Recently I wrote that the rains during flowering had an adverse affect on pollination and consequently production. To recap, olive trees are wind pollinated, and when we have drenching rain, the pollen is either trapped in the flower or is swept to the ground. High humidity also presents a problem as most of the pollen does not disperse but rather stays in the flower.
Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard is planted on rolling hills. In March and April last year, the majority of the trees in both the lower and upper areas of the orchard were loaded with buds, followed by flowers. Then the rains started accompanied by high levels of humidity even on those days when it did not rain. After the rains in May, I walked and drove the entire orchard; I discovered the affects of microclimates and spacing on production. The higher parts of the orchard were not affected at all. Pollination succeeded despite the rains and high levels of humidity.
Not so in the lower altitudes of the orchard. Just as cold sinks to the lower areas of a property, so does humidity. Moreover, there are fewer breezes so that the humidity lingers. Consequently, our historically most productive part of the orchard, the lower area, is not producing at its usual level. The higher part of the orchard, is always breezy, humidity does not linger as the breezes force it out. There, olive production is greater.
Second, spacing is critical. Trees planted on a grid with more space between trees and rows fare better. This promotes circulation necessary to move the humidity out.
The trees in the lower part of my orchard are planted in a partially super high density grid, 5 feet between trees, 20 feet between rows. The trees at the upper part of the orchard are planted 16 feet to 20 feet between trees and 20 feet between rows.
Arbequina olive trees are the major variety planted in the lower orchard. A more diverse number of varieties, including Arbequina are planted in the higher parts of the orchard. Arbequina, along with many other varieties planted in the upper orchard are loaded with fruit.
The rains forced me to look at my ranch with a new set of eyes. My conclusion: Expand Sandy Oaks Orchard to the uppermost parts of the property and space the trees 16 feet between trees and 20 feet between rows.
~ Sandy Winokur, Owner