Pear

Pears can be grown as standard or dwarf trees as well as in the form of cordons, espaliers and fans. Pears need warmth to grow well, which is one reason why they are often grown against a wall. The warmth is needed not only during the Spring at blossom time - they flower early and are particularly susceptible to frosts - but also during the Summer and Autumn so that fruit can ripen properly.  In cold years, when the pears remain hard, they can be cooked, often poached to make them soft and edible.

Pear trees are vigorous. It is more usual to grow a pear tree that has been grafted onto a rootstock to curb its vigour. This means any suckers that appear below the graft should be removed. As with apples, pears must be grown near a different variety so that the blossom can be pollinated. Unfortunately you can not use any variety - the trees must be compatible.

Diagram by Graham Burnett

Cultivation
Pear trees must have a sheltered, warm site and fertile, free draining, but moisture retentive soil. Add plenty of organic material while preparing the ground. Set out new plants any time between late Autumn and Spring with favourable weather conditions. Planting distances vary according to the type of plant. Bush trees can be up to 15 ft apart, dwarf pyramids 5 ft, cordons 30 inches and espaliers / fans 15 ft apart. Stake free standing trees to prevent wind rock. Mulch with manure in the Spring. Thoroughly water during dry spells. If the crop is heavy, thin out young fruit in early midsummer so that they do not touch.

Pruning and Training
Most varieties of pears are spur-bearers, which means that they produce fruit on spurs that grow on two-year-old or older wood. The leaders new growth can, therefore, be safely cut back in Winter by about a third of its length and laterals can be pruned to three or four buds. spurs are readily produced and should be thinned once the tree is established. Before starting to prune and shape a tree, always remove any dead, dying or weak growth and then work with what's left

Harvesting and Storage
The picking time for pears is crucial. the fruit should be just ripe, any that is left on the tree beyond this stage will soon become over ripe. Pick as soon as the fruit comes away readily to a twisting motion of the hand. Early varieties should be picked just before they ripen, but mid-season and late varieties should be left until they are ripe. Pears can be stored in slatted trays in a cool room. Only store sound fruit and position them so that they do not touch each other.

Pests and Diseases
Pears are prone to a number of problems, including aphids, codling moth and pear midge. Diseases include fireblight, canker, scab and brown rot. Fireblight will probably mean the removal of the entire tree: it must then be burnt or destroyed.