Our olive trees have woken up from their winter slumber. And we’re heading into our “spring push” at our northern California ranches. In the olive groves, our orchard teams are watering the trees and doing light pruning to prepare them for the growing season. I asked one of our ranchers, Brian Mori, to give us a ranch update. Brian works with our family farmers, or contract growers, on crop practices, harvest, and quality.
How are you getting the trees ready for their spring growth spurt?
BM: It’s been a dry winter and an unusually dry spring. So we began irrigating the trees earlier than usual. We’ve also begun doing some field prep, like light pruning on the trees.
What are the biggest responsibilities during spring?
BM: Irrigating the trees to maintain proper moisture during their critical development period. We also want to ensure the trees are nutritionally balanced going into the flowering period.
What kind of weather are you anticipating this spring?
BM: It seems like we’re holding in a dry weather pattern. We’re expecting minimal precipitation.
When do you expect our olive trees to start blooming?
BM: If the current conditions continue, we anticipate a spring bloom in the first to second week of May. It typically occurs in mid- to late May. It’s probably around 7 to 10 days ahead of schedule. It’s been warm. We’ve had temperatures in the mid- to high 70s. That’s caused the trees to waken from their winter semi-dormancy earlier than usual.
What exactly does the bloom involve?
BM: The trees produce, or set, their flowers. Olive trees are wind-pollinated – in other words, the wind carries the pollen from tree to tree. Other trees, like almonds, require bees for pollination. The flowers open up from the initial bloom to the full bloom over three to four days. You have male and female flowers. Both are needed in the pollination process. Only the so-called “perfect flowers” will produce olives, or fruit. Essentially, a perfect flower has both male and female parts, which give it the ability to produce fruit. Other male flowers – known as stamen flowers – don’t bear fruit but assist in the pollination process.
When do you first see olives on the trees?
BM: You’ll see the very, very beginning of a developing olives by the end of May. But it’s a very small and undeveloped fruit at that point. It’s about the size of a grain of rice. In other words, pretty small.