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john k

Pruning an olive tree

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This olive tree has been in my garden for about 12 years, and previously was in a tub for another 5 or 6. It’s now bigger than we want and casting too much shade on the lawn.
My tree work is all forestry, and my normal range of options for a tree are either fell it or leave it alone so I could do with some advice! I’d like to establish it as a pollard that can easily be managed in future.
How hard can I prune it without killing it or putting it into terminal decline? Do I need to wait until after the winter?

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Morning. Haven't done a lot of Olive Tree Pruning. However have got the Tony Kirkham Essential Pruning Techniques book which describes how to prune pretty much everything and when to do it. He says Early Summer for best pruning time. Though he also says they are very hardy plants and can take a bit of a beating when it is not too cold. 


If you have any way of getting hold of his book its pages 235-237. Very useful book and has pretty much everything in it. 

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I can support both above replies anecdotally.  I know a trio of small veteranised olives (~150yrs old), also in Sussex. They were severely reduced - not quite pollarded -  a few years ago and get cut back to those points every 2 or 3 years.


Given the amount of crown on yours I'd happily smash it; it'll be fine!  As above just be wary of timing; you don't want hard frost on fresh cuts or regrowth so April-June would seem sensible timing for such work.

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I think olives can handle up to about -12c then give up the ghost at that point. I planted a fairly big one back in 2006 nice girth to it and she has survived since then in a garden bed. Doing really well this year after the hot summer. 

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They could be much more a feature of English gardens - in the south anyway - if the poor things weren't usually imprisoned in pots and subsequently all but ignored.

I planted out a weedy ~3' potted specimen two years ago and it's doing well in rich light soil in a south-facing bed.  I topped it this year 😁 and it's broken out nicely.

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