Last month Francisco, an olive expert came over to discuss pruning techniques for our trees that vary in age from two to five years. Pruning convention is to leave the straightest shoot with the strongest growth and prune away everything else below about 50cm – this leads to a perfect tree for harvesting. Sadly, this didn’t seem to be working for us as repeated late frosts hit the young trees hard. On trees where there was only one shoot, if that shoot was damaged by the frost, the whole tree died back and had to start again.
This year we decided not to prune and the trees survived the frosts much better. Although there was still some die-back, it seems that the unpruned trees had more chance of survival – there were lots of other shoots and branches on the tree that were still growing strong. Also maybe the additional growth around the base provided some extra protection from the frost.
So we combined our experience with Francisco’s initial advice and settled on a pruning technique that leaves two strong shoots for all younger trees, that way each tree has two lifelines and more chance of surviving late frosts. We will see if this works come next October!