Prune me hard, fertilize me well, if not, leave me for another...?
Well there is a lot to be said about pruning. And there are a whole lot of opinions on doing it right. I posted a picture of our tree and my greek Olive farmer friend said: "No you should only remove 10% of the tree.." I don't think there is a right or wrong way. All the factors like age, cultivar, crop load, soil fertility, availability of water make a difference on how to prune. As a general rule: the greater the intensity of cutting, the stronger the vegetative response of the plant will be.
So, conclusion: Proper pruning makes all the difference and it is actually what makes farming so unpredictable and fun! We however do not take the risk to DIY and hire some pruning professionals. This is actually the only work we outsource. But that doesn't mean sitting down and relaxing. Actually removing all the branches from the ground is a whole lot of work.
Pruning is necessary to renew fruiting surface, getting better yields, keep growth of the fruiting shoots, maintain the skeleton structure, tree size, improve sunlight penetration, air circulation, removing dead wood, control pests, diseases and many more reasons. With pruning you can rejuvenate old & abandoned trees as well. Plus the way you prune makes the type of harvest you have possible.
Time of Pruning?
Most farmers around here prune straight after harvest since it is easier to do everything in one go. For removing new shoots at the trunk this is the case because it makes getting the olive nets around the trunk a lot easier. But at Passeite we prune after frost and before bud break. We don't know if it is the right thing, but we see the yield and amount of olives increasing, so we guess we are on the right track.
What we do with the branches?
We keep some of the leaves and dry them to use for olive leaf tea. The big branches we keep for decoration and wood for our smoker. The other parts we cannot use we set on fire. If anybody has ideas on reusing more, then you are most welcome to share!