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How to prune young olive trees

Updated February 21, 2017

Pruning young olive trees encourages growth for higher olive production. The young trees should not be pruned until the tree reaches 4 years in age. The overall goal is to open up the interior of the tree so sunlight will reach all parts of the tree. This results in an even distribution of the olives during the growing season. Young olive trees left unpruned will result in the majority of the olives being near the top and not on the inside of the tree limbs. Pruning should take place during the spring and early summer.

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  1. Remove all broken and dead limbs with the hand pruning shears. Take the damaged limb back to the next healthy horizontal stem. Keep all pruned limbs 10 to 18 inches in length. Limbs shorter than this will have poor olive bloom production.

  2. Open the interior of the small olive tree so it will be trained into an open vase shape. Select three to four main stems coming from the single lower trunk. This begins the vase shape to the interior of the tree. Cut the remaining stems, those growing vertically from the trunk, with the pruning saw.

  3. Remove limbs that are encroaching to the interior of the tree vase shape the following year. Cut these limbs back to the main three or four vase limbs that were selected the year before.

  4. Continue to prune the olive tree on a yearly basis, constantly shaping the tree limbs into the open vase shape. Keep all dead and broken limbs removed from the tree during the annual pruning task.

  5. Tip

    Exercise caution so as not to top the tree for overall height, as sucker growth will form from the cuts. An olive tree topped back to 8 feet in height may develop tall suckers that exceed 15 feet in a single growing season.

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Things You'll Need

  • Hand pruning shears
  • Pruning saw

About the Author

G.K. Bayne
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