Growing your own olives at home is so easy that everyone can do it. Even without a garden a sunny windowsill will allow you to grow a compact olive tree and produce your own healthy crop of home grown olives. Imagine the fun of people able to tell your guests that the olive in their Martini was grown by you rather than having been bought in a jar from a shop!
I suggest buying a small read grown olive tree at about 12″ in height, this way you won’t have to wait long for your first crop. Growing olives from seed is very possible, but with a germination time of between one and four months, it is certainly far quicker to buy one ready grown and delivered in its pot.
Prices for small olive tree are not expensive, and one can easily be purchased for under £20 GBP, sometimes as low as £12.
Olive trees can be grown outdoors in all but the harshest weather and are ideal for a sunny patio, a sheltered garden, a warm window ledge or a greenhouse, where they will produce fragrant creamy white flowers, evergreen, grey-green leaves followed by green fruits in the Autumn. Leaving the fruits on the tree results in them ripening on into being black olives.
You have the option to keep them small by pruning, or you can allow them to grow into an impressive specimen plant , either by transplanting gradually into lager and larger containers, or by transplanting into your garden.
Prune out the tips of the side branches to encourage a bushy head to your tree, and ensure the compost does not dry out. Once it feels dry more than an inch deep into the compost water well, and allow to drain. Water less in the Autumn and Winter, but still ensure the pot never completely dries out.
When pruning ensure you don’t overdo it, as olives fruit on the previous year’s growth, and over pruning can result in little or no crop during the fruiting season. Pruning: Thin out young plants to 3-4 main branches. After blooming in spring, clip the tips of the branches. Make the cut just above the point where a pair of leaves attaches to the stem. Leave each branch at no less than six inches long.
If you intend to grow your olive tree outside avoid wet, clay type soils. Olive trees like good, fertile, well drained soil, much like most other plants.
Whether grown indoors or outdoors nitrogen is the main feed requirement of olive trees, so buy a suitable fertilizer that is nitrogen based.
When you make the decision to buy an olive tree, make sure you choose a fruit bearing variety as there are non-fruit bearing varieties also. try varieties such as Arbequina or Picholine as these cope well in containers.
Olives are wind pollinated and usually self-fertile, although to maximise fruit production it is better to have two or more trees of the same variety. If they are houseplants move them outdoors some of the time during the flowering period to ensure pollination takes place. If you really want to have two different varieties then ensure they are varieties that flower at the same time.
Fruiting olives need two months of Winter temperatures below 50F and above 22F, so even if they are indoor plants remember to move them outside for this part of the year, and if outdoor plants bring them inside if temperatures are looking like they are going to drop any lower than 22F.
The only real pest that you need to keep an eye out for is Scale insect, this can effect indoor or outdoor olive trees. If you see evidence of these small immobile brown “scabs” on the underside of the leaves then remove with an insecticidal soap, easily obtained online or from your local garden centre.