Winter is the time for us to prune our olive trees. We have many very old trees that have not been properly pruned for many years and that we are now trying to revive. This means quite drastic cutting, which I know is necessary but hurts my heart all the same.
Fortunately, our neighbor Juan helps us with the pruning, using his chainsaw (even though I would prefer for him to take safety measures a bit more serious...).
The second step is to handle the branches we have cut.
Traditionally this material is simply burned. Sure, it's easy and fast but in the end, you lose a lot of organic material which is essential for the soil’s health. So what we do is chip our cuttings. Last year we bought a small machine to do the job.
It's actually really loud and very tiresome, but I believe it's worth it to regenerate our soil health. The previous owner of the land used to till the soil in order to get rid of the plants beneath the trees. This is a traditional method in olive orchards, but it has negative effects. The bare soil is exposed to the sun and wind, loses its rich top soil and nutrients and starts to erode. On our land we can clearly see areas, where the soil has never been deep and where the tilling has caused a lot of damage. These areas will take years to recover.
After all the branches are chipped, we put all the woodchips in large bags and carry them up the hill to the trees. The whole process is real intense labor and almost as tough as picking the olives. However, soil stays humid for longer beneath the thick layer of wood chips. In a year such as this one, where we will experience a strong drought, conserving soil humidity is essential. The wood chips slowly deteriorate and give nutrients to the trees over a long period of time. This is much healthier for the trees than synthetic fertilizers and more sustainable as well.
An olive orchard with all these flowers is just beautfil!