I have an olive tree in its fourth year. The tree has fruit on it, but the fruit is not yet large enough to pick and prepare - so I am waiting for next season. Should I just leave the olives on the tree and allow them to fall naturally, or should I pick them anyway to encourage growth?
Also, should they be picked / cut close to the fruit, or should I leave a small length of stalk on them?
Typically you get more olives as the tree gets older, not bigger olives. Olive size has more to do with crop size, watering, etc. Thinning will get you bigger olives. Even 18 month old trees often have a few robust olives on them. If you are in an area where there is olive fly, you should pick the olives and destroy them to prevent over-wintering of the fly. Once they are full sized, whether you pick them or not should have no bearing on the size of the next year's crop.
Olives are picked by hand by rapidly drawing the fingers or a rake along the branches, quickly stripping the fruit off into nets or a bucket or with pneumatic rakes onto nets. The fruit separates where it will. You cannot possibly expect to pick each olive individually to determine where it might separate from the tree.
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