat. This method is popular because it is relatively straightforward and produces a tasty, salty olive.

To prepare your olives for brine curing, use a knife to cut a small slit in each olive or use a rolling pin to crack them slightly. This will help the brine penetrate the fruit and speed up the curing process. Then, prepare a brine solution by dissolving 1 cup of salt in 1 gallon of water. You can also add herbs or spices to the brine to add to the flavor.

Place the olives in the brine solution and cover them with a weight to submerge them. Let them sit for a few weeks, testing them periodically until they reach your desired level of saltiness. Once ready, you can store them in the brine solution for up to a year.

Greek Style Curing

Greek-style curing involves soaking olives in water for several days to remove the bitter compounds, then bringing them in a vinegar solution with herbs and spices. This method produces a milder flavored olive with a slightly firm texture.

To prepare your olives for Greek-style curing:

  1. Rinse them and place them in a large bowl or container of water for up to ten days, changing the water daily.

  2. Once the bitterness has been removed, remove the olives from the water and create a solution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water.

  3. Add herbs and spices such as oregano, garlic, and lemon zest to add flavor.

Place the olives in the vinegar solution and let them soak for a few weeks. Test them periodically until they reach your desired level of flavor. Once they're ready, you can store them in the solution for up to a year.

Benefits of Olive Trees Beyond the Fruit

Olive trees are prized for their delicious fruit, aesthetic appeal, and environmental benefits. In addition to being a source of food and oil, these trees offer a range of benefits that make them a valuable addition to any landscape.

  • Aesthetic appeal: Olive trees have a distinct and graceful appearance that can enhance the beauty of any outdoor space. With their silver-green leaves and gnarled trunks, they can add a touch of Mediterranean charm to gardens and patios.

  • Environmental benefits: Olive trees are hardy and adaptable, able to withstand various temperatures and conditions. They are also relatively low-maintenance, requiring minimal water and care once established. As such, they are an excellent choice for eco-conscious gardeners looking to reduce their water usage and overall environmental footprint.

  • Cultural significance: Olive trees have played an essential role in Mediterranean culture for thousands of years, symbolizing peace, wisdom, and prosperity. As such, they are often associated with nostalgia and connection to the past, making them a meaningful addition to any outdoor space.

Whether you want to grow olive trees for their fruit or appreciate their beauty and cultural significance, these trees offer a range of benefits that make them a worthwhile investment for any gardener.


Now that you know how to grow and harvest olive trees, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor! Remember to choose the right variety for your climate, plant in full sun and well-drained soil, and prune regularly for optimal growth.

When it comes time to harvest your olives, pick them carefully and consider processing them into oil or preserving them in brine. And remember the many benefits of olive trees beyond the fruit, such as their natural beauty and environmental advantages.

With a little patience and dedication, you can create a thriving olive grove in your backyard and enjoy the delicious fruits of your labor for years to come. Happy planting!


Q: How do I grow and harvest olive trees?

A: Growing and harvesting olive trees involves planting them in the right conditions and caring for them properly. This includes providing full sun, well-drained soil, and watering them regularly. Pruning and general maintenance are also important for their growth and fruit production.

Q: How do I choose the right olive tree variety?

A: Consider your climate and intended purposes when choosing an olive tree variety. Different varieties thrive in different conditions, so it's important to select one suitable for your specific area and desired use, whether for olive oil production or table olives.

Q: How do I plant and care for olive trees?

A: To plant olive trees, ensure you have well-drained soil and plant them in a location that receives full sun. Water them regularly but avoid waterlogged soil. Pruning and general maintenance, like fertilizing and protecting them from pests and diseases, are also important for their care.

Q: How do I prune olive trees?

A: Pruning olive trees is essential for optimal growth and fruit production. Start by removing any dead, damaged, or crossing branches. Prune to shape the tree and open up the canopy to allow sunlight penetration. Regular rejuvenation pruning and thinning can also help with pruning olive trees.

Q: How can I prevent common olive tree diseases?

A: Common olive tree diseases, such as olive knot and olive leaf spot, can be prevented by proper sanitation, regular inspection of the trees, and prompt treatment if any signs of disease are observed. Avoiding overwatering and providing good air circulation can also help prevent diseases.

Q: How do I harvest and process olives?

A: Harvest ripe olives by handpicking them carefully. Avoid bruising or damaging the fruit. Process the olives by pressing them for oil or preserving them in brine. Be mindful of potential issues like oxidation, souring, and fruit flies during the harvesting and processing.

Q: How do I cure olives in brine or Greek style?

A: Brine curing involves soaking olives in a saltwater solution for several weeks until they are properly cured. Greek-style curing involves using a combination of salt and water. Both methods require rinsing and changing the curing solution regularly. Detailed instructions can be found in our article.

Q: What are the benefits of olive trees beyond the fruit?

A: Olive trees offer more than just delicious olives. They provide an aesthetically pleasing addition to your landscape, have environmental benefits like preventing erosion, and hold cultural significance in many regions worldwide. They are a symbol of peace, prosperity, and longevity.

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Table of Contents
  1. "Green Gold in Your Garden: Tips for Successfully Growing and Harvesting Olive Trees"
    1. Choosing the Right Olive Tree Varieties