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  • Writer's pictureAlex Subrizi

Our lower grove

Updated: Feb 5

As noted in an earlier post, we're in the process of breathing new life into portions of our olive grove that have been sitting neglected for some years. This effort began this past spring with a deep prune and feeding (strictly organic fertilizer) of our so-called "outer grove": the 200 trees that sit on a more or less level plot of land between the southern run of Poggiosole's perimeter fence and our southern property line. When we harvested olives last October, our crop was bumped significantly thanks to these trees. Many of them had little to no fruit, but about two dozen had a good deal of olives, and all but a very few were healthy, if a bit starved. This motivated me to put together a plan to nourish and look after those trees going forward.

As we approach this year's harvest, I'm looking down the east face of the hill our lodgings are perched on. Guests who have walked around our inner grove over the past couple of years will recall two gates along

that southern stretch of fencing. One is by the pool and accesses, veering to the right upon passing through, a large open field (our campo alto). The other is near our sheds, from which a steep, narrow downhill leads to a portion of our land few guests will have explored given the waist-high grass and thick thorny brush rendering passage all but impossible. In June we ran a flail mower down a portion of that slope, clearing the way to Poggiosole's "lower grove", campo basso and, further downhill, our (still nearly impassable) campo rozzo. Our lower grove is home to about 180 olive trees planted, we're estimating, between 80 and 100 years ago. Overgrown for a decade or longer (local hunters have revelled in the ample cover from which to stalk deer and wild boar) it's more steeply sloped compared with our upper grove, and an absolute no-go for my zero-turn Toro Timecutter. Not easily deterred, a couple of weeks ago I paid a friend with a proper tractor to clean the lower grove up. This made it possible to inspect each row of trees and take a few pictures, one of which sits at the top of this post.

Our lower grove trees are by and large healthy. A few are presently loaded with olives; most are not, and that's not surprising. What's striking is that they have, through years of only the roughest and most cursory pruning, kept up good stature and size. Compared with some of our hitherto neglected upper-grove trees (before we gave them a major haircut this past spring), our lower grove trees are more compact with a denser canopy. This may be due to the greater slope of the lower grove's terrain, which facilitates drainage and the escape of cold air currents. Whatever the reason, our master pruner Vittorio has said our lower grove trees will need less work (less "re-forming" as he puts it) relative to their upper grove brethren to reach a productive state. That's motivating me to put together a plan to nourish and look after those trees going forward. I'm repeating myself.

My partner Giovanna and my eldest son Elio are justifiably concerned. When my folks ran Poggiosole they got along fine with the 70 or so trees in the inner grove, plus the 20-odd in front of our sheds and along the Strada Romita. By integrating the outer grove's 200 trees in 2022 we took that total to around 300 trees. Now that I'm eyeing the lower grove, we're approaching five hundred. May even squeeze past that figure with the two dozen trees Vittorio and I plan on planting in the outer grove this November to plug some gaps and introduce some new varieties thereby improving pollination and future yields. The way things are going, I may soon be perched atop a proper tractor myself.

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