Are you looking at growing your own olive tree for its gorgeous silvery foliage and garden shade or wanting to delve into olive farming to harvest fruit for delicious table olives and even Extra Virgin Olive Oil? You would be, effectively, planting for posterity too, because olive trees are known to live for as much as 600 years. Whatever your reason for planting olive trees, SA Olive has a few pointers to help you get started.
Although olive trees are naturally found around the Mediterranean area where the winters are mild and summers long, dry and warm, they can be grown anywhere with a frost-free climate, well-drained soil and irrigation. This is why the primary olive producing area in South Africa is in the Western Cape, which boasts the most favourable conditions for olive growing. However, it is important to note that while olive trees will grow pretty much anywhere in other parts of the country that enjoy winter rainfall and a dry summer, actual olive production is only viable in very specific conditions.
Your choice of cultivar will largely depend on the region you are farming/planting in, as well as what you hope to achieve from your crop, as different cultivars produce different flavours in the fruit and the oil. The Mission varietal is the most popularly planted in South Africa and this is due to it being widely adaptable, well-suited to home gardeners and especially suited to black olive production as well as olive oil. Other recommended cultivars for both table olives and/or olive oil are:
Kalamata: black table olive
Manzanilla: green table olive
Barouni: green queen table olive
Frantoio: high-quality olive oil and cross-pollinator
While a fully grown olive tree can reach more than 6 meters in height, young olive trees will happily thrive in a pot. You can also grow olive trees indoors, provided that they are placed in a position that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. To cater for a potted indoor olive tree, top up the pot with fresh soil every couple of years and water the tree lightly but regularly. If you grow an olive tree as a houseplant, be sure to choose a dwarf variety as they will only grow to around 1.8 meters. Some gardeners even prefer to grow olive trees as bonsai.