This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

December 17, 2010

How to trim suckers off of an olive tree

Like most tasks in the garden, doing a little bit often can be much easier than letting it go and then trying to get it under control. This season, I have really seen problems with my neglect of my olive trees.

I have two olive trees, one in the backyard and one in the courtyard. They are wonderful for the desert, keep their leaves all winter (non-deciduous), use very little water, and don't mind the heat at all. I also find them beautiful. They are the trees that Jesus prayed under in the Garden of Gethsemane. And contrary to popular belief, they do not cause any more allergies than orange trees, which also have an undeserved reputation of causing allergies. The worst plant here in Phoenix for allergies is Bermuda grass, and I have none. But I digress.

This year I failed to do two things - I didn't spray a fruit stop in the spring, and I let the sucker growth get out of control. And no, I am not being funny here, "sucker" is the term for growth that sprouts up at the base of a tree. And if you keep after those little suckers, it's not so bad. If you don't, it takes two steps to remove them safely.

• Use a long-handled pruner to cut away the stalks. As you can see, I have stalks that are over two feet long. You don't want to use hand pruners, even with gloves. That's an invitation to some nasty knuckle injury. I know!

• After you have cut away the major part of the stalks, take an ordinary hand-held chisel and chisel away the rest. You can use the chisel to also clear away debris and also to smooth the trunk bumps as much as possible from the sucker growth.

Now I have to follow my own advice and finish the job!
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