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Watering an olive tree in a pot

I've recently bought a lovely olive tree and have placed it, with much toil & sweat, in a large terracotta pot. The root ball is tight on the sides but there is plenty of room for growth below. I followed advice to make sure of lots of drainage holes covered by broken crocks at the bottom, over filled with John Innes no.3 mixed with horticultural gravel. I also used lots of Root Grow fungus stuff that Monty Don recommends. 

However, I'm uncertain how I much watering I should give it and how I can make sure the water actually gets down deep into the pot so as to ensure decent root growth. 

I had an idea of inserting 3 or 4 copper pipes around the edge, which will take the water south, but I'm not sure if:

a) Copper is a good idea for trees?
b) This idea is over-engineering? Will gravity do the trick anyway?

I'd greatly value some wisdom and any other tips to ensure the health of this lovely specimen. 



  • BenCottoBenCotto Posts: 4,286
    I have seen olives growing happily in pots that seem to be too small and that is a feeling I have about your arrangement. The plant, and the experts who sell olives, assuredly know more than me.

    I have, though, two further concerns. I would like to see the pot raised on feet as good drainage is beneficial to olives and reduces the chances of winter frost damage. Secondly, I fear the pot is in danger of toppling in strong winds. I speak here from experience having lost an expensive Italian Terrace terracotta pot though the olive unscathed.

    Answering your questions, no, I would not use copper pipes. I would just give the plant a full watering can about once a week in the warmer months, emptying the can slowly as there is no scope for water being caught by the top of the pot and gradually percolating down. Also, I feed my olive every two or three waterings with some special olive fertiliser I bought on Amazon. I have no idea if it does any good but it looks like it ought to work.
    Rutland, England
  • I would say your pot is too small for the size of your lovely olive tree.. I would advocate a saucer under the pot plus feet as already suggested. You will have your hands full keeping a tree of that size watered in hot weather, particularly as it is a terracotta pot which is permeable all over. Any tree with that size of trunk will need gallons of water every day to keep it happy. The traditional way of keeping a pot like that watered is to submerge the whole thing in a bucket of water, leave for several hours, until bubble no longer come to the surface of the water, then allow to drain before replacing in saucer. Hmmmm! A bit of an impossibility for yours so loads of watering cans or buckets of water. Your tree would be much happier in open ground but still need loads of water and staking until established in a year or twos time.
    I am very envious of your tree but not the work involved in keeping it going.
    Good luck.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,165
    There's a lot of root showing on the surface too, which isn't great, as well as the soil level being too high. That does create problems for watering, as @BenCotto has said, as water will tend to run off and out instead of down.
    Terracotta is lovely for these trees, but they suck up moisture as @Lizzie27 says - so you may find it very difficult to keep the roots hydrated well enough to establish properly.

    I think that will be quite tricky to keep thriving. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 10,313
    A lovely tree you have.
    I can't see how you're going to water it though - the compost is above the edge of the pot, so water will mostly run off. You'll have to stand there for ages watering very slowly and waiting for water to get to the roots.

    I'd say bite the bullet, take it out of the pot and re-pot it so that the compost is about 2-3" below the edge of the pot.
    Then watering will be easy - I agree pot-feet are important.
    I feed mine once a month with seaweed extract during the growing season.
    If you can, use rainwater too - your tree will really appreciate it
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • Thanks for all your helpful comment - much appreciated!

    I agree the soil level is too high, but when potting up, the damn thing was so heavy we had to use a car jack to help us position it into the pot, by which time I had put too much soil in there! 
    I've actually already raised the pot up off the ground, partly to help with the drainage and also for the frost. 
    Finally, I worked out a way to make the watering easier. I inserted some damp proof membrane around the edge which acts as an effective damn! 

  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 10,313
    😁 - nothing like a bit of innovation
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,165
    Brilliant. Hope that does the trick for you  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
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