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How to grow Pears

Pears quick links

Pears Growing Guide

Pears are the grandfather of the orchard or kitchen garden – although they take a few years to reach the fruiting stage, they can be expected to live for up to a century, or even two, while producing plenty of sweet and juicy crops. With careful site selection and preparation, these trees will repay your efforts handsomely for the rest of your life.

Pears are planted, trained and pruned in much the same way as apples, but there are some subtle differences. They are slightly less tolerant to very cold temperatures or wind. The trees flower two to three weeks earlier than apples, too, so place them in a sheltered, warm position on your plot that isn’t prone to late frosts or blustery weather. Most varieties require a pollinating partner, so you will need to plant more than one tree to ensure they successfully set fruit. Any nursery or garden centre will be able to advise you as to which cultivars should be grouped together. If you don’t have a large plot, you’ll be relieved to hear that the versatile plants may be grown as single-stemmed cordons or trained against a wall or fence to minimise their spread. Most are grafted onto a dwarfing quince rootstock to stop them from growing too large.

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Pears quick links

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Caring for your Pears plants + problems

Recently planted trees will need to be kept well-watered during their first summer to help them settle in and establish, but even mature pears may require watering during droughts.

Irrigate the base of trees so that at least 20 litres are applied to each one at a time. Do this every few weeks while the dry spell continues. You can help lock moisture into the soil each spring when you sprinkle a top-dressing of general-purpose organic fertiliser over the ground in February or March. Add a handful per tree and then apply a mulch of organic material. This will also help to feed the plant as it breaks down and enters the soil. Spread it at least 5cm thick, leaving a clear band 15cm from the base of the trunk so as not to cause rotting.

In about June, some of the excess fruit will naturally fall from the tree. A few weeks after this, when they begin to point downwards, you will need to intervene and thin them a little more. As painful as it may be to snip away some of your valuable crop, it will help those remaining to swell to a decent size. Cut away fruitlets to leave one at regular intervals along every 10cm of branch length.

How to harvest Pears

Pears are ready for picking when the base of the fruit begins to change colour. They will finish ripening off the tree, so needs a few days at room temperature to soften up and become really juicy. Pick early varieties while they are still hard. Later types will be ready if they come away easily from the tree when cupped, lifted and gently twisted.

Pears do not store for as long as apples, but most late-season types should keep for at least a month and some will last until Christmas or New Year. Store only intact, unbruised fruit and do not wrap them individually in paper – instead lay them out onto wooden slats so that they are not touching. Keep the pears in a cool, frost-free place that is not subject to temperature fluctuations. Bring them indoors as needed to continue ripening, selecting those that are beginning to go soft where the stalk enters the top of the fruit.

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