Pruning your pear tree is necessary to obtain the most pears from it. Pruning also reduces disease by allowing air circulation around the branches of the tree. Pruning is not hard, but requires some time and a sharp set of shears.
The first pruning you do is when you plant the pear. You cut the tree of at 18 to 24 inches and remove all the branches. This leaves what looks like a bear stick about 18 to 24 inches in the ground. This allows the roots to become established before the tree puts on too much growth.
The first summer after planting the tree, when the shoots are about one foot long, select three shoots to be leaders. These shoots will be the main fruit bearing parts of the tree. They should be branches with wide branching angles and that are, ideally, on opposite sides of the tree. They should be as close to 24, 20, and 16 inches off the ground as possible. Leave three or four shoots below these leaders and cut the rest of the shoots off.
This is the only time you will prune in the summer. All other pruning needs to be done in the winter when the tree is dormant.
The first winter, you cut back the leaders to 18 to 24 inches. Remove shoots with `narrow branching angles. Leave three to four branches below the leaders.
The second winter, cut back the leaders leaving 20 to 30 inches of last year’s growth. Remove upward growing shoots with narrow branching angles. Leave side branches long to encourage them to bend down under their own weight.
The third winter is largely a repeat of the second winter. Remove upward growing shoots with narrow branching angles and cut back others that are crowded and competeing for space.. Cut back the leaders leaving 20 to 30 inches of last year’s growth. Cut side shoots only if they are bending down.
The fourth winter, you repeat what you did in the third winter. The tree is now mature and you will prune it in a similar manner every year from now on.
Pruning your pear properly is not difficult or terribly time consuming, but will make a big difference in the health of the tree and the number of pears you get off it. It is important to prune every winter for the life of the tree.
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