Sunday, December 30, 2012

Journal December 30, 2012

In a previous post I wrote that I had read that propagating olive cuttings was an art form, but the author did not provide any details.  While surfing the web last evening I came across the International Olive Council's site. ; and while the information regarding propagation on the site is geared toward major growers, I did find some useful information that I could apply to my growing conditions. 

To date not a single cutting taken from one of the trees has rooted, but I am not discouraged at this point, as this is, after all, a learning experience.  As I was removing the tops of the plants to encourage lateral growth, I tried to start the cuttings, regardless of the growing stage of the plants.  

The plants arrived in November and were preparing to go dormant for the winter, which is apparently not the time to take olive cuttings.  According to the site, the cuttings should be taken from actively growing plants.

The mission olive kind of went into shock when I pruned a foot off the top, and it  remained inactive for several weeks.  For the last few weeks the plant has been sending out new lateral branches and buds, however, it was still too tall and needed to have about another foot removed to get it to where I want it, namely a bush.

I decided to remove another section from the tip, and try to clone the cutting, as it is definitely actively growing. I removed a 5" section of the plant and trimmed off all but four leaves, cut an incision at the base of the cutting about 1" in length, and dipped the cutting in Clonex rooting gel.

In essence, I pretty much followed the instructions on the olive council's site. As I do not have misting equipment, I placed the cutting under an improvised dome, and I will mist it by hand several times a day.

More than 2500 years ago, the Romans planted olive trees by the millions across every territory they conquered, and they did not have rooting hormones, or misting equipment either. 

From the suggested production schedules on the site, I found that commercial growers allow four months for seed germination. As my seeds were only started in November, I guess I still have a while to wait for germination.  

As I still have seeds remaining, I decided to incorporate the site's methods of seed germination to my conditions; so I soaked four seeds in vinegar and thoroughly cleaned the seed coats.  The seeds will be allowed to dry for ten days, and then I will soak them in water for eighteen days prior to planting them.

Why you have to dry them and then rehydrate them is a mystery to me though.  I wonder if the ancient Romans did that?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Journal December 29, 2012

The plant in the above photo may not look very impressive, but to me it represents a milestone in my propagation experience.

In my December 20, 2012 post I wrote about attempting to clone the growing tips of olive branches and posted a photo of three tip cuttings.  The tip cuttings from the seedlings died within a few days, however, the tip cutting from the sucker has developed roots and is shown already planted in the photo above.

Considering that cuttings from mature plants take several weeks, or months, to root; and seeds can take several weeks, to a year, to germinate; propagating an olive plant in 11 days is pretty amazing stuff to me.  As anyone who has grown olives knows: olive trees can live for over a thousand years, so they are in no hurry to do anything.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Journal December 25, 2012

The 150 watt LED grow light  has been installed, so the conversion to total LED lighting is now complete.  In addition to the savings on fluorescent tubes, the use of LEDs in the grow chamber will reduce energy consumption by about 2500 watts per day, so all in all it is a no brainer decision.

The light levels, with the lights at the heights shown, are from 1,000 to 4,000 footcandles in each system.  Those levels are more than adequate for lettuce and greens.  And, with multiple lights, it will be a simple matter to replace an ebb and flow system with a tray of flower or vegetable seedlings for the greenhouse or garden when required.

Actually, there is a front panel that encloses the entire grow chamber, and it is also covered with reflective mylar, so the light levels will be slightly higher when the chamber is fully enclosed.  An additional benefit is that the LEDs produce practically no heat, so there is little chance of burning the tips of the plants should they get too close to the lights.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Journal December 20, 2012

There was a good sized sucker growing out of the roots of one of the manzanillo seedlings I was discarding, so I thought I would give it an opportunity to grow.  The sucker is about 1 inch high, however, the roots are, in proportion to the plant, gigantic.  

Purchasing seedlings is OK, but I am bound and determined to grow some of my own plants.  That said, the cuttings are a disaster, as so far not a single cutting has taken. I think the reason is that I have been keeping them too moist, and I need a rooting hormone for hard to root cuttings.  Mort Rosenblum, in his book Olives, writes that taking olive cuttings is an art form.  It is too bad that he did not go into more detail about the process.

Out of curiosity I uncovered the olive seeds that we planted at the beginning of November to see what, if anything, was going on with them.  A few show no changes, and a few have enlarged by about 25% and the seed coat has turned from dark brown to light tan.  I guess I will have to let nature run its course with the seeds.

Somewhere I read that the growing tips contain active cells, which will grow whatever is required, kind of like stem cells I guess. As I was pinching out some growing tips to direct the growth sideways, I decided to try to root the tiny tips.  The tips were coated with rooting  hormone and placed in horticubes, and the horticubes were place in a covered dome under a grow light.

If this works, I will have three new plants, and some additional experience.  If not, I am out twenty four cents. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Journal December 16, 2012

When I first began to think about growing olives hydroponically, I really had only heard of a few varieties; chief among them was the manzanillo, kalamata and mission.  One of the first plants I ordered was the mission olive on eBay, however, the plant was deceiving, as it looked all right, but was really dead on arrival.  A replacement mission plant was ordered from the Olive Branch Tree Farm, and although it is OK, it was very tall and slim with few side branches.  It was intended to be a large upright tree, but I need a short bushy tree for container/greenhouse growing.  I am removing sections of the main stem to force the growth downward and sideways, however it is going to take quite some time to get it to where I want it.

Finally, I have found a mission olive plant that meets my expectations, and it was a bargain.  I stumbled across the vendor on Dave's Garden of all places, and I never thought to look there previously.  This little beauty cost only $12 plus $8 for priority shipping from Eldon Tropicals.

I guess it is the romantic history of the mission olive that I find so appealing.  That probably comes from watching all of those Hollywood westerns when I as a kid.  It conjures up visions of an adobe mission with red tile roof and bell tower, with a kindly old padre in brown robes ringing the bell.  And indeed, the mission olive was brought to California by Junipero Serra and the Franciscan fathers from Mexico to the Mission San Diego de Alcala in 1767.  The Franciscans spread their religion and olive culture up the coast of California, and some of their beautiful old trees are still growing.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Journal December 8, 2012

Ferdinand, our manzanillo olive tree, is literally bursting with new growth; this is in spite of being removed from its native California; stuffed into a box for a week and being transported clear across the country; and having its roots cleaned of soil and its top pruned drastically.   Considering Ferdinand has only been growing hydroponically for three weeks now, I think that the results are simply fantastic.

As olives can tolerate some shade, the addition of the mud men makes Ferdinand attractive enough to serve upstairs as a house plant for short periods of time.

 Today I ordered an Amfissa olive from a person in Athens, Greece.  At first I thought that the Amfissa was a rare variety, however I found that they are the most planted variety in Greece.  Most people think of the Kalamata olive when they think of Greece, but the Kalamata is not as popular in Greece as the Amfissa. 

As the Amfissa meets my criteria of being a table olive and early to bear fruit, I really don't care about its popularity.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Journal December 5, 2012

Out of curiosity I had planted the supposed Manzanillo seedlings purchased and refunded on eBAy.  They have been planted for a month, but have shown absolutely no sign of life.

In the process of discarding them, I noticed nodules beginning to grow off the main trunk under the surface of the media.  The trunks themselves appeared to be lifeless, however it appears that there is still life in the root system.

The entire upper portion of the trunk has been removed, and I replanted the root system in a smaller pot with the nodule slightly above the media.  

The arrow in the photo is pointing toward the nodule, which has a tiny green tip.  The stub of the old trunk is to the right and slightly below the nodule.  

The pots were placed in the heated domed tray with the cuttings, and it should be interesting to see what happens next.   I am thinking that the root system will devote all of its energy to the nodule now that the trunk is gone.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Journal December 3, 2012

Another beautiful plant arrived yesterday, the Kalamata plant from Temecula Olive Oil Company.  The plant was much larger, but was pruned prior to being potted.  I saved the trimmed sections to be used as cuttings, however, I doubt that they will take.  

Looking at the plant I can see that it has been saddle grafted, which means the rootstock is not a Kalamata. Apparently, Kalamata olives are notoriously difficult to propagate via cuttings; in any case, I planted the cuttings just in case I might get lucky.

Although it has been less than four full weeks since the Arbequina olive tree was received and transplanted; it is responding nicely to being grown hydroponically.  In fact, I am finding that olives make ideal houseplants and I wish I had thought of growing them much sooner.

The Arbequina is being grown indoors under LED lighting until I can open the greenhouse again in late March.  Ava and I are naming all of the plants with names appropriate to the country of origin of the olives, Ava is in charge of selecting the names.  We have Ferdinand and Isabella from Spain; Omar from Tunis; Terese, Antonio and Mario from Italy; Pythagoras and Alexis from Greece, and of course the Arbequina, Pepito, also from Spain.  

I am firmly of the opinion that olives make good candidates for container or houseplants, whether or not they produce olives, as they are so attractive and easy to grow.

Time will tell....