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Gardeners Advice

It’s all going pear-shaped
4 Dec

It’s all going pear-shaped

Posted By: rocket veg Category: Plant Care, Seasonal Tips

Ever considered planting a Pear tree? Maybe you’ve heard the saying, ‘Walnuts and Pears, you plant for your heirs’, the implication being that Pear (and Walnut) trees take a good few years to reach maturity before producing their first fruit. This might have held true a century or two ago, but is certainly not the case with modern cultivars which should reward you, rather than your heirs, with a delicious crop in double quick time. As well as providing you with lovely fruit, Pear trees are a joy in spring with blossom of the purest white which radiates the smallest amount of sunshine and fills the garden with brightness.

Planting a Pear tree

Winter is the ideal time to plant a Pear tree, or any other fruit and ornamental trees for that matter, during their dormant period. You may even be lucky enough to pick a few pears in the first season once your tree has settled in and established a strong root system.

If you are planting the tree in open ground, start by choosing a sheltered spot which will get a lot of sun and prepare the soil by removing any deep-rooted weeds, then fork in some good, rich compost or well-rotted manure. Next, dig a hole which is just deep enough to take the root ball, but plenty wide enough to add more good compost around the roots which should be carefully teased out. Once the tree is in place, firm the surrounding soil with your wellie-booted feet. If the planting site is exposed to strong winds, add a tree stake and secure the tree to it with a special tie.

Growing a Pear tree in a container

Where space is restricted, a Pear tree will grow well in a good sized pot. Start by putting in a layer of broken crocks; then use John Innes No 3 to fill in around the roots of the tree. Be sure to keep the soil in the container moist during dry weather, but don’t stand the pot in a saucer where stale water will collect and rot the roots of the tree.

A word about rootstock

Pear trees are sold either with bare roots or in pots. In both cases, the eventual overall height and spread of the tree will be determined by the rootstock, young trees sold in garden centres generally being grafted onto either Quince A or Quince C rootstock which works well as Quince and Pear are closely related. Quince C is less vigorous than Quince A, so if you intend growing your Pear tree in a pot, look for the former rootstock. You might also see Eline rootstock which is similar in vigour and productivity to Quince C.

Training against a wall or fence

Pear trees look wonderful when trained against a sunny wall, so if you have a suitable location and fancy doing a bit of nifty pruning, why not give it a go. If you search the internet, you will find numerous websites with advice about how and when to prune fruit trees to form a desired shape and encourage prolific cropping. Both Quince A or Quince C will be fine for either cordons, espalier or fan-trained trees.

When to harvest

Ideally, Pears should be picked just before they are fully ripe and early, desert varieties should be tested for ripeness by tasting one for its sweetness, whereas later varieties should come away easily when held in the hand and gently twisted from the branch. If you want to enjoy your Pears at their best, store them in a cool, dark place for a week or two to allow maximum ripeness to develop.

Varieties of Pear to consider

Conference’: a classic desert Pear with a distinctive elongated shape – a truly pear-shaped Pear.

William’s Bon Crétien’: an early-cropping variety which produces large, pale green fruits.

Concorde’: heavy crops of sweet, juicy fruit with a lovely yellow/russet colour and excellent flavour.

Sensation’: striking red foliage in spring and red skinned fruit.

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