How to Keep a Pear Tree Healthy


Unfortunately, many people can underestimate how easy it is for a pear tree to be stricken with ill health, including myself. Seeing some of your tree branches dying and the tree itself producing poor fruit can be a depressing experience.

Some actions that can be implemented to improve the health of pear trees include:

  • Pruning of the tree
  • Removing suckers from the base of the tree
  • Preventing worms getting into the fruit by implementing codling moth traps
  • Fighting off fire blight

End of winter or early spring pruning for optimal tree health

Generally speaking, late winter to very early spring is usually the best time to prune pear trees. This time of year can be the best time to prune your pear tree, because you get to see what branches are  dead or healthy.

Your tree is about to to use a lot of energy for spring growth. By cutting away the branches that aren’t healthy or desirable, the tree’s energy will flow into the healthier branches, meaning that overall you have a healthier tree.

The above also explains why  pruning during autumn is such a bad idea. In autumn, instead of the tree using energy, the tree well actually withhold  releasing energy. This means the tree will find it difficult to heal it’s wounds from cutting and trimming that may take place.

Remember not to prune too early. Pruning too early during the height of winter may lead to increase sucker growth from the rootstock that could decrease the fruitfulness and health of your tree.

Pros and cons of pruning after spring arrives 

A benefit of pruning in spring is that you now can more clearly see which branches are healthiest and most productive.

The cons of pruning after spring arrives are significant however. When you prune in spring the tree has already used up a good bit of its energy on growing its branches. This means you’re not getting the the highest productive efficiency from your tree regarding healthy and fruitful branch growth.  This underlines the importance of pruning a little bit earlier. For the vast majority of pear tree growers they want their trees to be as healthy and productive as possible. Avoiding pruning later in spring may just help you achieve this result.

Some of the benefits of pruning during the summer

One of the big benefits of pruning in summer is that you can target new shoots that have grown on the tree. By removing these shoots you can ensure that the other older branches that are healthy receive more sunlight. The extraction of these newbies also improve the circulation of air around the other  branches of the tree. This circulation of air may help prevent unwanted disease and pests making their presence felt on the tree.

The tree also doesn’t have as much energy  as spring, therefore by removing unneeded branches the tree’s energy is focused on the more established and productive branches. The energy can hence be more effectively used.

Pruning in summer can be a good idea for  older trees that have bloomed for many many years. You may choose to prune your tree during the late winter/early spring period and then again in the summer.

What to prune for pear tree health

If you have planted a new pear tree whip or you have just transplanted a very young tree, then don’t be afraid to cut off up to a third of it. This will focus the energy of the tree on fewer branches and on the roots. This process overall gives you a better chance of having a tree that will go on to be stronger and healthier in the coming years. 

The process of pruning  a pear tree is to give you the best chance for it to be as healthy and productive as possible. Therefore, for young and slightly older trees you should prune away any unwanted branch that comes in contact with or blocks the sunlight of a branch that you would like to see remain. Additionally, you should remove branches that are growing inwards  towards the tree as these branches might undermine optimal air flow around your pear tree. These actions will all increase the chances of you having a healthier tree with better fruit.

What training system should you use?

For pear trees a central leader training system is often recommended. The tree usually has natural leader branches, a growth pattern that is upright and long-lived fruit spurs. You should hence consider keeping the side branches in check if you want optimal fruit growth. This system uses this strategy and results in a cone or pyramid shaped tree.

Get rid of those suckers

There’s not many things in gardening that I despise more than suckers. Suckers enjoy sprouting up from the roots at the base of the tree. They develop from the attached rootstock of your tree and possibly won’t produce any fruit or pears. Be on the look out for suckers and don’t be hesitant in removing them, as they can prevent your pear tree from achieving its full potential.

Keep worms away from your pears

The codling moth is a type of moth that uses fruit trees to reproduce. Their larvae use fruit to feed on. Hence, they pose a major risk for pear tree enthusiasts.

Remove all rotting fruit from under the tree and any pears from the tree with worm holes in them. These pears can be deposed of. Always keep your orchard or ground under your trees as neat as you can. Not only does this lower the chances of more codling moths borrowing into the ground to spawn further generations, it also makes your area a more pleasant place to work in.

Codling moth traps incorporate pheromones that attract male codling moths. They are usually hung from branches around the pear tree. By capturing many males, this can lead to a reduction of codling moths being reproduced. These traps also work as an indicator for when codling moths have arrived to the area.

After codling moths have started to become trapped in these devices you can move on to use sprays. It should be noted that many people are hesitant in using sprays, especially if they wish to grow organic pears. Luckily, there are numerous organic sprays out there that you can use in your battle against codling moths.

Sprays should be use on trees that have no bees. So, if there are no flowers on your pear trees yet and if you see no bees on the tree then you should be good to go.

Prevent fire blight

Transmitted by insects, fire blight can cause serious damage to pear trees. You can see from the above picture it’s usual appearance. In addition to patches of leaves turning brown, there is often an oozing watery substance on the branches where the infection occurs. The disease can kill not only branches, but also the main trunk of the tree. This means that the disease can be potentially lethal for your pear tree.

Watch out for it in warm and wet springs. This type of weather is a good breathing ground for the bacteria. Also, be reluctant to use too much fertilizer on young trees. The rapid growth of these trees can stimulate the growth of fire flight.

Pruning can be a risky endeavor in trying to remove the plight, as the hand saw or shears can pick up the disease when they are used to cut off the infected branches. So, you will need to use disinfectant on your tools between use. You will also need to cut about 12 inches below the infected area.

Sprays can be implemented in removing the plight. Liquid copper can be used on many infections that harm fruit trees including fire blight.

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