Olive Trees in Zone 7 - n Mississippi

julio01October 30, 2007

Just thought I'd start a message on the 21 olive trees we have planted in Oxford, MS. The trees are one Arbequina planted in March 2007 and 20 Mission Olive Trees planted Oct 20, 2007. Previously posted only to "Olives in Oklahoma" since the posters zone was also zone 7A.

I know they may die as the most hardy is Mission variety (hardy to 8 deg F) which is zone 8. It hasn't gotten below 10 deg F for 10 years. If Al Gore is right (I think its just a temporary swing and I believe it may have been warmer 2000 years ago but then there were no thermometers. The Chinese writings indicate it though.), we are in global warming and its going to get hotter and dryer. If so the olives may not die for a while. Also some olive trees survived a freeze in california in 1990 where the temp was below freezing for 5 days with lows as low as -9 deg F (you can find it in pubs on the internet and at libraries).

I would like to hear from any growers in Texas, California, or Florida about what type of freeze protection i need the first year as just planted seedlings are more vunerable. Do I:

1. Buy a garbage can to cover each tree when it gets below 20 deg F.

2. Add more pine needles as mulch.

3. Wrap trees in burlap.

4. Use pea gravel or vermiculite mounded high up on trees.

Any help is appreciated. I've seen a lot of conflicting info on the internet with some sites saying olives are only hardy to 30 deg, another Australian site saying Olives in general are ok to 15 deg F. Then there is the info on the Calif. freeze.

I also have Live oak trees that have been here since 2001 and cork oak trees (for only a couple years) that are not having any problems.


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Just to start some brainstorming questions, how large are the trees you have and how far removed are they from each other and from water or elctrical sources?

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 12:05PM
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The mission variety are only about 12-16 inches tall and were in 4x4 inch plastic pots from Santa Cruz olive nursery. I was going to try Ascolana but was advised against trying anything but mission here. They are not all in one place but are at least 16 feet apart and nowhere near water or electrical sources. I have tomato cages around then to keep animals such as deer away. If they make it through the winter I will get another 20 next year.

The Arbequina is about 2 feet tall but about 3 times the diameter and with multiple branches. I am more worried about the Arbequina. I'm not sure if it will get as big as the Missions. The Missions are supposed to get 40-50 feet tall and the Arbequina was advertised as only getting 15 ft tall but I don't know if it was accurate. Also the nursery I bought the Arbequina incorrectly had it as zone 7. Looks good so far.

Incidently temps are low 70s for highs with lows about 45-50 deg F. Its already gotten down to 40 deg F the other night.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 12:26PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

My suggestion would be to make custom "bags" to go over the tomato cages out of the aluminum-coated bubble wrap insulation, and put them on when the weather threatens. Have the bags go all the way to the ground and fasten them to the ground somehow (ground staples or bricks or whatever). I have used the aluminum bubble wrap on my figs and it works well. I had some feijoa by the figs and it also worked on them, but they are evergreens and were very unhappy to be in the dark all winter (I never took it off) and so they lost all their leaves. They did re-leaf in the spring. For the figs they need to be kept above 10F and thats doable since the colder it gets the better the insulation works since the ground heat is helping to keep it warm. I found around 10 degrees temperature difference under the covers at 5F. At 20F I found only 5F difference if that. Note that the small trees you just put in may die anyway due to the combination of transplant shock and the cold. Spring is the only time I would plant such crops, giving them all summer to get established.

BTW there is one issue of killing the trees and another of killing the fruit. I don't think I will ever get any fruit off of my feijoa because the fruit ripens in the winter. So I can grow it as an evergreen bush here but thats it - big whoop. Olive harvest also might be too late that the cold weather will do them in. I am right now crossing my fingers in hopes of getting a good fuzzy kiwi crop here for the same reason: I now have a vine loaded with big fat kiwis that need another month of ripening and cannot stand frost.


    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 3:31PM
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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

There some near me here in texas at winnerary its just out of Pittsburg texas is as for north as I seen 2 year old Olive trees sorry don't have name place. first year I use wal-O-water thing on them I plant tomatos in january down to 15 degress they be ok grow on warmer days in winter first winter only.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 7:14PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The eastern summer as well as the northern winter would seem unsuitable for a tree liking Mediterranean conditions (like those in southern California). If your pineapple guava flowers then you can eat the petals, which taste sweet.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 8:53PM
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softmentor(z9/sunset13 CA desert)

That young yes they will definitely need protection. After the are established and mature (a few years) you will be able to spray them with water on extreme nights. This will form ice and the ice will protect them from extreme cold. But right now they are way to young and tender for that. Bags with some kind of frame so that the bag does not touch them is the best plan. Be sure they don't get to hot during the day time. You may need to tip them back or remove them during the day so they don't get to warm and start thinking it's spring and sprout. That new growth would be VERY tender to frost. I would also use a little mulch around the base to keep the ground from freezing and to protect the roots.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 1:50AM
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Thanks for everyones advice. I will be sure to add more mulch and trying finding the foil backed bubble wrap. Any suggestions on where to buy it? Ive seen bubble wrap w/o the foil in small pieces. My main concern is getting the trees thru this winter.

Right after I planted them the temps dropped where highs are about 70 deg now with lows in the 40s. It already dropped to 40 deg F. In the summer its hot here with highs of 95 to sometimes 100 deg F.

I also remember it getting below zero in the 1980s with a day with bright sunshine with a high of 5 deg F. Thats why I wonder if they will make it here in the long run

I told that I was planting olives to a professor at Miss State and now they are going to start an olive trial with different varieties about 50 miles east of here.

Also we have several Brown Turkey Fig plants that have been here about 7 years. They do great most years w/o cover even though we go down to 10 deg every year. Last spring was the first problem where temps were near 90 deg and dropped to 28 deg for 2 straight nites. All leaves and figs were burned off and the bark split in areas but they came back and even produced some figs later in the year.


    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 4:17AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Julio, the foil insulation is called tempshield. I got it from the greenhouse mega store. It is usually used to line inside greenhouse walls. I had some extra and found it worked well on my figs. You can staple it together. Note that many other kinds of insulation can work; old carpets are a classic one. Whatever it is make sure there is a complete wind barrier because any heat will get sucked out by the wind otherwise.


    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 9:57AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

It has never been -9F in Ca where they grow olives. If you think it has, please give name of the weather station. Extreme lows in the low to mild teens would be more accurate in olive areas of CA.

Also, freezing ice on your trees will not help. Keeping them covered with ice AND unfrozen/freezing water might help. You have to keep a continuous film of freezing water as long as it stays cold. That can lead to very heavy ice loads and broken trees.

The Fruitnut

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 12:36PM
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softmentor(z9/sunset13 CA desert)

Fruitnut, good addition to my note. I agree. and it's a short term, get you through a freak cold snap, kind of remedy. If you think you are going to need to do this every year, you should consider other possibilities. The best info on this method might be from citrus growers who use it for exceptionally cold snaps.
All in all, stretching the limits of growing regions is a challenge. While it has it's rewards, it means commitment to being there, not on vacation in some nicer climate, the time it takes, the money for materials and such, possibly being up in the cold dead of night doing what it takes. As in my case with citrus, I have been out at 2:00 in the morning freezing my fingers messing with frost protection many many nights. Sometimes it's not exactly fun freezing my fanny off out there. But I look up at the stars on those cold crisp nights and it really is beautiful. and of course a tall glass of not quite ice cold juice fresh squeezed first thing in the morning is quite the treat. Bear in mind that you only have to NOT give them enough protection one time, and you can loose all the time and money and love you put into them.
good luck with your project. Let us know how things go

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 8:21AM
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i planted an arbequenia here in dallas last dec. it survived, & grew 1 ft, to 3 ft. i never covered or protected it, its exposed. a picture from dec is at http://www.smelectronics.us/pomegranatesolives.htm

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 8:25PM
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That olive has done very well. I don't think the low temps here are much lower than Dallas. It got to 10 deg F last year and not below that for the last 10 years. I have one Arbequina and was advised by the owner of the commercial olive oil operation in Wimberly, TX (near Austin) that the Arbequina was not a good choice and to go with Mission. I bought 20 Missions. Since your tree survived 14 deg F I feel better about my Arbequina and Missions since the Arbequina is said to be less hardy than the Missions.

I am still researching the temperatures of the 1990 California freeze. I'm interested in fruitnut's personal experience with the 1990 California freeze and how they know what the temperatures got down to. Look at the links below. Both indicate temps below zero Fahreheit for olive growing areas with refernces to "Details of freeze study from California Agriculture, Volume 47, Number 1" which I don't have but will try to get.

I talked to a Univ Calif olive expert who at least knows of it getting down to 6 deg F and mature olive trees surviving. I'll see if I can find out the coldest area in Calif where they grow olives along with actual weather station temps.

I brought up using the foil type bubble wrap to protect them with the UC olive expert. They said the green wood (new wood) is particularly vulnerable so I should protect the first year and if there is damage not to prune till spring.

I am recording the avg db temp every minute and recording to a data logger and computer so I will know what the temps actually are at this location.

Here are two links talking about the 1990 freeze, one of which stated temps got as low as -9 deg F, the other stating that olives were damaged by temps as low as -4 deg F.
Link 1: http://cetulare.ucdavis.edu/newsletterfiles/Olive_Notes10698.pdf

Link 2:

    Bookmark   November 2, 2007 at 10:34AM
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softmentor(z9/sunset13 CA desert)

just remember when using the covers to protect them, that you don't want to let them get hot or even to warm on the sunny days. You want to let them stay cold hardy for winter. If you let them warm up to much with the covers on they could start to come out of dormancy and then be much more tender to cold.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 1:33AM
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Its going to get down to about 35 degrees Tuesday night with a chance of frost. Should the young olives be covered anytime there is a frost or only below 30 degrees (or below another temp) in your oponion? I wont have the bubble wrap material till the end of the week. After I cover them I plan to remove the cover during the day unless below 20 deg F.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 5:58AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Julio, something like 25F may be the temp to cover them at, the point at which the cold makes them unhappy. Others may have a better recommendation. These foil covers reflect heat during the day so they have the advantage that you can leave them on all day without any risk of overheating (I have measured the temperature myself to verify this). In fact during the day they will keep the tree cooler than if the cover is off if it is a sunny day (again something I measured myself). It is probably best to keep them on until the air temp has warmed above 25 again.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 1:23PM
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Thanks Scott,

I'll go with your recommendation (scottfsmith) unless I hear differently. That sounds very easy to do. I'll have the cover material by the weekend.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 2:06PM
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softmentor(z9/sunset13 CA desert)

that sounds about right to me also. Fruiting trees that require a chill factor do not benefit as much from temp's below 32 as those from 34-40 degrees. Still a 30 degree night should not hurt them and in fact may help to get them adjusted to cold weather and "harden up" for winter.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 10:48PM
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Tuesday night Nov 6th, 2007 in N. Miss. already down to 30 deg. Some areas down to 26. Had pretty heavy frost. Just because it was 1st frost, put old shirts over tomato cages for night. Taking them off next morning before sun went up, noticed frost forming on leaves of olive trees I uncovered. Olive trees look same as before though. All uncovered now. Next time I'll wait till 25 deg but there was a chance of 25 deg last night so played it safe. Still one week till I get Tempshield to make permanent covers.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 10:08AM
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Just wanted to post a follow up. The weather here in N. Mississippi has a lot of extremes. The olive trees have all endured three nights with lows of 30 deg F and two nights down to 28 deg F. There have been a couple of fairly heavy frosts on those nights. The figs have already dropped their leaves. At first I was worried about the olives but found no damage at all even though I did not cover them.

Yesterday it was up to about 76 deg F with rain today and highs tomorrow of 75 deg F also. New growth is already appearing on the olive trees. So I may need to be more cautious the next time it freezes. The reason I waited till the fall to plant was the hot dry summers the last few years. I've had Ginko and Monkey Puzzle seedlings die the last couple of years.

Also I now have the tempshield and have started making bags by enclosing the tomato cages and using foil tape to seal it up. At the bottom I've slitted the bags (tubes) to bend out tabs for bricks to sit on. At the top I've taped the tempshield shut.

Even though we are zone 7A the number of times it gets below 25 deg F may be minimal. Last year it got down to 10 deg w/o hurting the Figs. As I mentioned earlier I remember it going to -6 deg F or so in the 1980's with high on bright sunny day of 5 deg F. Thats what i worry about but it hasn't been below 10 deg in the last 10 years.

I'll keep everyone posted.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 7:56AM
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Another follow up 5/26/08.

Of my 20 missions from Santa Cruz nursery, 7 died with the others developing new growth. Its just now starting to get in the mid 80s here. Until a week ago we didn't need AC because it would hit a high in the 60s or 70s and a low in the 40s or 50s at night.

Two were chewed on by deer and I don't know what happened to the rest. One appeared to be getting new growth but it (was down to 32 deg F at night one night in April after it had been warm) died shortly afterward. Our figs also lost the early crop of figs and they are just now coming out. Another had the top 6" snapped off. I think a rabbit rather than a deer since the cut is at a 45 deg angle. All trees have had a tomato cage and 3 bamboo poles around them to deter deer. Also I tried Millorganite organic fertilizer which is said to deter deer (after the deer chewed on the 2 trees).

All the missions had the top 3 inches or so of growth die back due to the cold weather. The low for the winter was 14 deg F two separate times , with 10 deg F the previous winter. Unfortunately the record low was about -9 deg F in 1954. It was also below zero in the 80s. The good thing is the number of hours below 25 deg F is not that high here, at least recently. This last winter there were only two periods below 25 deg F where I covered the olives with Tempshield. I won't cover them next winter. The Arbequina interestingly (not as cold hardy) had no die back from the cold but was about a year older and now looks to have a hundred or so leaves on it.

I'll get some more this fall and am thinking about adding some Ascolonos since they are also cold hardy. Maybe I would have a lower mortality rate if I planted in the spring instead of the fall.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2008 at 5:06PM
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Dear "julio01",

My name is Everett and I live just south of you in the Water Valley area. I have been in the practice of collecting leaves in the Fall for the past 10 years. Each year, I seal my collected leaves in telephone books until Spring, at which point, I rubber cement them to cardboard and laminate them to make colorful displays that last for about 2-4 years (before they begin to fade).

This year, I am specifically on the hunt to find some olive trees nearby where I live. Someone at work had mentioned that Mississippi University had some olive trees on their campus (which you confirmed by mentioning in one of your reply posts above), but that's a 2 1/2 hour drive from Water Valley. I'm trying to find some trees located closer nearby (within driving distance).

I found your post by plugging "olive trees in Mississippi" into my browser's search engine. So, I became a member and am posting a reply in hopes that I'll reach you in time...

What I'm looking to do is get a few small clippings off the end of some olive tree branches. If your trees' leaves have not already browned or fallen off, could I possibly arrange a meeting to make a few 2"-4" clippings from branch endings on one of your trees for my collection for the 2012-2013 lamination season? I'd be more than happy to make you a leaf laminate this Spring in exchange for some clippings.

Just to show my sincerity in following through with what I say, I have posted links to a few pics from Mr. McCullough's yellow maple tree (he lives at University & Ninth in Oxford) which he gave me permission to take leaves from last Fall (2011). I made him a laminate this Spring (2012) in exchange for leaves from his tree. To view the pics, copy and paste the links below into your browser's address window in a new tab to view them.




I have a portfolio book of prior year's laminations which I can bring along to show you when we meet in person. I hope that you enjoy the three pics and that I'll hear back from you sometime soon (hopefully before your olive tree leaves have perished for the Fall)!


    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 7:20PM
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