Learning how to prune an olive tree may seem simple. However, pruning the olive grove in the most appropriate way is something that requires good training, lots of practice and experience.
Trimming olive trees is an art with different techniques: training pruning of the olive tree, pruning maintenance and pruning of renovation.
When the olive trees are cut down intensively, a lot of branch volume is lost, so the future harvest will be negatively affected. We also favor the olive tree harvest.
The most advisable thing is to carry out periodic prunings of light and medium intensity, which allow keeping a young and productive olive grove. Performing excessively strong pruning, produces imbalances to the olive tree and reduces future harvest.
In our article about how to prune an olive tree we will consider the different existing pruning. From the guiding pruning of the olive seedlings to the pruning of renewal of the centenary olive trees.
We will take into account the differences between olive varieties, pruning tools, protective equipment, etc.
Time of pruning of the olive tree
The ideal pruning time for the olive tree is when the risk of frost is low. Preferably, before the winter rest leaves (when the average temperature exceeds 10ºC).
The leaves and branches are the shelter that the olive tree has to protect itself from the cold. When it freezes after an important pruning, the olive tree is vulnerable and damage occurs in the buds that must sprout to re-form the tree.
The olive pruning season is usually between February and April. Although, as we have said, it will depend on the risk of existing frost and the intensity with which we will prune. In this you will have a great influence of the climate of our area in the olive trees.
It is possible to start pruning before, if you only intend to do light or maintenance pruning. In this case, the olive tree retains a large part of its branches and the risk of frost damage is low. Instead, for renewal pruning, we must wait until later.
Personal protection tools and equipment
When working with chainsaws to prune olive trees, using protective equipment is essential to mitigate the consequences of an accident.
Anti-cut boots: With a price of between 50 and 300 euros these special chainsaw boots offer different levels of anti-cut protection. In addition, they are boots with steel toe. The branches and trunk of olive tree can weigh heavily and in their fall can impact with the foot. The use of boots with the steel tip helps to protect the foot from falling trunks and heavy branches. In addition, the soles of these boots have to provide a good grip to the operator.
Protective glasses: during the pruning of the olive wood chips and sawdust are generated that can impact with the eyes and are annoying. In addition to the protection involved, the use of glasses favors the productivity of the pruner.
Helmet: Although it will not protect us from much if we are careless and a large branch falls on us.
The hull is a good protection against small branches and to avoid painful bumps and croutons with the olive branches.
Earmuffs: important if you frequently work with gasoline chainsaws. If the current electric chainsaws are used, the noise is much lower and can be dispensed with.
Anti-cut gloves: Although, we must exercise caution when removing the hands from the chainsaw handle. The anti-cut gloves are a good measure of additional protection.
A lot of caution: Despite good protection, we are not exempt from accidents. It is important to handle chainsaws carefully and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
What chainsaw to use to prune?
Depending on the size of the olive trees, it will be more interesting to use a chainsaw or another for .
However, for the pruning of renewal we will need chainsaws of greater power and weight.
Sthil MS 150 TC-E: 1 Kw and 2.6 kg and 484 euros. Extremely light pruning chainsaw, ideal for thinning and maintenance of olive trees.
MS 193 T: 3.3 kg and 1.3 Kw of power and € 411. Suitable for pruning renewal.
Sthil MS 201 TC-M: 1.8 Kw, 3.7 kg and € 769. Necessary to cut large branches in centenary olive trees.
Pole chainsaws: For very tall olive trees its use may be necessary, although the ideal is to lower the branches. We have different battery possibilities, the Pellenc Selion model stands out, there are models on offer of Husqvarna, such as the 525P4S, now at a price of just € 599.
The ECHO brand also has very interesting models:
Ultralight chainsaw ECHO CS 2511 TES / 25: 1.1 Kw, 2.3 kg and available to buy for 465 €. Very interesting for maintenance and thinning pruning. They also have more powerful models at a competitive price.
In addition to chainsaws, in the trimming olive trees, the use of Japanese-cut saws is frequent to perform the pruning of olive tree maintenance. On the other hand, it is not very efficient and tools such as electric pruning shears are not usually used, more suitable in the cherry tree pruning and other fruit trees
How to prune olive trees recommended video
On the internet you can find many olive pruning videos. Each teacher has his booklet and we can find more or less suitable pruning for our purpose.
If we want to obtain profitability from the olive grove, we will need to perform a pruning aimed at improving production, control the expiration and favor the mechanized collection of olives.
In the article we will publish the pruning technique that we personally consider most appropriate. Which does not mean that with other types of pruning of the olive tree we cannot achieve good productions.
Olive tree pruning
The objectives of pruning olive tree formation is to have productive and mechanizable olive trees in the shortest possible time.
For this, it is important to respect and promote the growth of the olive tree. As we will see in the following video, it is recommended to use tutors to hold the olive tree at 1-1.2 meters above the ground. At that height we will form the olive tree. For three years, the twigs that come out below the restraint will eliminate them and on top we will not touch anything.
Once after three years of the plantation, we will have a very voluminous glass. At that time, we can begin to perform annual training pruning, light pruning to avoid slowing the growth of the olive tree.
Pruning decalogue of the modern olive grove:
Conference given by Mr. Daniel Pérez Mohedano.
Trimming olive trees at traditional olive grove
Watching the following videos, we can learn how to prune an olive tree in the traditional style of Jaén. In addition, the differences between training, maintenance and renovation pruning will be taken into account.
How to prune an old olive tree or centenary?
To learn to prune old or centenary olive trees, I recommend the videos made by Francisco Ibáñez about pruning olive trees in Jaén (SPAIN).
The production of one hectare of olive grove in Jaén is around 50% higher than the average. The climate is ideal for control of pests and diseases of the olive tree. In addition, the variety of Picual olive and the minute care taken in olive groves have a positive influence.
Francisco Ibáñez, is a professional pruner from Jaén, who clearly explains how to prune an olive tree step by step.
For the pruning of olive production, Francisco, takes into account the pruning of renovation (“hollow of life“) and of maintenance (“star hole”).
Pruning of renovation or “hollow of life”
For the renewal pruning, we must take into account that the olive tree consumes resources to maintain branches and leaves. The olive leaves are responsible for carrying out photosynthesis and represent the productive part of the tree.
As the branches become larger, the leaf / wood ratio is falling. When this happens, the olive tree allocates more resources than is convenient to maintain the wood, with the consequent loss of production.
The main branches of the olive tree grow and gain weight over time and eventually grow old. As we have seen, the accumulation of wood reduces productivity and it is advisable to cut these branches to form new ones.
A well-maintained olive branch can remain productive for more than 20 years, so the pruning of renewal can be done little by little. This avoids causing imbalances that negatively affect olive production. Since, as we have seen, when the olive trees are pruned in excess, production is lost and the harvest is encouraged.
Usually, the olive trees are cut down every 2 years, the usual thing in pruning renovation is to cut one of the main branches and wait 2-3 trimming olive trees to be formed to cut the next one. In some cases, when olive trees are very large or have not been renewed for a long time, simultaneous renewal of several main branches may be necessary.
Renewal pruning should be combined with thinning pruning to keep the rest of the olive tree in perfect condition.
In the how to prune an olive tree recommended video, you can see how important the progressive renewal of the main branches of the olive tree is and the thinning pruning for keep olive trees young and productive.
Make pruning that respects the volume of the olive tree, eliminating as much wood without damaging the productive capacity of the tree
Olive tree renovation
Pruning of the olive tree: formation of the outbreak
Selection and thinning of renewal branches
Pruning and maintenance of the olive tree
Illuminated olive leaves cannot make photosynthesis correctly and consume tree resources. Therefore, the thinning pruning is also necessary. One of the pillars or secrets of pruning the olive tree, is to favor the tree optimization of available resources.
Growing olive branches enter into competition with each other for light. Light is everything in olive production and it is counterproductive to have two branches occupying the same space.
During the pruning of the olive tree, in addition to improving the lighting, we will eliminate the branches that make harvesting difficult with olive picking machine. Pacifiers (vigorous and vertical branches) produce little olive, steal resources from the lower branches and make harvesting difficult.
In thinning pruning, vigorous and vertical branches (pacifiers) and those that are poorly positioned are removed, either shading or taking the place of another branch.
It is also used to eliminate weakened, dried olive branches or with tuberculosis and the weak stitches that we are not interested in maintaining.
Finally, thinning pruning olive trees should also serve to favor the growth of olive renewal shoots.
Rinsing pruning: removing pacifiers and crossed branches
Clarification and elimination of low branches
More videos of interest on pruning the olive tree
Pruning height reduction
Currently, in order to facilitate the collection, the most desirable is to start the formation of the olive tree at a height between chest and fly.
The current crop situation is not the same as during the last century and the trend is to lower the tree formation cross.
In the past, most of the olive was picked once fall to the ground In addition, treatments against the Repilo were not performed (in the lower part it concentrates more moisture and the branches are more susceptible to fungal infections). And it was plowed, so the tall branches favored agricultural labor.
Poda de renovación de un olivo centenario (500 años)
Hojiblanca olive tree, how to prune an olive tree and maintenance
Pruning of a young olive tree (15 years old)
Pruning of an abandoned olive tree
In this case, we see how Francisco informs us that we have two options. Renew it progressively, until it is completely recovered in 10-15 years or directly decapitate. For having such a high formation, I think that even if we lose a few years of production, a more drastic renovation is preferable.
Crushing and eliminating cut olive branches
Whether after pruning a superintensive olive grove or old and centuries-old olive groves, we will surely have a good bunch of olive branches. To prevent the plague of the Olive borer prosper, we must eliminate these branches.
The fastest and most cost effective way to eliminate the ramón is to use a branch shredder. In addition, in this way we will be enriching the soil with organic matter.
If we do not have this option, we will have to ask for permits to make fire and burn the ramón. The main problem of burning is that at any time it can be banned and we will have to stop pruning.
As we have seen, it is interesting that the felling or pruning of the olive tree increases production, facilitates collection and helps control pests.
Fundamentals of pruning olive trees: training, maintenance and renovation.