Growing olive trees in the UK

Posted: Monday 13 January 2014
by James Alexander-Sinclair

I was given a festive olive tree for Christmas. It came out of its cardboard box with flashing lights already attached.

I was given a festive olive tree for Christmas. It came out of its cardboard box with flashing lights already attached and continued to blink happily over the whole of Christmas.

However, now that the celebrations are over and the tinsel has been stuffed back in the cupboard, I'm left with an olive tree whose future happiness is my responsibility. Fortunately, it's much easier than one would expect. When one thinks of olive trees, one's mind immediately flips to sunny mediterranean hillsides, languorous drizzlings of oil upon plump tomatoes, small elderly ladies in black, hanging washing over cobbled streets, and maybe even the music from The Godfather: you know the sort of thing. Oh, and far more heat and dust than we're used to in this country.

However, in reality it gets pretty cold on those hillsides in winter: often colder than it does here. The secret to growing olives is quite simple really. It's all about drainage. In the olive groves there's poor soil, not much rain and, most importantly, very sharp drainage. The main reason why most olive trees in this country die is because they end up standing with their 'feet' in cold water. To prevent that happening to mine, I've drilled extra holes in the bucket in which the olive tree came and added a layer of gravel. The only other measure I might take if it gets much colder is to wrap the leaves in fleece to protect it from icy winds. It is, after all, quite a young tree.

All being well, it should keep me company for many years to come. Much more satisfying than a Christmas selection box of chocolates.

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Super Gran 16/01/2014 at 15:38

Thank you for your post. I was given a beautiful olive tree for my birthday in Oct. I've bee quite anxious about keeping it healthy and your message has been reassuring. Thanks

star gaze lily 16/01/2014 at 15:50

Hi supergran, there's another thread about olive trees i'll see if I can bump it up for you.

Super Gran 19/01/2014 at 11:35

Thank you S G Lily.