Pruning Pear Trees

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Our four pear trees

We have four pear trees.  Three are Bartlett, one is a red pear, Stark Crimson.  They are badly in need of major pruning.  The trees have grown so high that the best fruit is ten to fifteen feet out of reach.  April is a little late in the season for pruning, but the nights do still get chilly, helping the trees to heal before warm weather arrives.

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Three branches removed on the right side

I have to climb into the tops of the trees with my extending aluminum ladder and cut off the upper third of the tree with a pruning saw. The branches are four to six inches thick at that height.  I can only do three or four branches per day due to a recovering sprained wrist.

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Trusty pruning saw

Here are before and after photos of the tallest Bartlett, the tree most in need of pruning.  I cut three branches off the day before these photos were taken.  The stubs of those branches are visible on the right side near the top of the tree.

The handsaw is deceptively sharp and cuts through a six inch diameter branch in less than five minutes (with rest breaks!)  A dangerous moment arrives as the wood makes a cracking sound and the branch separates from the tree.  All that weight comes crashing down.  A good pruner plans the trajectory of the fall so that the branch doesn’t swing back and knock her in the head or off the ladder.

The tree appears much closer to the desired shape with the tall leaders removed.  Fruit will grow on the long branches loaded with fruiting spurs.  The weight of the fruit pulls the branches downward, nearer to the picking zone.  Now I can enjoy more of my pears plucked from the tree instead of off the ground.

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All the too-long top branches removed


The tree is still too tall and will be cut down another few feet next year. Also still required is a more thorough pruning to thin and to remove weak, dead or intersecting branches. In a couple years these trees will look much better and produce more, as well.

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