The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

High-density pear trees

Fruiting high density pears

In an earlier post, I teased you by saying that next year's high-density experiment will veer off in an entirely new direction. But, really, it's the same experiment...just with a different species of tree.

High-density apple orchards have become big business in the U.S., but at this time, pears are mostly grown in a more traditional, spaced-out setting. However, one report I read mentioned that high-density pear plantings are already common in Europe, suggesting that close plantings can be appropriate for this other pome as well. Since I have several additional pear varieties that I want to try out but not enough space for several additional full-size trees, I figured --- why not experiment with a high-density planting for pears?

The best option for high-density pear trees appears to be a 4-foot spacing with the limbs tied down to 45 degrees below the horizontal. To make this work, the New York State Horticultural Society experimenters recommend using semidwarf rootstocks like OHF87, which appeared to be quite acceptable in high-density plantings during the eight years of their study (and, the author thought, most likely also for the entire life span of the orchard). I ended up buying OHF513 instead for my own planting since the nursery I wanted to order from uses this similarly-sized rootstock rather than OHF87, so I guess in a few years I'll be able to report on how well OHF513 does for high-density plantings.

High density pears

There are a few downsides to high-density pear plantings that aren't a factor when similar strategies are used on apples. First, the fruits on high-density pear trees tend to be on the small side, and pear rootstocks also aren't as precocious as those used to dwarf apples. As a result, the high-density pear researchers found that, even when planting feathered trees, you really shouldn't expect your first small pear crop until the third year after planting, and major production won't begin until the fourth year. If you're starting with rootstocks that you graft at home, you should add another year onto that figure, meaning that we probably won't see any pears from our planned row until about 2018.

But what could be more fun than grafting five little pear trees and setting aside another garden row for planting out the young trees at this time next year? Nothing! So, of course, I have to give it a shot.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Next to "normal" pears, you might want to look at cooking pears as well.

In the Netherlands the most well-known varieties are "gieser wildeman" and "Saint Rémy" (the latter originated in Belgium).

Cooking pears can be kept for a long time, and of course you can cook them (e.g. with some cinnamon) and can them.

They're also very good in pancakes.

Comment by Roland_Smith Wed Nov 26 14:17:05 2014

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