Pear trees, both ornamental and fruiting, are the easiest trees for home gardeners to grow. Hardy in zones 4 through 9, pear trees need a well-drained soil with a pH of 6 to 6 1/2. Northern gardeners should plant pear trees on a northern or eastern-facing slope to avoid early blooms that will be damaged by frost. Southern gardeners should provide pear trees with afternoon shade. If you have limited space, espalier a pear tree on a southern-facing wall, or grow dwarf rootstock in containers.
Tips for growing Pear Trees!
Pears need a location with good circulation where the ground is slightly elevated and sloping. This is because the trees bloom early and the flowers may be damaged in the spring by frosty air, which settles in low-lying areas. Pears should be grown in heavier soil types such as clayey loam with porous subsoil, or medium or sandy loam. Pear trees will not survive on ground that is saturated with water. Pear trees may be planted in the fall in mild climates or the spring in cooler ones.
They should be set 20 feet apart, except the more vigorous varieties, which need to be spaced 25 feet apart. Soak the roots in water for 30 to 60 minutes before setting in the ground. The hole for the tree should be large enough to spread the roots about naturally.
The soil should be worked in and around the roots to eliminate air pockets. There shouldn't be a depression around the tree when you have finished planting and the tree should be set at the same level as it was previously growing. Water the tree thoroughly and check for air pockets, carefully lifting the tree to the correct level if it settles.
Fertilization - When fertilizing your trees it is important not to cause overactive growth, which makes them more susceptible to the fire blight. When the tree is first planted, a half-cup of a balanced fertilizer may be placed in a 2-foot circle around the tree at least 6 inches from the trunk. This is done each spring until the fourth year at which time 2 cups may be set around the tree each spring.
Pruning - Pruning, which should mainly be done in the winter, should be light and just enough to develop a strong tree that is able to handle the weight of the fruits. When a one-year-old tree is first planted, it should be cut back to 3½ or 4 feet high and all side branches should be removed; this is done to compensate for the loss of roots during the planting process. At the end of the growing season, 4 to 6 main branches are chosen. They should be pointing in different directions and spaced about 6 inches apart. Remove the other branches. Pruning the subsequent years should be light and consist of producing a well-shaped tree with strong branches. Weak crotches are liable to breakage as they grow heavier; this can be prevented by cutting off one of the branches while it is young. On trees that are at fruit-bearing age, central branches that are thin and weak should be removed as well as any that are blight-infected.
Pollination - Pears are self-sterile and need more than one variety planted within 40 or 50 feet of each other in order to cross-pollinate. Seckel and Bartlett do not pollinate each other; therefore, they will need another variety for pollination to occur.
Thinning & Harvest - In order to produce large fruit and prevent branches from breaking, the fruit will need to be thinned before mid-summer. One pear should be left per cluster and the clusters should be approximately 6 inches apart. Remove the excess pears carefully to avoid damaging the others. Hold the stem with the thumb and index finger and push the pear off the stem with the other fingers to leave the stem attached to the spur. Pears are harvested greener than other fruits because they ripen better off rather than on the trees. Pears that are allowed to ripen on the tree turn brown at the core. Care must be taken when picking Pears because they have tender skin. They will ripen at room temperature in 1 or 2 weeks. Unripened pears should be stored as close to 32º F as possible.
Information for caring for a Pear Tree
Pears have been cultivated since very early times (Pliny, the Roman writer, knew of 39 distinct varieties) and they may have been introduced to Britain during the Roman occupation. They were certainly grown in monastic gardens and were popular in Tudor times. The nineteenth century saw the introduction of hundreds of new varieties, many originating in France and Belgium. Today, the number of varieties favored by market growers can be numbered on one's fingers.
In the opinion of most people dessert pears have a flavor superior to that of apples; it is more pronounced and the pears themselves are frequently much juicier. The best dessert pears have a melting consistency like butter (and hence the French word beurre applied to many varieties), although, for texture, many people prefer a crisp apple.
Although pear trees are longer-lived than apples, they tend to spur more freely forming too many clusters of buds. They are less prone to pest and disease attack; they flower earlier and therefore are more vulnerable to spring frosts. A few varieties only are suitable for growing in the open in most parts of Britain. Others need the protection of a wall, and some not only require such shelter but also will thrive only in our warmer districts.
Although all dessert pears can be cooked if they are picked while still slightly unripe, particular varieties are usually grown for this purpose. Special varieties, too, are grown for the making of perry; a fermented drink made from the juice in much the same way as cider is from apple juice.
A slightly acid soil suits pears best and a very alkaline soil should be avoided as, in such conditions, pears suffer badly from iron deficiency.
Compared with apples, pears are more likely to withstand poor drainage, but are less able to tolerate dryness. A very light sandy soil, therefore, must be liberally enriched with humus-forming and moisture-holding materials. The ideal soil is a deep; rich loam somewhere between light and heavy.
Standard or half-standard trees take many years to come into bearing and eventually become too large for the average garden. Bush-type trees, pyramids, cordons, fans or espaliers are, therefore, more appropriate for small gardens, and these are usually grown on 'Malling Quince A' rootstocks.
The form of tree to be grown depends rather on the space available. For the open garden, bushes, pyramids or cordons are the usual choice. Bushes take up most room but their maintenance takes least time. Pyramids come into bearing more quickly and their small size makes spraying, picking and protection from birds easier. Their pruning, however, takes rather more attention. Cordons require posts and wires for support but have the merit of taking up little room individually so that a single row can comprise a collection of varieties providing a succession of fruit. A row of cordons, too, can sometimes be planted on the southern side of a wall or close-boarded fence, so that full advantage is taken of the wind shelter thus provided.
Fans (trained specimens) can be grown in the open, with suitable posts and wires for support, but this is the best type of tree to grow against walls. Espalier training may also be used against walls and espalier pears may be planted as a decorative yet useful edging to vegetable plots. The latter idea used to be more popular than it is today; the drawback is that fruit planted on the edge of the vegetable plot is liable to receive too much nitrogen so that growth is encouraged rather than fruiting, and suitable spraying is sometimes difficult where the drift may be harmful to other crops.
Planting should be done between leaf fall and March-the sooner the better, and provided the soil is friable, following normal lines of procedure. It is particularly important that the union between scion and rootstock should be well above soil level (10cm [4in]). If this point is not observed and roots are formed by the scion, the dwarfing effect of the rootstock will be obviated and the tree will. not only grow too large but will be many years coming into bearing. It should be noted, too, that where trees have been double-worked (because of incompatibility between quince and the chosen variety), there will be two unions and it is the lower one which must be quite clear of the soil.
After planting, staking and making firm, it is advisable to put down a 5cm (2in) deep mulch of garden compost, well rotted stable manure, peat or leafmould which will help to keep the soil moist in the event of a dry spring. Newly planted pears should be inspected regularly in dry weather and watered liberally if there is any tendency to dry out.
For quality fruit the following planting distances should be regarded as the minimum: cordons (1 x 2m [3 x 6ft]), fantrained and espalier on 'Quince C' (4m [12ft] apart) on 'Quince A' (5m [15ft] apart) dwarf pyramids (1.3 x 2.3m [4 x 7ft]) on 'Quince A' (5m [15ft] each way), standard and half-standard (11m [35ft] each way).
The subsequent manuring of pear trees should be adjusted according to performance.
In many cases pears will be maintained in good health by an annual (spring) application of rotted dung-a dressing on the surface about 5cm (tin) deep-this mulch then being gently pricked into the soil surface with the fork in autumn. As an alternative or where no dung is available, a mixture of chemical fertilizers should be given early in February; 56g (2oz) of superphosphate of lime, 28g (1oz) of sulphate of ammonia and 14g (0.5oz) of sulphate of potash per sq. m sq. yd) sprinkled as far as the roots extend (approximately the same as the spread of the branches or the height of the tree, whichever is greater) and raked into the surface.
In general the pruning of pears follows similar lines to that of apples (see Fruit pruning), and so does the spraying to control pests and diseases.
In harvesting pears it is particularly important to pick at the right moment. With early varieties it is preferable to pick a little too soon than to wait too long, but with mid-season and late keeping sorts the pears should be picked only when they separate easily from the spur on being lifted just above the horizontal in the palm of the hand and then given a very slight twist.
In choosing pear varieties to plant it is necessary to consider not only the purpose (dessert, cooking, bottling) and personal taste, but also the provision of suitable pollinators which must flower at the same time as the variety to be pollinated.
The varieties 'Jargonelle', `Josephine de Malines' and 'Packham's Triumph' are tip-bearers and on that account should be avoided for pyramids, cordons, fans, or other forms of trained tree.