Edible olives can be grown as an ornamental tree or in a grove to harvest fruit for oil or eating. Olive trees are also tolerant of being grown in a large container in a warm courtyard (although don’t expect much fruit from potted trees). Once established, olives are very long-lived plants.
Olives are wind pollinated and many varieties fruit better with cross-pollination from a nearby compatible variety. Check pollination needs when purchasing plants. Also seek the variety that best suits your needs with advice from your local hardware or garden centre, as some varieties are best for oil production while others are best for eating.
Autumn to early winter when the fruit is plump and either dark green or purple-black is the time to harvest olives. Ripe olives are bitter and must be processed in brine before they can be preserved for eating.
Aspect Sunshine is vital so select a warm, protected, north-facing spot.
Soil Any well-drained, slightly alkaline soil (pH 7-8) can grow an olive. Space productive plants at least 6m apart. Improve soil by applying Seasol Super Compost throughout the year.
Climate These are Mediterranean plants that do best in warm, frost-free locations but will grow from cool regions to the subtropics. Most olives require around 200 hours of chilling before flowering and fruiting occurs.