Growing Olives On a Small Farm


I have found growing olives by adhering to basic organic farm practices, produces the best olive oil. I utilize the high density olive orchard process and have modified it to allow for hand harvesting.I am 5 years into the process and completed my second harvest with again outstanding lab results.Harvest lab test data indicate,a low free fatty Acid content expressed as oleic acid of 0.05% this low percentage qualifies as "extra virgin".

Newly planted Arbosona trees.

  • 10 foot wide row and 4 feet between trees
  • two 1/2 gallon water drip emitters per tree
  • 7 ft. bamboo stakes and milk cartons

Olive trees need the right climate, that is where we will start.Olive trees like hot summers days and mild winters.Olive trees will die if the temp goes below 15 degrees F.

I have had tree damage around 20 deg f.The trees do need winter temperatures around 50 degrees and below to prepare for spring for the buds and growing olives.

Get your Olive trees from a quality supplier and be sure to ask if the tree you are considering requires a "pollinator".

My Olive trees have done well in clay soil actually better than the trees I have in sandier soil,make sure to get a soil analysis if you plan to plant commercially.And be sure to rip the orchard area to brake up the " hard pan" and allow water to percolate thru and roots to seek there desired depth.

The trees should be supported after planting, I used bamboo poles.Again depending on your soil analysis, water the trees at first with about 2 gallons every other day.When my trees were at the top of the bamboo pole I was watering 5 gallons every other day.

Remember clay soil holds water and sandy soils let water run right past the roots.Clay is working better at this point for me.

There are diseases that do effect the trees, the worst and most common is "peacock spot" I had a small out break of this at first,This comes from to moist of conditions.

Pruning olive trees is required right away and depending on how you are growing your trees,that will depend on how you prune.Best to prune to a central leader until the tree is 4 or 5 feet tall and then make a decision on shaping.

Watch for Deer, they will eat new growth.

I have put much time and effort into practicing sustainable farming. I started when I was a boy with a small garden out behind the garage.I grew vegetables in city soil and never used fertilizer.I wish I would have known about raised garden beds back then.I cannot remember making a decision to plant an olive orchard, it evolved from the feeling of "fun" I get from being in the orchard.Speaking of fun, we recently inherited a Manchester terrier and "bubba" has become our new Farm Dog.

The orchard is located in Paso Robles, California. 50 years ago Paso Robles was a San Francisco vacation destination mainly due to its hot springs and dry air. Today 204 miles from San Francisco, Paso Robles is today known for its hot springs, wineries and orchards growing Olives like mine.

This is the reward for growing olives, bins of olives from the 2010 harvest getting ready to be processed at the olive mill.

We grow three varieties of olives, Arbequina, Koroneiki and Arbosana.All orchards have there own unique flavor based upon soil type, nutrients, and water.

I did soil and water analysis before planting the orchards.These trees have flourished here in Paso Robles.

And the blended oil is very popular at the Farmers Markets I sell at.

This is a picture of one of the high density olive orchards, this photo is of 17 month Arbequina trees,if your looking for more information on the varieties at the farm, visit the next page.

I am very aware of my farms interaction with the earth, and how we treat the soil.I have made the best use of my real estate by planting and growing olives in a high density orchard. The orchards irrigation is gravity fed, to reduce electrical consumption.

Olives require a lot of water, about 2 acre feet per year.Our well water has never had chlorine or other chemicals added. My farm land has never had a pesticide used on it. We have installed the first of two Owl Barns to naturally keep the gopher population in check.

I do not use chemicals for gopher or ground squirrel control, I use traps that will not injure other animals or children.

Also, I do an annual olive leaf analysis to monitor plant health.Our olive trees are in heavy clay soil so I amend the soil with nitrogen.The Farm is considered "transitional organic" so replacing carbon based nutrients for organic nutrients has been a challenge.But I feel good about taking the farm organic, it is a big under taking.

So, as I mentioned when growing olives they need a lot of water.Keep the weeds away from the young trees,as the orchard grows taller the 6 foot trees cut the sunlight from the orchard floor and help control weeds, so weed abatement becomes easier with the age of the trees.There is a downside to reduced sunlight,that is mold spores called Peacock Spot, one of the diseases to be aware of.

My hope is that I can meet you at a Farmers market in the bay area and give you an opportunity to treat your family to the freshest premium extra virgin oil and veggie’s available. I believe it means a lot for you to see where your food is grown and actually meet in person the farmer growing your food.It is fun for me to see people enjoying fresh food.


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