How to Grow Pears
How to Grow Pears
Growing the finest pear is a more demanding and worthwhile task than for most other fruits, but they are beautiful in blossom so they enhance any area, especially when trained. Pears need a fairly rich soil, but it is moisture that is most important. They will not fruit well, in terms of quality or quantity if they are dry at their roots, so alwaysthem heavily and don’t allow grass to grow beneath because pears cannot cope with the competition.
Late frosts often damage the blossoms and young fruitlets, so most varieties are best grown as espaliers on a sheltered wall. ‘Jargonelle’ and ‘Williams’ will crop on a cold wall, and they also respond well to cordon training on a C rootstock.
Growing several varieties in this way will ensure pollination and spread the eating season. After all, there’s not much you can do with a big tree full of ripe pears. Most pears need pollinating partners, though some such as ‘Concorde’ are self-fertile, but give better crops if cross-pollinated. ‘Dr Jules Guyot’, ‘Conference’ and ‘Durondeau’ are also partly self-fertile.
With pears, there are fewer pests and diseases to worry about than with apples. Leaf blackening in spring is usually from harsh winds, but if the flowers and leaves wither and go brown it may be fireblight which must be cut out and burnt before it spreads. Leaf blistering is caused by tiny mites. This pest was traditionally controlled with a lime sulphur wash, but this is no longer available. I find soft soap sprays work instead. Sometimes the fruitlets blacken and drop, if these have maggots inside it’s pear midge. Collect the fruitlets up and burn them and lay heavywhich can be raked aside in winter to expose the pests pupae to birds, or run underneath to eat them.
Early- and mid-season pears are best picked just as the first start to fall. If left on the tree too long they go woolly. Pears can be picked more under-ripe than most fruits and will ripen slowly if kept cool, faster when warm, but keep them humid or they’ll shrivel. Don’t pick unless they come off easily, and handle them more gently than explosives. Watch them carefully while ripening because they go over in a matter of hours.
Late pears need to be left until bird damage is too great, then picked with a stalk, and kept in the cool and dark for a few months — they will then ripen up rapidly when brought into the warm.
Do not wrap pears in paper as with apples and never store the two fruits near one another because the flavour of each will be tainted. Pear juice is difficult to press as they are sour under-ripe and like toothpaste once ripe. Good pear cider is much more difficult to make than apple and really requires the proper perry pears, so be warned.
Excellent mid-season choices are ‘Clapp’s Favourite’, ‘Dr Jules Guyot’, Jargonelle’ and ‘Souvenir de Congres’. ‘Improved Fertility’ is very hardy and crops heavily and regularly.
Other superb pears for late in the season are ‘Glou Morceau’ and ‘Durondeau’, which keep into the New Year. There are hundreds of old and many new varieties of which ‘Merton Pride’, ‘Concorde’ and ‘Beth’ have good flavour and are worth considering.