Joined: Mon Sep 27, 2010 11:48 am
Pruning a pear tree
I have a pear tree. It is grafted and has two varieties. One is an Asian variety. The other is a traditional pear variety. The tree is relatively small, that is less than 10' in height and perhaps a drip line that does not exceed 10' in diameter, but is more than 10 years old. It is located close to a garage and shaded from a much more mature canopy of local deciduous trees and its growth is focused to the west where is receives the most sun. I would like to prune it for fruit production. Last year I cottoned swabbed the blossoms of the two varieties (not sure if the tree cross pollinates or if some other local blossoms are doing the job but since I did not see much bee activity, so I thought I would try swabbing the blossoms). I got 30 or more Asian and a slightly lower number of traditional. The squirrels ate all of the Asian prior to full ripening, but following fruit thinning, I did pick a dozen or so of the traditional variety and enjoyed them.
New shoots from last summer are vertical and 10 to 20" in length with a couple that apprach 3'. I seem to be most successful at getting fruit from the short, rather knarley ones. I assume this is normal. Any thoughts for what I sould do? If phone conversation may faciliate communication, I would be happy to e mail you my local Portland phone number, or perhaps someone in the near in, NE Portland my actually live close by, we could discuss it at the growing site.
Thanks for your consideration.
Joined: Fri Apr 20, 2012 5:01 pm
Re: Pruning a pear tree
Pears require a lot of pruning every year because they send up so many vertical shoots that produce very little fruit while shading the tree with thousands of leaves. This is known as "apical dominanace". In order to get more fruit, you must get more light to shine on all of the buds in the center of the tree. I will assume your tree has one or two main trunks growing up, and this is not a bush or open center tree with 3 to 5 "trunks"?? Assuming this is true, then in order to properly prune your tree, you should:
1) Prune off any large scaffold branches in the top half of the tree that are significantly shading the rest of the tree. You can cut back to a short stub if you like, or you can take the whole branch out where it meets the trunk. It is very likely that you will need to remove a good 2 to 4 large limbs in the top half of the tree in this manner, and this is okay! It will allow more light inside your tree which will help your tree to fruit more.
2) Remove all shoots that are growing straight up. On a mature pear tree, there will probably be HUNDREDS of them. You need to be diligent, and remove every single vertical shoot, except for one at the top of the main trunk. This one will be the new central leader and will continue the growth of the main trunk.
3) Remove any branches below 24 inches of the ground, including any suckers growing from out of the roots. These just suck energy out of the main tree as they are shaded and don't produce fruit.
4) Remove any dead branches, or branches that are rubbing against others. These areas can introduce disease.
5) Do NOT prune the tips of your branches as this will produce vigorous growth near the new tip, which produces more shade and thus less fruit. However, if you have done this in the past and have a lot of vigorous branching at the tips of your branches, you can remove some of these branches in their entirety where they meet the main scaffold branch or the trunk of the tree, in order to thin out this growth and allow more light in.
After you're all done, you should have removed roughly 1/3 of all the wood in the whole tree. And this is fine! It should improve the number and quality of your fruit significantly.
You might also wish to consider "girdling" or "ringing" the main trunk of the tree, maybe a foot off the ground. This is optional, but it will significantly slow down the vegetative growth of the tree and send it more into fruiting mode. To do this, use a saw to cut a shallow notch in the bark all the way around the trunk. Don't go too deep -- 1/8 inch depth is plenty. Don't worry -- the bark will heal itself over the course of one season. However, in the meantime until it heals, since the nutrients of the tree are transported primarily through the bark and not the old inner wood, growth slows way down and this "calms" the tree down and gets it to fruit more.
If you follow some or all of the recommendations above, I am confident you will see better production this year and next. You will need to continue these steps every year, because each season a pear tree will send up hundreds more new vertical shoots that will shade the tree too much in the following season. Cut them all off every winter and your tree will produce more and better quality fruit.
Best of luck to you.