It’s the very beginning of summer and with the summer solstice taking place this week, we had the chance to start work at first light—5:15 am. Our new orchard had taken a couple of hits during last summer’s heat and last winter’s hard freeze, so there were trees to pull out and others to cut back to sturdy suckers in hopes they would join the ranks of “come-backers.”
Rich took charge of pruning the canopy and deciding which trees weren’t going to make it, in addition to pulling out the extra bamboo stakes, T-posts and rebar. Lianne worked from below, pruning the unneeded suckers away from the base of the trees and clearing weeds around the trunks to give them air. Hundreds of lady bugs who had taken refuge from the heat in the leafy suckers, had to scurry further up the trees to find shade. The earwigs just ran. After six days of working from pre-dawn to noon, we were quite pleased with the results and could envision the new orchard’s potential to produce enough olives to significantly boost our oil production in the not too distant future.
With renewed confidence in these four and a half acres, we made the major decision to transition the new orchard from conventional to organic methods. From now on, all fertilizers and pest treatments will be certified organic. As for the weeds, we will keep cover cropping to control them and then mow, mow, mow.
We are also encouraged about the fruit set in the “old orchard.” Though they are about the size of capers now, the olives look plentiful. Based on past experience, we probably aren’t seeing the entire crop emerge yet. A lot of variables can affect our harvest, but along with neighboring olive producers we feel more confident there will be a better crop than in 2018. Here’s hoping the quality and flavor of the oil will remain excellent as well.