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Good Life Garden -- Crops
Good Life Garden


Olea europaea
late fall

In Our Garden

This variety has recently become a popular tree for olive oil production in California. In the Good Life Garden the trees are trellised to demonstrate a new growing technique known as super-high density production that is gaining popularity in our state. This method reduces costs by allowing for mechanical harvesting. Arbequina olives produce a balanced oil with a fruity clean taste.

In History

Native to the eastern Mediterranean region, olive trees were first cultivated for oil. Later on olives were cured when it was discovered that soaking them removed bitterness.

Olives were first planted in California at the San Diego Mission in the late 1700s, with the first olive oil reported to be produced in California in 1803.


Growing Tips:
Olives grow well in poor soils, full sun and heat. Moderate irrigation will increase fruit size and improve oil quality, although olives can survive with very little irrigation once established. Wet environments and areas with freezing temperatures can kill olive trees.

Harvesting Tips:
Olives commonly are harvested by hand, knocked off with poles, or shaken off with a vibrating device. Olives grown on trellis systems allow the crop to be picked entirely by a mechanical harvester.

Why It's Good for You

Olives are high in monounsaturated fat, which studies have correlated with cardiovascular health. Olives also contain antioxidants that protect against cancer and aging.

Did You Know

The Wolfskill estate in Winters is a part of UC Davis history and also enjoys a distinctive legacy in California’s olive oil history. The property is a former Mexican land grant that the Wolfskill Family donated to the university in 1934 for agricultural research. The site produces UC Davis’ Wolfskill olive oil that is distinguished not only by the ancient Mission trees planted in 1861, but also by the exceptional diversity of other olives growing on the estate. Orchard technician John Whisler grafted nearly one hundred imported varieties to the old Mission rootstock back in the 1940s.

Let's Eat

How to Buy:
For “black-ripe” table olives, look for the “California Ripe Olives” logo on the top of the can as an indicator of quality. For olive oil look for the California Olive Oil Council certification of extra-virgin quality, or purchase oils that have been awarded medals at a competition.

How to Store:
Store olive oil in a cool dark place, preferable in an opaque or dark tinted bottle. Olive oil should be used within a couple months of opening as oxidation will occur. After opening table olives should be stored, covered and refrigerated.


Pest Management

Here is a list of common pests and diseases that may affect your olives in California. For more information follow the link provided to the University of California Integrated Pest Management website.
  • Verticillium wilt
    Verticillium wilt can cause leaves, branches and even mature olive trees die, so it suggested that olive trees are not planted where other crops susceptible to the disease have formerly resided…
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  • Nematodes
    There are many types of these microscopic roundworms working both below and above the soil in California. The root-feeding kinds are extremely adept at reducing a plant’s ability to uptake water and other soil nutrients, resulting in wilting of the plant above ground…
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  • Peacock spot
    This disease has potential for limiting olive fruit production by encouraging defoliation…
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  • Leaf spot
    This is a fungus that affects the plant leaves. As leaf spot spreads, foliage yellows and curls…
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  • Olive knot
    Small knots appear on the bark of olive trees, defoliating and possibly killing off new shoots…
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  • Thrips
    Commonly found in gardens and on farms, thrips are a blessing and a burden. With their ability to scar fruit, however, they are mostly a burden where olive trees are concerned…
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  • Olive mite
    These tiny pests can be hard to detect, and may go not even be noticed until they have left! They are a common pest to a wide range of vegetables and fruit. They suck the liquid out of plant foliage, and often leave yellowing at the feeding site. Often, plants will recover once the mites have left…
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  • Olive fruit fly
    A serious threat to olive trees in California, the olive fruit fly damages the fruit itself in both its larval and adult stages. Both are able to puncture or otherwise damage the fruit, making high quality table olive or olive oil production impossible…
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  • American plum borer
    The tree tissue most vulnerable to attack by these larvae is where there has been injury to the wood in some form. These borers can actually cause small tree limbs to break…
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  • Scales
    It is difficult to recognize these often immobile creatures as insects. They lose their legs just days after hatching and will firmly attach themselves to any plant surface where they pierce the plant and suck out its juices. Their plentiful honeydew attracts other pests and promotes mold growth, and in large infestations the damage can be devastating…
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