Thursday, May 5, 2011

Scaling down

Okey, okey, admittedly I got a bit carried away :). Certain olive trees don't like to be bundled up too much. High Density and Super High Density are not for all varieties. With the latter, the trees are planted as close as 1m apart with rows spaced as close as 1.5m from each other. Although this sounded very appealing, I had a good re-think of the situation. Do we want more trees that might produce less fruit due to lack of sun and air, or less trees that hopefully produce more fruit? And so we decided to go for less trees - it will be more manageable after all.

The most important thing for olive trees is that there should be good airflow, they need to be opened up and the sun should be able to reach every fruit at least for part of the day. Folklore says that you prune the olive tree until it is open enough for a bird to fly though it.

The trees in olive groves are often spaced quite far apart eg 7x7m and further, but this is mainly so that tractors and other machinery can manoeuvre through the groves during picking and pruning time. We're talking here about serious farmers having thousands of trees. Ours is really a small grove and due to the geography we have to do everything manually - mow the lawn with weed-eaters and walk to where you want to be in the grove. The land is too steep for mowers and the like.

Due to the fact that our land is quite hilly, the trees are automatically staggered vertically to be at least 30cm higher from the one tree to the next. This would presumably allow enough air and sun to come through which, I would think, should work well for high and super high density. However, scaling down a bit will still result in a semi-dence grove and I decided that 13 rows of 25 trees each should do the trick. So, instead of having 100 trees each of the remaining 3 main varieties (Ascolano, Kalamata and J5), we will now only have 75 of each. And the pollinators (Sevillano, Frantoio, Picholine) will also be reduced from 33 trees to 25 per row of each.

The SA Verdale is still a bit of a loose canon, and we're thinking of planting, apart from the 13th row of 25 trees in the paddock, another set on the pavement. This will almost become a fifth main variety, but with only 50 trees and not 75. Unless the Kalamata is ultimately scratched from the list, as would currently seem likely :-(, this would free up some space for more SA Verdale or something else. Kalamata, Sevillano and Picholine are unfortunately still open for change, due to a seeming lack of availability.

Lets hold thumbs!

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