- What’s the long term vision & goal?
- Site selection (climate & soil conditions)
- Tree selection
You know you want an olive orchard, but do you know why and what the long term plan looks like? We recommend serious thought go toward:
- Why you want to plant olive trees?
- Commercial / Artisan / Family Orchard
- How many trees / how many acres?
- Planting density?
- What will happen to the fruit? table fruit, oil, dual purpose; grower, producer
- What kind of olive oil do you like? Try tasting a lot of different oils and find your favorite
- Who will be your clientele?
- What will be their taste profile?
- Labor force – an olive orchard is continual care and maintenance; expect to work it or be prepared to hire labor force who can
Our best recommendation is to talk to your local county extension agent, local growers and producers, or to a consultant. Talk to anyone and everyone! This is an important decision and a big commitment of time and money. You will want to know about all things olive before making a commitment. Due diligence is critical!
Site Selection & Soil Condition
Where are the ideal places to grow olives in Texas? Just because you own the land, doesn’t mean it’s the best place to plant an olive orchard. If you live in Dallas, the answer is “no”, you cannot have an olive orchard in the Dallas / Fort Worth Area. It has been tried and it has failed many times. Olive trees need a subtropical climate and do best with mild winters and long, warm, and dry summers. Freezing conditions lasting days or a hard freeze, below 15ºF (-10ºC), will kill or severely damage an olive tree. Also, it is best to avoid planting olive trees in situations where there is a high risk of frost during bloom (this period varies around the state, but generally late April to mid-May) or where freezing conditions are likely before harvest.
Non-stratified, moderately fine textured soils, including sandy loam, loam, silt loam, clay loam, and silty clay loam are excellent olive tree growing soils because they provide
- aeration for root growth
- high water holding capacity
Sandier soils do not have good nutrient or water holding capacity. You work toward fixing this with field amendments, soil conditioners and fertigation / chemigation plans.
Heavier clays often do not have adequate aeration for root growth and will not drain well. You can work to improve. More importantly, proper planting techniques are critical as are irrigation cycles.
Olive trees are shallow rooted and do not require very deep soils to produce well.
Soils having an unstratified structure of four feet are suitable for olives. Stratified soils, either cemented hardpan or varying soil textures within the described profile, impede water movement and may develop saturated layers that damage olive roots and should be ripped.
Olives tolerate soils of varying chemical quality. Trees produce well on moderately acid (pH greater than 5) or moderately basic (pH less than 8.5) soils. Basic (alkaline) or sodic soils should be avoided since their poor structure prevents water penetration and drainage, creating saturated soil conditions that kill olive roots and impede the balance of nutrient uptake.
Potential Damage Vectors
Factors to consider or be aware of, among others:
- run-off / draining issues
- deer, wild pigs, pocket gophers, cutter ants, etc.
- Deer will eat your trees. Hogs will decimate your orchard. Plan on budgeting for fencing to safeguard your investment.
This goes back to your overall vision and goals. After you have carefully considered your direction, you can plan for tree selections. We receive a lot of questions regarding which varieties to plant. Our best recommendation is to talk to your local farm advisor, to an olive tree nursery, to local or regional Texas growers, or to a consultant. Better yet, take the time to talk to all of the above. This is an important decision and you want to accumulate as much information as possible before making a commitment.
Water & Soil
Prior to planting, the soil should be tested for at least sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and pH. If there are questions about the history of the soil, if existing vegetation shows odd symptoms and poor growth, or if other soils in the area have shown toxic levels of excess minor nutrients, more tests may be indicated.
The pH tolerance of olives is quite large, ranging from about 5 to 8.5. Ideally, it would be adjusted to approximately 6.5, but such adjustments may or may not be cost effective.
Soils high in boron (Bo), sodium (Na), or chloride should be avoided. Toxic levels of boron, sodium, or other minor elements are not common. Do not rely on home soil testing kits. We like to use Texas Plant & Soil Lab. You can also contact your local county extension agent for a lab recommendation and for a nonbiased evaluation of your soil test results. In general, most soil labs will be able to advise you on which tests to run if you tell them what you want to grow and where your land is. Make sure they use OLIVES as the benchmark.
Although many olive trees are drought tolerant, it is a living thing and still needs water. Plan and budget for irrigation. Mother Nature has been abundant the last couple of years; however, Texas just came off of a drought cycle. In fact, some parts of Texas are still being affected by the drought. Supplemental irrigation during the growing season will satisfy the trees’ water requirement if Mother Nature is not providing water in abundance.
Outside of Our Experience Additional Sources
Paul M. Vossen: Organic Olive Production Manual, University of California.
G. Steven Sibbett and Louise Ferguson: Olive Production Manual, University of California.