olive trees are dying!

alexadryFebruary 18, 2013

Three weeks ago we purchased 3 arbequina olive trees about 2 years old. They were in 5 gallon vases and now are in soil. We live in Arizona. Gardener who planted them told us to water them once a week with a bucket of water each. When we got the trees they had a couple of brown leaves he said was due to frost, nothing major though. Now all trees have more brown leaves, but I am concerned more about one that has more brown leaves than green now! We did have about a week ago 3 days with frost temperatures in the night around 20 degrees. I asked others and they told me it's unlikely the frost is killing them but lack of water! I was told when they are transferred to soil they need more watering than a bucket a week to establish. The soil was very, very dry so we watered them last night instead of waiting another 4 days. We are expecting another 3 days when the night is expected to go down in the 20 range again. How can I protect them? I touched the brown leaves on 2 trees and they were very crisp and fell off right away. I removed all of these dry dying leaves. The tree in the picture concerns me the most, it's all brown almost, but when I touch the leaves they do not fall off as the other trees. Advice highly appreciated, what can I do? we spent over 200 dollars for these trees!

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Here is another closeup

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 8:57PM
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Might recover, might not. Surely you learned by now your "gardener" might not know what they are doing. Water so soil is not dry and hope they make it, and hope they were planted properly.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 10:57PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Stick your finger inside the original soil balls or take other steps to check and see if it is time for watering instead of going by a rote schedule that makes no allowance for the specific circumstances of your particular time and place.

Apply a mulch to retard loss of soil moisture and penetration of the soil by frost.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 10:18AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

3 days with frost temperatures in the night around 20 degrees.

===>>> agree about the guy giving you advice..

BUT.. and its a big but... frost occurs ABOVE 32 degrees ..

you had 3 days of FREEZE.. since it was below 32 ...

all those leaves are dead..

the future is in the buds ... if the buds remain.. and are viable.. it will live.. and re-leaf [but for more freezes] ...

if the buds remain hard and tight.. good..

if the buds start browning and getting mushy.. they are probably not going to survive ...

ONLY time will tell ....

did you get a warranty???


    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 10:26AM
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Its going to get pretty cold again tonight and maybe Wed.
You can try covering them with an old sheet to prevent more damage. Just hang it over that plastic/mesh you got around the trees. Agree with everyone else more water than a bucket. Try using a stick or rebar to test for watered ground AROUND the tree and how far it soaked in. If the stick goes in easy down to about where the root ball is you are good. If not, it is time to water. Never trust the guy who mowes the lawn or sells you the trees to plant them.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 3:30PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Until they root out conditions inside the original soil balls are what need to be monitored. When you plant intact root-balls the back-fill soil can be moist while the original balls that came with the plants can be dried out - this is a common situation when root-balls are not opened up at planting. Differences in texture between the soil or potting medium they plants came in and the back-fill soil often cause problems with watering recently installed stock.

I have dug up a frozen (due to inherent genetic tenderness) that was in place (and had made top growth) for several years to find the original potting soil root-ball as dry as dust, even though the native soil around it was moist.

The tree had long since rooted out into the native soil, was therefore not wilting. (In fact, it might have enjoyed having a dry pocket around the base at that point, due to it perhaps conferring some protection from water molds - you do not want to flood the base of the stem of woody plants when watering).

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 4:12PM
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Update: Well, we watered more often, also applied a special product known as a root establisher the gardeners at Lowes suggested.We also spent over $50 dollars purchasing covers to protect them from more 20-degree days. And now the leaves are all gone. They became very crisp and fell as soon as you touched them. The other two olives are doing fine. Not sure what's up with this one. I scratch the trunk and it's still green. The buds are hard but sort of crunchy though and are dry, I accidentally had some come off as I touched them. We were told to use Bonide as a last resort and see how it goes. The tree is still under warranty fortunately.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 6:24PM
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Keep up the good work. I have seen trees in worse shape come back. Just be patience and stay with it. If you bought the covers I think you did, (white mesh /draw string) you can wash them gently and put them away for next year. Hange in there they will come back. I have an orange tree that I should not have for this area and every year all its leaves die from the cold and every year it puts on new. I don't have the heart to take it out, though it will never amount to much. Just saying, things do come back.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 7:17PM
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also applied a special product known as a root establisher the gardeners at Lowes suggested.

Oops. No need to consume those products nor get advice from a bigbox. But they might come back. If no leaves by, say, end of april, punt. And change everything, including the "gardener".

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 11:07PM
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Wx is right never ever get advice from those guys at a big box stores. In Cottonwood AZ they sell citrus trees to people who don't know any better. In Prescott AZ they sell early blooming Apricots. Citrus dead by the next year /Apricots will never have fruit, it freezes in March. If you need advice go to a small Nursery you stand a lot better chance of getting the right advice.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 4:29PM
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PS I would post this on the Arizona GardenWeb. The people on that site are very helpful. They respond quickly and have full knowledge of our Arizona climate and soil. They know everything about everything from veggies to trees. Just include your city so they no where you are in AZ.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 8:01PM
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I think 20F is cold for a young olive. Here, in Mount Lebanon olives only survive up to about 1200 masl (about 3500 feet up). Up above that we have cherries, apples, cedars...etc. One thing: try cutting them down severly, water and mulch. BTW, how high up are you in Arizona?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 3:36AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

I'm with the cut them back opinion! We will be moving soon to zone 19, and taking our olives with us. Starting to slice the roots weekly (to encourage new root growth by root pruning) and taking cuttings just in case they don't like their new home.

I did start the two we currently have for FREE, with cuttings I took from a local golf course while golfing. I just put them in a drink glass with water and brought them home. Stripped all but the top leaf and cut that in half. Dipped the stems in rooting hormone, and about a month later, the tips were growing. They are now over 6 feet high.

They should all live with enough water. Ours get water every day, and our weather is like yours. They don't get a ton of water. Just what comes with the automatic sprinkler system.

If I were you, I'd put in a drip system on a timer.

Good luck! Enjoy your olives!


This post was edited by desertdance on Tue, Mar 26, 13 at 9:54

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 9:53AM
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