Pear tree care

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How to care for a Pear tree

The
pears grown in England is the European Pear which derives
from Pyrus communis, native of the temperate
parts of Europe and the western part of southern Asia
as far as the Himalayas. In America some varieties are
grown which are hybrids between the European Pear (as
represented by `William’s Bon Chretien’, known in America
as ‘Bartlett’) and Pyrus serotina, the Japanese
sand pear.

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.

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