Pear trees fit well into an organic home-stead. Pear trees are quite hardy and grow well on deep, well-drained loam soil with ample moisture. A heavy mulch or permanent leguminous cover crop produces the best growth. Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilization—it encourages disease—but mulch or barnyard manure is perfectly safe.
Pear Tree Planting and Culture
Dwarf pears are generally planted 12 feet apart in each direction; full-sized trees, 16 to 20 feet apart. Nearly all varieties require cross-pollination; any two varieties that blossom at the same time will cross-pollinate each other. Pear trees are well adapted to espalier training, and thus are a good fruit for small gardens.
Pears are generally planted as one-year-old whips, which are headed back to 30 inches. At the end of the first summer, all except three evenly spaced branches are removed. Each year, these are headed back moderately and three or four shoots are left to make secondary branches. Once the tree comes into bearing, only a little pruning is necessary. Remove enough wood to induce new shoot growth and thin to prevent overbearing.
Pear Insects and Diseases
Fire-blight fungus is one of the most serious pests of pears. Very few trees are completely resistant and those that are usually produce poorer fruit.
Fire blight attacks leaves, flowers, fruit, branches, and trunks, making the infected portions blackish as if they had been scorched. There is no known cure for the blight except surgery. Trees should be inspected for blight every two or three days from blooming time to midsummer. When it is found, the infected portions should be cut out, using sterilized instruments. The cut should be made at least six, and preferably 12 inches back toward the roots. All material removed should be burned.
Pears are not bothered by many other diseases or insects, but occasionally scabs, psyllids, curculios, or codling moths may attack them.
Pear scab appears as a velvety olive-green spot on the fruit, becoming black and scabby at maturity. On the leaves the scab makes black spots. The disease is favored by warm, damp weather which also fosters blight. Remove any leaves or fruit infected with scab, and keep the area under the tree free of fallen leaves and fruit.
Psyllids are jumping insects which produce honeydew that invites infections of fungal molds harmful to the tree. The insects attack the blossoms and prevent fruit set. The best preventive measure is a thorough dormant-oil spray in the spring.
Among the favorites of the disease-resistant varieties are the Bartlett, Seckel, Clapp Favorite, Gorham, and Other blight-resistant varieties include Moonglow and Magness. These bear sweet fruit. Colette is a dwarf variety in ripens in mid-August to early September. Nelis is a tasty, yellow green pear and very large fruit. Beurre Bosc and D’Anjou produce hardy fruit.