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You are in: Lancashire > Nature > Features > Ask the gardener: Pears

pears

Ask the gardener: Pears

Find out how to grow fabulous pears with advice from Bill Blackledge...

Warton's Bill Blackledge is one of the county's most popular and sought after gardeners.   If it's green and needs watering, Bill can tell you about it.  He has been answering BBC Radio Lancashire listeners' queries for over thirty years, which means he's been there nearly as long as the transmitter!

His knowledge is encyclopedic. After training at the under the then Ministry of Agriculture, Bill spent over twenty years at the Department of Biological and Environmental Services at Lancaster University.  Now, he's a regular course tutor at Alston Hall, Longridge and Lancaster Adult College.

For three decades, Bill has travelled the county with fellow judges as a regional judge for North West in Bloom.

So, whatever the problem, we like to think Bill can sort it out... at least that's the theory!

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Averil Watt asks...

My old pear tree has developed rust on branches and bark is splitting. What can I do? It does need pruning. When is the best time to do this?

Bill replies...

The time Averil to prune your Pear Tree is during the winter dormant period - November to January - when any diseased branches can be pruned back and also any crossed branches. If your tree has never been pruned before it would be advisable to get on the spot advice from a local Tree Surgeon or an experienced gardener in your area who will advise on which large branches should be removed.  With regard to the rust there are sprays available from Garden Centres which you could use but, again, it is a question of whether quite a lot of the leaves would be accessible to spray if we are talking about a large tree.

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D Mather asks...

I planted a bare rooted pear tree two months ago and all of the leaves have curled up please help.

Bill replies...

My immediate reaction to your question is that with your tree being newly planted and also bare rooted if by chance the roots have dried out this could quite easily have caused the leaves to brown and curl.  It would also be worthwhile to check whether the leaves have been infected by aphids, as these can cause the leaves to curl.   It is very important with newly planted bare rooted plants during hot periods to keep an eye on the watering until the roots have become established in the soil.

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Ryan Carter asks...

I have recently bought a conference pear tree.  My garden is of a medium size and I do not want the tree to grow too large - around 4 metres (height) and around 3 metres (diameter) would be ideal.  As I am a novice I really don't know which training/pruning method I should use (pyramid/bush etc.) Could you advise/describe which method would be best? Also, could you advise a suitable pollinator?

Bill replies...

It would be worthwhile if at all possible Ryan to check what root stock your Pear Tree has been grafted onto.  If has been grafted onto a semi-dwarfing root stock such as Quince C as a bush form it will grow to a height of 2.5 to 3.5 metres and or as a pyramid will grow to 1.5 to 2 metres in height.  If your pear has been grafted onto a semi-vigorous root stock such as Quince A you can grow your tree as a half standard or bush form which will grow from 3.5 to 5.5 metres and, as a spindle bush to approximately 2.5 to 3 metres.  With regard to a suitable pollinator your Conference Pear is self fertile and therefore will not require another pear for pollination purposes but, quite often people do grow another Pear to ensure that pollination takes place.  The varieties Buerre Hardy and William's Bon Chretiem fall into the same pollination group.

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Linda Richards asks...

We bought a pear tree that we planted in a pot 2 years ago. The first year it looked very sad, but last year it came on in leaps and bounds and was full of leaves. We have trained it onto canes and wonder how to prune it. It's now February and it has lots of buds appearing - is it too late to prune?

Bill replies...

If you intend to grow your Pear Tree as a fan shaped tree and you have got quite a number of main shoots training up the canes you can place the tree against trellis work, a wall or against wires.  You will need to have approximately six to eight shoots which you can train against the structures but, with regard to pruning the correct time is during the dormant winter period. I do feel that it would be worthwhile even at the time of year (March) to prune back any straggly shoots and also to prune back the previous season's growth from your main shoots back to approximately six to eight leaves.  With your Pear Tree being grown in a container you will need to keep and eye on the watering and also regular feeding.  

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Andrew asks...

I have just bought three trees for my Garden... a conference pear tree, an Opal plum tree and a Golden Delicious apple tree. Nearby (30m) there are maybe seven plum trees of a different variety. My concern is that will the new pear, apple and plum trees be pollinated correctly to bear satisfactory fruit?

Bill replies...

Your Conference Pear and your Opal Plum Tree are both very good varieties to grow Andrew and are also self fertile which means that they do not require another variety of either pear or plum for pollination purposes.  However your Golden Delicious Apple Tree will need another variety of Apple for pollination purposes.  You cannot use another Golden Delicious Tree it has to be another variety and ones which fall into the pollination category are Tydeman's Late Orange (which is similar to Cox Orange Pippin) Winston, which is part self fertile, Laxton's Superb which is a very good all-round variety and if you require a cooking apple there is an old variety called Lord Derby which is an excellent cooker.

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Catherine asks...

We have a very old pear tree that is in desperate need of pruning. Our tree surgeon says that it needs "topping" and hacking right back as opposed to pruning as it is diseased and is prepared to do it now.  Is this the right time of year to do this (November)? There are still leaves and pears on the tree. We don't want to kill it. Thank you.

Bill replies...

The Tree Surgeon is correct Catherine - your Pear Tree can be pruned now or during the winter months.  I also agree with the Tree Surgeon that any diseased branches need to be cut back.  With the tree being old it would be worthwhile early springtime to top dress with a balanced fertiliser to give your tree an added boost.

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Rachel Bradley asks...

The leaves from the new shoots on my pear tree are curling up and turing brown at the edges and also become wrinkled.  It looks like some of these new shoots have been eaten away.  I found one leaf with what looks like a tiny dead yellow caterpillar on it but otherwise I can't see any pests on the tree at all.  Help!

Bill replies...

I am sure Rachel that the leaves and shoots of your Pear Tree are suffering from aphids which will cause the leaves to curl and also Caterpillar damage.  With your Pear Tree being a fruit crop I am always reluctant to recommend spraying but, if you wish to spray you will need to use a contact insecticide and I would recommend an organic insecticide spray which will not be absorbed into the plant system

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Rachel Russell asks...

When I moved house last year, I inherited a conference pair tree in the garden. It is in a sunny position and last year produced a huge crop of pears. Unfortunately they were all very spongy in texture and we didn't end up eating them. I did water them last summer. Can you advise me so that the same thing doesn't happen again please. I wondered if it was because I didn't water it early enough/ use plant feed/ harvest them at the right time?

Bill replies...

All fruit trees do require feeding Rachel and I would top dress your Pear Tree early springtime with a balanced fertiliser and fruits such as pears and apples do require a fertiliser which is quite high in nitrogen and also potassium and also contains trace elements and the fertiliser which is quite often used is pelted Vitax Q4 and you will need to apply around the base of your tree approximately 5 grammes per square yard or 175 grammes per square metre.  Regarding watering if we do have another very hot summer it would be advisable to water your tree but with the weather we are experiencing at the present time your tree will not requite watering.

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Lisa asks...

We have just bought a new house that has a beautiful pear tree that fans the entrance. We know the tree is circ 150 years old and looks as though it is not very well.  The trunk and branches have a greenish /white and black covering.  It did produce a lot of fruit in the summer, but most of it was not fit to eat, we were told it was diseased.
Please can you advise what to do, I am a complete novice!

Bill replies...

It is very difficult to say exactly what problems and diseases your old Pear Tree is suffering from Lisa.  The green and black covering on the stems and branches is probably alga and fungal growth which often affects old fruit trees and this should shrivel up during the summer months.  You say that last summer the pears were diseased and unfit to eat and this could quite easily be Pear Scab which can drastically deform the fruit.  There is a fungal spray which you can to use to keep Scab under control but, again, the difficulty is that your Pear Tree will be very large and you will need specialised equipment to completely spray the tree and you would need a spray programme i.e. regular spraying two/three times over the growing period.  With it being a very old tree I feel it would be advisable to contact a Tree Surgeon to see if your tree needs pruning and requires attention.

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Mark McMullen asks...

I recently moved into a 1930's bungalow and have two pear trees fan shaped against the south facing back wall of the bungalow. The fruits of one were a conference type and the other a dessert type. The diameters of the main stem / trunk is about 5 - 6 inches, and has evidently been sharply pruned in the past. Is having a pear tree growing against the back wall likely to damage the house, or affect the fruit?

Bill replies...

I am always worried about trees growing too near a house Mark and what usually happens under very dry conditions is that the roots will take any moisture available to them and this could be from moisture from the mortar of the brick work and foundations of the house and this in time could cause problems for the foundations.

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Frank Johnston asks...

Our pear tree is looking very sick. All the bark is covered in a slimy layer of greenish moss. Many of the smaller branches have been taken over and covered by a more vigourous growth of a greyish green parasite. It has a more 'leafy' appearance and sprouts feathery shoots in places. This seems to cause the small branches to die off.
The tree is around 50 years old, but we don't want to loose it. Can I use a chemical spray or brush on treatment? I was wondering about much diluted Jeyes fluid now the the leaves have fallen. Hope you can help.

Bill replies...

Quite a number of old Pear trees do suffer from moss and algae growth both on the shoots and branches Frank and this happens quite frequently if your fruit tree is situated in a shady area.  You will find that the moss does not do much harm to the pear tree shoots but if you are really worried about the moss I would recommend that you gently wash the moss off with a hose pipe.  I am always reluctant to use any disinfectant on fruit trees as this will kill any beneficial insects and I am also slightly worried that it can harm the dormant buds.

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Dave Harbon-Downes asks...

I have just transplanted my two year old conference pear tree but all the leaves have died on it. How can I tell if the tree is still alive or have I damaged it beyond repair?  I haven't had any fruit from it yet as it's still a young tree.

Bill replies...

It is coming to that time of year Dave when the leaves on your pear tree should begin to fall and it could be quite well be that the effect of transplanting your pear tree has caused the leaves to fall prematurely.  There is nothing you can do at the moment and I would be inclined to wait until next Spring to see if your tree comes into leaf.  If it does come into leaf you will need to keep an eye on the watering during the spring/summer months.

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Yvonne Callaghan asks...

I have had a pear tree in a tub for 7 years.  It was 2 foot high and now it is 6 foot.  Last year it produced 3 pears but there have been no pears this year.  Would I hurt it if I planted it in my garden and if not when would be the best time of year to replant it please?

Bill replies...

Your Pear Tree can be planted in the garden Yvonne and autumn time is the ideal time for transplanting as the soil will still be warm.  If possible I would work into the soil some well rotted manure and, it is important that your tree is planted with the graft showing just above soil level and that the tree is planted firmly.  Early spring/summer time I would feed your tree with a general balanced base fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal.  During the winter months you will need to ensure that the tree has not worked loose in the winds.

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Margaret Lodge asks...

I bought a conference pear tree in May. At the time it looked like a stick with branches and no leaves. Unfortunately it still looks like a stick with no leaves and now we're in July. Is this how it's supposed to look? Will it grow leaves next year or is it dead?

Bill replies...

It sounds very much like you have purchased a dead Pear Tree Margaret and what I would suggest you do is to go back to the Garden Centre/Nursery where it was purchased - explain the situation to them and hopefully they will replace the tree. 

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Barry Price asks...

One of my pear trees (a honey pear) has leaves covered in red spots. Leaves curling. Fruit seems to be setting ok. Mineral deficiency/pest/disease? What steps would you recommend to correct the problem?  

Bill replies...

Leaf curling and red blotches on the pear leaves Barry could quite easily have been caused by the Pear Leaf Blister Mite which, as the name suggests, causes red blisters on the leaves causing the leaves to fall early and the fruit may also be blistered.  Another cause could be Pear Scab which causes unsightly damage to the fruit and the leaves bear brown spots. Pear Scab can be controlled by spraying with a fungicide such as Dithane.  For Pear Leaf Blister I would recommend that you remove some of the badly infectected leaves.

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Sue Taylor asks...

I have a pear tree that has black fly under the leaves, it is a young pear tree that has only just started to grow and leaf, so I want to stop this infestation so that it will grow strong can you advise me of a spray that won't hurt the young leaves but will get rid of the blackfly?

Bill replies...

It is important that when you spray edible crops Sue that you use a contact insecticide and preferably an organic product which clearly states that it can be used on fruit and edible crops. The two products I would recommend are Bayers Organic Pest Control (which contains fatty acids) or Bio Liquid Derris. Both products will control green fly/black fly are available in both Garden Centres and DIY Stores.  It is important not to spray in direct sunlight and I would advise that you spray either early morning or late evening and as you will be aware you must never spray when your trees are in blossom.

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Denyse Gregson asks...

For the last three years I have had scab on apples and pears. The pears being particularly bad. Please advise what to use and when.

Bill replies...

Scab is a serious disease in both apples and pears - the leaves become mottled with brown spots - the fruit becomes badly scarred and disfigured and, it can also affect the shoots and stems.  To keep scab under control you need to spray at regular intervals through the spring and summer months with a fungicide spray.  Do not spray your trees when they are flowering as, this will affect pollination by the bees.  The fungicide which I use is Dithane.  This is contact fungicide which I find very effective.  I also would recommend during the autumn and winter months to rake up fallen leaves which will contain infected spores - these need to be dispersed of.

During the autumn and winter months spray the trees with a funicide to kill any harbouring spores.

last updated: 16/05/2008 at 10:48
created: 20/10/2006

You are in: Lancashire > Nature > Features > Ask the gardener: Pears



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