Management and pruning is essential to good harvest and health of the olive tree. Olive trees are known for their alternate bearing. This means that one year they may produce large fruit, and invariably the next year they will produce small fruit. Larger fruit is typically produced on the newer shoots. Wet or windy weather can affect the number and quality of new blooms that will produce for you. Different types of tools are available in the market today from extension poles for those tall trees to pneumatic pruners that minimise fatigue.
Decide if you want to make thinning cuts or heading cuts. Thinning refers to cutting out unwanted branches and heading refers to topping off the tree. Heading cuts are better for stimulating growth.
Identify parts of the tree that are shaded. These areas typically do not produce fruit. Cut out some of the older centre branches. This allows for a more open, uncluttered visual effect and helps to solve problems associated with shading.
Remove any suckers at the base of the tree and remove branches growing straight up through the tree. Thinning of these vertical branches allows more sunlight to reach the horizontal branches.
Very tall trees should be cut to a height of about 5 feet. New branches will sprout near the cuts.
Cut out any dead branches or shaded branches. Burn any diseased branches to prevent the spread of harmful fungi.
Lie on your back with your head near the trunk of the tree and look for light shining through the top. If you can't see light, more pruning is necessary.
Pruning is best performed in the early summer. Monitor your soil for dry conditions during the flowering stage to encourage proper bloom. Be sure your trimming equipment has been properly cleaned to stop the spread of any bacteria or fungi.
Don't excessively top off a tree as this encourages more upward growth. Don't trim trees that are less than four years old. This allows more leaf growth to provide energy for fuller tree development. Don't prune during the active growing periods.