Friday, November 30, 2012

Journal November 30, 2012

The Frantoio olive tree ordered from the Temecula Olive Oil Company arrived safely today, and I am well pleased with the tree.  It is exactly the size I like to work with, and it arrived in excellent condition, even though it was in transit for well over a week.  

After opening the carton I was in the process of removing the soil and planting the tree; when my wife suggested that I not prune it back and clone the cuttings.  She said: "why not leave it alone for a few days."   I am sure it was out of sympathy for the tree that she made the suggestion, as the tree had been deprived of heat and light for so long, however, I decided to follow her advice so I did not prune it back right now.  The tree was planted in a self watering container and placed in the tent under the six band LED grow light.  It can recover for a while in my pseudo-Mediterranean environment, where the temperature is always in the mid-70s with the humidity in the mid-40s.

When the tree begins sending out new shoots, I will prune the main trunk back to about six or eight inches above the soil line.  My objective is to have two laterals off the main truck shaped like a martini glass.

When selecting trees I am looking for varietals that produce table olives, as I just can't imagine getting enough olives to produce oil, and, oil production is not an easy process for a home gardener.


The primary varietal used in Tuscan oil production, the Frantoio olive tree is useful to the home gardener as well. This olive tree is self-fertile, meaning it doesn't require another variety to set fruit, but is also an excellent pollenizer to other olive trees. The Frantoio olive tree grows in semi-pendulous fashion, with dark green-gray leaves. The fruit also makes a good table olive after curing, with a slightly nutty flavor to the medium-sized fruit.

The Mission olive tree that was ordered on eBay has been replaced and my money was refunded.  The seller claimed the tree was hardy and would come back if I misted it frequently.  I responded that the leaves were so dry that they cracked like corn flakes when flexed, and that I could mist the tree with holy water and it was not coming back.  So much for plants on eBay.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Journal November 25, 2012

The first ripe tomatoes, grown with the 450 watt LED, were picked today.  Last year the first tomatoes grown indoors were not ready until the first day of winter, however, this year they are really early.

When I came upstairs for dinner this evening, the first thing my wife said was: "these tomatoes are delicious!" I can't be sure, but I am thinking that the molasses contributed to their exceptional taste.

The cucumbers are just about finished, and I will remove the plants from the tent tomorrow and use the tent to really push the olive trees until they can be placed in the greenhouse in the spring.  Hopefully, by not allowing them a dormant period, I can get two years growth in one season. 

The lemon and bay trees are in the basement for the winter, and the only light they are getting is from a 4' shop light above the plants.  They are watered occasionally with used nutrients from the ebb and flow systems and they are thriving with hardly any care.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Journal November 20, 2012

System number four contains a nice crop of baby romaine lettuce that will make a nice addition to our Thanksgiving meal.

The Manzanillo seedlings that I purchased on eBay have been placed in the tent with the Trust tomato, however they show absolutely no sign of life. The person who I purchased the seedlings from on eBay chose to return my money rather than get an unsatisfactory rating on eBay. As I understand it, your cost of doing business on eBay inceases if your ratings drop. As of this point, not one of the plants that I purchased on eBay have met my expectations. That said, all of the plants that I purchased from professional growers have been satisfactory.

 The plant in the above photo is a Manzanillo olive that I purchased from a grower in California. Although the plant is exceptional, I am not going to provide a link to the grower's site, as his service was not up to par.  After four emails and four phone calls trying to obtain shipping/tracking information, I was just about to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau when the postman delivered the plant.  Two days after the plant was received I finally received the shipping information.

This plant was very large and in beautiful condition when I received it.  After Ava and I finished potting the plant, I pruned the plant to encourage a shorter bushy growth pattern, and segments of the branches that were removed have been started as cuttings.

Another plant that I purchased on eBay is not doing all that well, it is the Mission olive. Again, I have ordered a replacement from the Olive Branch Tree Farm in Florida. The plant purchased on eBay took 11 days to arrive from California. As the growing medium was mostly sand, the plant had completely dried out en route. The seller responded that I should mist the plant frequently, and it would come back, as it was a hardy plant. If this plant responds, I will call it my Jesus plant, as it would have risen from the dead.

My recommendation would be not to purchase any plant material on eBay.

I needed an olive tree from Italy to complete my collection of olive varietals from around world, so I ordered a Frantoio from:Temecula Olive Oil Company  

This company's price and shipping cost was very reasonable, and, their service was excellent, as my order was shipped in a matter of hours after completing the transaction.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Journal November 14, 2012

It was cold and windy today with the temperature in the upper 30s, however there was not a cloud in the sky, so the temperature in the greenhouse reached the mid-70s a little after noon. Whenever possible I  turn off the grow lights and move plants to the greenhouse, which is what I did today.

It is only been a few days since the olive trees have been transplanted into the self watering containers, however, already I can see signs of new growth; surprisingly not one plant exhibited any sign of stress.

The Trust hybrid tomato plant is still sending out new leaders and forming buds. Again today I removed two leaders to force the growth back into the tomatoes. I just checked the conditions in the tent, and they are ideal for growing tomatoes; the temperature was 73° and the relative humidity was 53%.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Journal November 13, 2012

The mission olive tree that I purchased on eBay finally arrived today. I was really beginning to think that the post office had lost this shipment. Although the tree spent almost a week in transit, without light or water, it arrived in fairly decent condition. That said, I still wasted no time in preparing it to be grown hydroponically.

This tree is about six years old, however it is only 10 inches in height. It was being trained for bonsai, but it has now been rescued and will be allowed to grow into a small bush, though confined to a container.

The Mission olive originated on the California Missions and is now grown throughout the state. They are black and generally used for table consumption.  The fruit is of medium weight with a slightly asymmetrical ovoid shape. Prized as a dual-purpose variety, being used in green and black pickling as well as oil production. When mature, the fruit has about 22% oil content. 

The postman also brought a Barouni olive seedling today that I purchased from The Olive Branch Tree Farm.

Once again I feel fortunate in having had the opportunity to speak to the owner/ grower, whose name is Tony. I explained to Tony what I wanted to accomplish, and he suggested that I not let the trees go dormant for the first two years, but to "grow the hell out of them in the greenhouse."  Following the third year, the trees should be given a minimum of 250 hours of cool temperature and allowed to rest, with no fertilizer and little water.  Tony thinks that by doing so I will have a crop of olives in the third year.  They have been growing olives for fifty years, so I would guess that they know a thing or two about the process.

The Barouni Olive Tree was developed in Tunisia, Africa, and is the olive commonly used for curing olives at home. Research conducted at California Universities have shown the Barouni Olive to be very resistant to cold temperatures, and still produce its beautiful, green fruit.

Over a century ago the Barouni Olive tree was imported into America from Tunisia for orchard trials and has successfully passed the test as a commercial olive tree. Ranging in height from 15-20 feet, the Barouni Olive tree is a popular backyard tree to grow, because the olives can easily be harvested from smaller trees. The common use for the large Barouni olive is as a table olive, and for olive oil extraction the Barouni olive will not work. The Barouni olive ripens in October and November as a black fruit with an oval shape, and it is very cold hardy for the Eastern U.S.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Journal November 10, 2012

Today I received an email from the person in Greece that I purchased the olive seeds from.  I have quoted the email below:

"Scarification process .
Place seeds in a glass container.Pour enough vinegar into the glass to cover the seeds.Gently stir the seeds.
Let them soak for about 10 minutes.Remove the seeds, wash them and sow them immediately. It is best to sow into small seedling pots.Bring a small pot of water to boil.Remove from the stove.
Place the seeds into the water. Make sure the water covers the seeds.Allow water to cool to room temperature.Remove the seeds, dry them and sow them in a growing medium.This process is easier for larger seeds.Take the small nail file or sandpaper and run either of them back and forth along the seed. The purpose is to weaken the seed coating enough for the seed embryo to break through the hull.Once filed or sanded, wash the seeds, dry them and sow in a growing medium.This process can be used for much larger seeds.Taking the knife, nick each seed, making a tiny cut through the seed coating.Wash and sow. Place a thin layer of compost in shallow vessel of some kind and place the olive tree seeds on top of the compost. After the seeds are placed, moisten the entire mixture well with a spray bottle Keep the mixture damp, but not soaking wet, and in a warm place that receives plenty of sunshine. Germination may take up to several weeks, but just remain patient and keep the conditions optimal for germination by maintaining constant watering and steady warm temperatures. Transplant the seeds, as soon as they've germinated (begun to sprout), into a pot that is filled with sandy, quick-draining soil. An optimal soil preparation is to mix 1 part of normal potting soil with 3 parts of cactus potting soil. Adding some additional sand to the mixture will help, but extra sand should make up no more than 5 percent or so of the final soil.

Water the seedling well and place it in a warm, sunny area. During this initial stage, it's best to continue growing the olive tree indoors, in order to protect it, even if warm conditions exist outdoors as well.Prune the lower leaves off of the olive tree as it begins to grow, encouraging upward growth and its development into a tree instead of a shrub. Water your olive tree only after the soil in the pot feels dry to the touch. Make sure it stays warms and has good access to sunlight. All our seeds are providing trees and the trees are able to provides olives ."

As I had already tried the hot water method, I decided to try planting two seeds using vinegar. Ava and I each planted a single seed, and as everything with Ava turns into a contest, we are now engaged in a race to see who's seed germinates first. 

 I received two seedlings in the mail today that I had ordrered on EBay.  They were supposed to be Manzanillo seedlings, however, I doubted that they were olive seedlings at all, as the bark, roots and buds are a reddish color.  Additionally, the description for the sale stated that they were to be 5 to 6 inch seedlings, but the plants I received were more than 18 inches in length.  I wrote to the vendor and told him I did not think I received the correct item.  I said that the seedlings looked more like cherry trees to me, and also stated my concern about the length. .  The vendor, plant1onme, wrote and said that the seedlings were dormant: that they turn that color because they have been kept in a cooler; they ran out of small plants and shipped larger plants instead.  I replied that I had serious doubts about the plants, but that I would not leave any feedback at this time, but would force the plants from dormancy and determine if they were olives or not.  And, if not, the feedback that I leave will not be very favorable.

Manzanillo a large, rounded-oval fruit, with purple-green skin, originated in Dos Hermanas, Seville, in southern Spain. "Manzanillas" means little apples in Spanish. Known for a rich taste and thick pulp, it is a prolific bearer, grown around the world.

Manzanillo is ranked as the world's number one table olive. Its cropping ability, disease resistance, texture and flavor combine to place it at the peak of medium sized table olives, and its medium/high oil content also makes it a valuable oil cultivar. Manzanillo was introduced to California in 1875. Manzanillo is the most popular canning variety. Not quite as cold hardy as Mission it is still wildly grown in California. A more rounded, spreading tree growing to 30-35 feet. The fruit matures in October and early November but is usually harvested in September. Fruit is processed as mostly black-ripe and green-ripe olives. They are also suitable for oil as oil content is good (20.3%). 

Time will tell if my seedlings are Manzanillo.  In any event, I have ordered a tree from an olive farm in California.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Journal November 8, 2012

When the postman arrived shortly after lunch today, he brought two additional olive trees and the olive seeds I had ordered from Greece.

Today was cold, very windy, the sky was overcast and leaden, with the temperature in the upper 30s. Despite the weather conditions, the temperature in the greenhouse was in the mid-40s, so I decided to pot the olive trees in the greenhouse. Then, to my surprise the clouds parted, and the sunshine raised the temperature in the greenhouse to a balmy 65°.

 Below are photos and information regarding the trees I received today:

Arbequina is a cultivar of olives. The fruit is highly aromatic, small, symmetrical and dark brown, with a rounded apex and a broad peduncular cavity. In Europe, it is mostly grown in Catalonia, Spain, where it occupies 55,000 hectares, but it is also grown in in Aragon and Andalusia, as well as Argentina, Chile, and Australia. It has recently become the dominant olive cultivar in California, largely under highly intensive, "super high-density" plantation.

The name comes from the village of Arbeca in the comarca of the Les Garrigues, where it was first introduced to Europe from Palestine in the seventeenth century by the Duke of Medinaceli.
Agronomical characteristics

Arbequina trees are adaptable to different conditions of climate and soil, although it does best in alkaline soils; it thrives in long, hot, dry summers, but is frost-hardy and pest-resistant. Its relatively small cup, allows it to be cultivated under more intense, high-density conditions than other plantation olives. The variety is very productive and enters early into production (from the first half of November). The fruit does not ripen simultaneously, and has an average resistance to detachment. Unlike most varieties, Arbequina has a high germination percentage and that makes rootstocks.

The crop is costly due to the small fruit size. It is not very well suited to mechanized harvesting, as a consequence of low weight of the oil and the abundance of pendulous branches, but the performance in manual harvesting is much higher than the other varieties raised in Catalonia.

Although sold as a table olive, Arbequina olives have one of the highest concentrations of oil [20-22%] and are therefore mostly used for olive oil production. Harvesting is easy since the trees are typically low to the ground and allow for easy hand picking. Oils made from Arbequina are generally buttery, fruity, and very mild in flavor, being low in polyphenols. The combination of low polyphenol levels and high levels of polyunsaturated fat as compared with other olive cultivars means that it has relatively low stability and short shelf-life.

Koroneiki is a cultivar of olives originating in Greece, the trunk is typically gnarled and twisted.
TREE: A tree of medium vigor with a spreading habit and an open canopy.
FRUIT: The fruit is small ovoid and slightly asymmetric, yields with a very high content of oil.
AGRONOMY: Resistant to leaf drop, adaptable to different conditions of climate and soil.  They are drought tolerant, frost-hardy to 14 degrees and pest-resistant.  Trees will produce olives in two years with full production in 5. A very high quality oil variety, exceptionally heavy cropper coming into production very early. Fruit size is quite small. Proving well suited to warm non frost regions.

COMMENTS: This is a good drought resistant variety. The oil is high in oleic acid and very stable, high quality oil olive. 

Both of the above trees were purchased from the Olive Grove tree farm in Florida. I had originally ordered a different variety than the Koroneiki, however, after speaking with Dedi, one of the owners, and explaining how I intended to grow the trees, Dede suggested the Koroneiki rather than the variety I originally ordered. 

Dede said she thought what I was going to do was "so cool, and she wanted me to succeed." When possible, I will try to speak to a grower, as you can get very valuable information from them. I have added a link to their site below, in case anyone is interested in trying to grow an olive tree hydroponically. These folks are great folks to do business with. 

The Olive Grove Tree Farm Nursery

Now, as for the olive seeds from Greece; the person that I purchased the seeds from was supposed to provide information as to how to germinate the seeds, however he did not.

I did not consider that the big deal, as I already knew how I intended to start the seeds. First, I soaked the seeds for about 90 minutes in hot water to soften the seed coat. Then, I rubbed the seeds on fine grit of sandpaper to thin the seed coat so that the embryo was almost exposed.  The seeds were then placed in a growing cube, and the growing cube was planted in a 3 inch pot at a depth of approximately 1 inch.

Both the seeds and the trees have been placed under a 90 W red/white/blue LED in a warm environment with a photoperiod of 16 hours per day. 

Now, it is just a matter of letting nature take its course.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Journal November 5, 2012

The Olea Europaea seedling arrived today, and I wasted no time in preparing it to be grown hydroponically. The first step was to remove all of the soil from the roots by rinsing the seedling under tepid tap water.

As these trees can reach a height of about 30 feet, growing the tree in a container will be very similar to growing a bonsai. The difference being, that I will grow the tree hydroponically in coir and perlite, and, I will do a very minimum amount of root pruning and shaping.  The particular variety of this seedling is unknown, however it will produce olives, and can either be a bonsai or full size tree.  In this case I intend it to be a dwarf potted plant, neither a bonsai, or full size.

After cleaning, the seedling was planted in a self watering container using a mixture of coir and perlite that was moistened with a very dilute nutrient solution.

As Olive trees prefer a fairly dry environment, I plan on top watering the plant and letting any excess drain into the reservoir below. I do not intend to use the reservoir, or wick, as Olive trees will not tolerate wet feet.

To acclimate the seedling to its new environment I placed it in a cool location, giving it an abbreviated photoperiod of 10 hours, with about 500 foot candles of lighting. I plan on leaving the seedling in the cool location for about a week before placing it under an LED grow light.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Journal November 2, 2012

The tomatoes that Ava I planted for Santa are ahead of schedule, it looks like some will be ready for Thanksgiving dinner.

A few days ago I noticed that the margins between the veins of the leaves were beginning to turn yellow, which could either indicate an iron, manganese or zinc deficiency. To make matters even more confusing, it could also mean a nitrogen deficiency. I decided to increase the nitrogen level in the nutrients slightly and also added about a tablespoon of liquid iron. When I checked the plants today there was a great improvement in the yellowing, so I must have guessed correctly.

Today I harvested a nice batch of the greens from system number two. I have found that the best variety of beets for greens is early wonder.