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How to Grow Olive Trees in Tennessee

The olive is a tropical fruit tree requiring frost-free springs and long hot summers to produce. Producing fruit from its previous year’s buds, the olive tree also requires a mild winter to ensure fruit production for the following year. Because of this most Tennessee olive trees are ornamental, producing little to no fruit throughout their lifespans.

Plant the olive tree in early spring after the last frost. Select a location with as least 8 hours of full sunlight each day with well-drained soil. Ensure the location is free of competing plants and rests away from concrete areas to avoid stains from fallen fruit.

Prepare the tree for planting by removing excess soil from the sapling and gently combing out the roots. Trim away any dead or dying roots using sharp, sterile scissors or pruning shears.

Dig a hole for the sapling equivalent to the root’s width and depth. Place the tree in the center of the hole so the top of the root ball is slightly above the surrounding surface. Fill the hole completely with tepid water. Allow the water to settle.

Backfill the hole with the soil, pressing firmly to secure the tree’s upright position. Make sure the roots are completely in the hole with no roots showing at the surface. Finish the hole so the top of the tree’s prepared bed is slightly above the surrounding area.

Water the olive tree deeply and thoroughly once a month. Increase the watering schedule during the hot, dry summer periods but avoid over-watering. Feed the olive tree with a nitrogen-rich slow-release fertilizer in the early spring just before the flowers begin to develop. Apply the fertilizer as instructed and reapply in late fall after the last harvest.

Prune the olive tree to develop shape and promote vigorous growth. Prune the tree in the early spring, removing any dead or dying branches, stems and foliage. Avoid pruning developing suckers and branches. Prune again in late fall after the final harvest. Remove spent flowers and stems, pruning suckers below the new branching point.

Inspect the olive tree regularly for signs of adverse health and insect infestation. Look for signs of cankers, wilt and mildew. Speak with a local horticulturist or nursery specialist for assistance identifying and treating the olive tree. Remember that the tree will retain the odor of the chemicals used for treatment.

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