we have 3.5 hectares of terraced land on a southern facing hill in southern tuscany, about half of which is devoted to growing olives. i was very much taken with the ideas of mr. fukuoka and was wondering if any of them could be applied to olive cultivation.
has anyone ever tried - or could recommend - covering the area around the base of the olive tree with prunings? the cost of fertilizer continues to mount and it seems logical that if the prunings were arranged in such a way as to inhibit weed growth as they decompose, they would also nourish the tree.
i made a video of us harvesting the olives a few years ago and posted it to youtube, if you'd care to see how we are situated:
Here in Portugal all the prunings are burnt. Most of that fertility is lost into the atmosphere I think ? I have thought for a long time it would be better to shred the prunings and mulch the tree with it. The problem with the prunings is that if you didn't shred them they would break down extremely slowly and form a barrier to working around the tree in following years.
How about leaving the prunings around the tree until the leaves have fallen off? You'd get at least some of the nutrients that way, and later you could collect the woody bits for firewood. I think they'd be perfect for a rocket stove. Also, do you have an olive press nearby that you could get olive waste from? That should make good mulch, or you could use it as animal bedding first.
Slightly off topic, but here's a photo of our olive-tree weed-clearer in action. A couple of days round each tree keeps them nice and clear.
thanks guys. in thinking this thing through a bit more, i think the way to go is to simply arrange the prunings in such a way that my tractor/mulcher can pass over and shred them. i'll distribute the mulch after and continue to strim the weeds back, once in spring and once before harvest. an "old boy" in the area created a ruckus a couple of years ago by heaping the olive prunings under his trees. i went to see them yesterday and have to say, they don't look great. i think he made the mistake of placing them too close to the trunks of the trees - suffocating them (as the locals believed he would do when he first started.) i also read it can cause fungus.
we've burned in the past and, yes - seems a tremendous waste of resource. arranging the branches under the trees, letting the leaves fall off and then disposing of the branches is a good idea but involves another round of work and i am a verrry reluctant gardner.
our local olive press sells the processed pulp to someone else. i believe it can be cooked to extract more oil of a lesser quality (for cooking oil, soap, etc.) and then eventually processed into humus. love the mule system - we let someone board their horse on our land and he does eat his fair share of weeds ... but we have 250+ trees - an elephant might be more effective.
must say - i'm very glad to have found this site - i love "the rules" ... "be nice."
thanks again - we'll be chatting again soon, no doubt - bill
Geoff Lawton, greening the desert update/revisited youtube video shows what to do at the base of an olive tree to retain moisture and provide mulch. It's about halfway through the video when he leaves the project area and visits a surrounding permaculture site.