Growing pears is very similar in a lot of ways to growing apples- but there are some marked differences that are worth noting.
Most pear varieties need another pear variety to be planted nearby for the successful formation of fruit. Check with the label; if the pear variety is ‘self-fertile’ you need not worry, but there will be less of a crop than if it is planted with another variety of the same pollination group.
If the variety is not self-fertile, the label will stipulate which pollination group it belongs, and which variety needs to be planted nearby. Here is a quick guide;
Pollination group A
Requires one of these neighbours: Louise Bonne de Jersey, Packham’s Triumph, Seckle
Pollination Group B
Pollination Group C
Requires one of these neighbours: Doyenne du Comice, Concorde, Onward
Planting Pear Trees
Pear trees are normally available as bare rooted or containerised plants that are young (up to five years old) and trained by the growers to grow well and develop maximum harvests. Depending on how you receive your plant will determine in which season to plant it.
Choose a site which is well-drained and in a position which benefits from good sunlight. Avoid planting in a part of the garden that is a frost pocket - opened flowers and fruitlets are susceptible to frost damage. Also, avoid planting in an exposed or windy position as pears hate winds, especially cold easterly ones. If growing in a windy site ensure there is a good wind-break nearby.
Avoid planting near larger or overhanging trees. To reduce the possibility of carrying over any dormant disease, do not plant where an old fruit tree has recently been removed. If your garden or allotment is visited by rabbits, then adequate protection must be given to the tree trunks using wire netting or plastic tree guards.
Planting Bare-rooted Pear Trees
Planting time: November to March
Preparing the soil: The soil should be thoroughly dug and, at the same time, incorporate some bulky compost or Organic Extra Manure, and a feed of Fish, Blood & Bone or Light & Easy garden compost. Make sure any deep rooted perennial weeds are removed with a fork, or shallow-rooted weeds which you can remove with a hoe.
Most pear varieties will thrive well in heavier soils, so if your soil is sandy or chalky, incorporate lots of manure into the soil to increase its fertility and improve its texture.
Planting method: Dig a planting hole 15cm (6in) wider than the root system once it has been spread out, and to a depth whereby the soil mark from the nursery on the stem of the young tree will be just covered. This should mean that the graft union (the knobbly part at the base of the stem) is about is 12-15cm (5-6in) above soil level when you have finished planting.
Fork into the sides of the hole which will encourage the roots to penetrate the surrounding soil and establish well.
If you want to add a tree-stake for stabilising the tree in a windy site, bang it into the hole before the tree is planted, so you don’t damage roots by tapping in the stake after the young tree has been planted.
After placing the tree in the hole, spread out the roots and add layers of soil, firming down with your foot. Repeat until you’ve filled the hole with soil. The tree should be firm enough in the soil that it does not up-root when you pull the main stem and it shows resistance.
Water the area generously after planting and add a layer of warming and moisture-locking mulch around the tree, making sure that the mulch does not come into direct contact with the main stem.
If you have added a stake, tie to the tree by means of a tree tie ensuring that it’s firmly attached but allows a small degree of movement.
Planting Containerised Pear Trees
Instructions (see bare-rooted, but note the follwing).
Planting time: All year round (though avoid high-summer and deep winter)
Planting method: Remove any weeds that may be growing on top of the container, and tease out some of the roots that are circling around the root ball. This will encourage the roots to penetrate the surrounding soil and establish well.
Feeding Pear Trees
Incorporating bulky compost and/ or manure into the soil before planting will increase nutrient levels in the soil and give the young apple tree a good start.
Apple trees will produce flowers and fruit any time up to five years. Until they flower, feed with a general purpose fertiliser that you can add to water. Once the tree starts to flower, change this to a feed high in potash, like tomato food, which encourages good flowering and fruiting.
Watering Pear Trees
In the first year of planting, water generously. A good rule of thumb is to water to the point of creating a small pool around the stem. Let this absorb into the ground and repeat. Water morning and evening in times of drought, and one or the other during wet periods.
Pears dislike and tolerate drought much less than apples. So bear this in mind with your watering regime, watering mornings and evenings especially in the flowering/ fruiting season.
It’s good to add a mulch after planting which conserves water in the soil.
Training Pear Trees
As the tree grows, you’ll want to keep it healthy and free from disease. Just prune out dead, damaged or diseased stems as you notice them, and once the tree has grown more than five or six main stems from the central trunk you can remove any stems that cross over others or are growing into the centre of the tree.
You want to attain an overall framework of branches that are outward growing so the centre of the tree is nice and airy. This prevents diseases building up.
You may find that pears produce lots of fruit one year and then a lot less the following year. This is because pears are more prone to biennial bearing. You can either live with this, and plan it into your harvesting expectations or encourage a more consistent yearly harvest by rubbing out buds from the stubby fruiting stems (spurs) on high-yielding years.
Harvesting and Storing Pears
Harvest a number of pears daily, rather than a glut less often, picking the fullest and most coloured fruits. Remove by twisting the pear first and then tugging gently. Pulling pears off the tree forcefully may damage remaining stems, and buds that will develop fruit next year.
Pears don’t store as well as apples. You can store for up to a month in a cool, dry place, but after that they lose flavour and are prone to rot quicker than apples.
Inspect pears regularly and remove pears that are rotten or rotting, to avoid spread.
Pests and Diseases of Pears - Bullfinches, Caterpillar, Brown rot