John pear - First dormant pruning questions

canadianplantFebruary 6, 2013

I purchased a John pear last year. It had a good base, and some long lateral shoots, which I trimmed back, to even it out and encourage branching. Even the branch angles arent too bad compared to what I have seen in pear (which honestly, isnt too much)

It was a burlaped tree and when I planted it, there wasnt too much root mass to speak of, so not surprisingly there wasnt too much growth of leaves. On top of that, we got over 100mm of rain in May (not too long after it was planted), so most of my trees had some sort of fungus (leaves turned blackish, but I dont think its flireblight, there are no lesions red blotches or cracked bark, just too much rainy cool weather after that storm. This year im going to use a bit of neem oil.

I also expect it to grow more, seeing as there should be way more roots this year.

Anyways, my question is a simple one (despite the long background info lol). I believe that I dont have to prune this much at all this year. I want it to branch at the cuts I made last year.

The only thing I want to know, is how I should cut the leader? Ive read its best to grow pears as a central leader/modified because of its natural upward growth, so I was thinking cutting it down so its abot 30 - 36 inches above the last scaffold whorl, to a strong bud, so I can encourage branching for the next layer of scaffolds.

Any ideas would be welcomed and thanks in advance

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Noogy(6 sw mi)

Nice start. The top looks fine. I'd cut out the vigorous 2nd branch down from the top or spread them, and it looks like one spreader will work for both if it fits. The next set down look good and could even be weighted down a little further. It looks like you have some xtra growth down below you'll want to weigh down or prune You want a certain degree of symmetry. It looks like the left side has more branching, so a correction may be in order, starting with #2 down from the top on left. Also I'd remove the low-rider on the left, as it looks pretty vertical too. I think I see a twig on the left you'll want to encourage out by scoring the trunk above the twig forcing the sap to new growth.
I think that by weighing down the vertical growth, the center/apex will maintain dominance and those stubbies just below the tip should yield some nice branches/flowers.
I am new to this game and encourage anyone else to add/debate my viewpoint. Nice little tree. It looks like it wants to fruit!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 5:17PM
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Thanks Noogy

THe 3 bottom ones are comming off. 2 completely and one is going to end up having some flemish beauty grafted on (im using the low one cause im new to grafting, and if it fails it isnt a big deal).

I read that pear trees tend to need to be spread, since they have a habit of having pretty much all vertical growth. I half heartidly tried last year, but the branches were just way too stiff. IF i cut the vertical one sof, ill only have 3 scaffolds, and I might as well prune it as an open center at that point.

So far the only problem im having is its lack of branching (Again, it didnt grow to much last year). I headed some of the scaffolds to bring the tree into better shape, and to also encourage some branches. I guess I wont know until next pruning season.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 11:19PM
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alan haigh

Only way you keep any of the branches is to make an open center tree. The top branches are too large to be codominant to the leader as they are about the same diameter. They should not be more than half.

I prefer a central leader for pears- partially so I can use spreaders to push branches to about 65 degrees angle. You also accelerate fruiting by eliminating oversized branches which have more vegetative vigor and are slow to fruit. Spreading alone is not enough to coax a pear to fruit reasonably early.

I believe in pruning as little as possible to create a well balanced tree until fruiting starts but even though they are the hardest for a beginner to remove oversized branches are usually the only truly important removal early in the development of a fruit tree.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 5:35AM
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Noogy(6 sw mi)

Sad, but true. The tree would do better withthe removal of 2+2, the vigorous codominant ones. I envision it already and it'll be fine

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 6:50AM
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Noogy(6 sw mi)

oops 2+3

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 6:51AM
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Does diameter based pruning only apply to young trees in training or continue into maturity?


    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 7:32AM
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So harvestman, what you are saying, if Im following you, is that I should eliminate the top 2 scaffolds, and then head back the leader to the proper 36 inches above the topmost scafold to an upward facing bud?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 10:22AM
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Noogy(6 sw mi)

I wouldn't head it back that far. From the top on the way down I see a vertical stub on the left. I'd prune just above there. That you'll train to be the new leader. It looks like its pointing North too, which will help straighten it out. The next 2 down are tending horizontally, and I'd make sure are at the 65 degrees as they grow out. You have a lot of wood there and don't think 36" is necessary at this point, besides the side branches would possibly be envigorated as they would reach taller than the leader.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 4:44PM
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alan haigh

If you use a "bevel cut" on the existing oversized branches new shoots should form this growing season. That cut leaves some extra wood on the lower part of the cut. You can keep your central leader uncut as those cuts should start your scaffold structure without too much setting back the overall growth of the pear.

You can also cut those oversized branches to the first visible outside bud and then there will be almost no doubt of getting a new branch where you can use it. Just do any summer pinching needed to keep the new shoot from growing enough to recover dominance.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 6:38PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

It hasn't grown much last year, so I would let it be for this season, let a good root system establish and prune next year.
If it was me, cut all side branches off and start them further up to give you room walk around the tree to work. In the following year, cut back leader and graft something better, same with other branches, only let one side branch remain as John for pollen source because it's a useless pear, you can't eat it out of hand, [too tart] I use it for a juicing mix.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 10:09PM
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Wow, there are more options then I relized. THanks for the input everyone.

Noogy - thats pretty much what i was thinking. The only things holding me back were the vetical branches, and lack of growth/branches from last year.

Harvestman - Ive never heard of bevel cut (or dutch cut from what ive read) From what I can gather, you make a sortve wedge at the tips of the branches but leave extra wood on the bottom so new braches will sprout. Sound about right? Ill have to keep that in mind

Konrad - Thanks for joinin in.

Leaving it alone for this year was one of my ideas. My apple tree did the same thing - not much growth the first season, and grew relatively well the next (we have massive spring rain, which definitely didnt help)

Now you mention the palletability of John. I cant find too much info on this pear (you may remember my thread last year on it). The only 2 people ive talked too who are growing it are you and my boss. My boss says theyre slightly more tart then his Ure. That may just be your own pallet, rather than taste? The little I found stated that the taste isnt preferable, inless its growin in cold conditions (not saying you arent cold. You are colder then I am).

A friend is sending me flemish beauty scion. I have a seedling pear that I want to graft it too. I was also thinking of putting some scion on the John, leaving the lower branches I have, cutting town the leader, and letting the whole top be Flemish Beauty (pretty much what you said).

So in that suggestion, you are saying cut all the branches off, and cut down the leader to how low? The tree is ust over 6 feet tall, and if I head the top back to around half, I can fit 2 scion when I split the trunk at that height.

Are you suggesting I can leave the scaffolds I have now, and just graft flemish beauty to them (aside from one?)

Heh, so much for a "simple question" :D

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 8:19AM
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alan haigh

I first started thinking about branch ratios many years ago after reading an article by Bas van dan Ende who was at the time of writing managing thousands of acres of pears and apples in Washington State. He's now doing the same in Australia.

In it he said he instructed pruning crews to remove all branches more than one third the diameter of the trunk at point of attachment with trees from the first season they go into the ground until trees begin bearing meaningful crop. That was the only pruning that was done on trees vigorous enough not to need support.

Given that pressure is intense to crop trees as soon as possible in commercial production I would guess that it is preferable to remove the branches ASAP for quickest establishment.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 4:44PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

OK..thanks HM! I feel this tree can take it because I see tons of buds on the main leader,, looks like all branches are larger then 1/3, cut them all off this year,..yes?

You can graft them next year onto new branches formed this year, more vigorous and graft take better. The leader only cut back about a foot.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 12:59AM
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alan haigh

I go by a 2-1 ratio for pears. Branches of that relative diameter should spread well without breaking at the union and not damage "apical dominance" or dominance of the leader.

For me 3-1 is necessary for very upright, vigorous and slow maturing varieties. It would be important for very close spaced trees as well.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 6:59AM
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Noogy(6 sw mi)

CP- Why don't you go with Harrow Delight as they've fruited it in Anchorage, Ak

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 11:11AM
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Thanks again for the input everyone. After reading whats been said here, and reading up a bit more, I think I have a new plan, and a few more questions.

What I am thinking is spreading the 2 semi vertical growth. They arent off by too much. Then heading back all the branches down 1/3, or closes horizontal bud. This will solve the thickness problem, and help spread out the growth a bit without loosing too many of those good buds.

Then as Konrad suggested, heading back the leader, to the nearest vertical bud to 12" to envigorate growth and branching for the next scaffold layer.

I guess, minor work. Im thinking this way because of the root mass at planting. Im not saying there werent any roots, just not as much as I expected relative to the size of the tree. I need a decent amount of leaf area in order to encourage good root growth.

What I have to assume is that not much growth of leaves may mean not much growth of roots, and cutting away the branches might do more harm then good (if that is indeed true).

Next pruning season may be the best time to really decide whether or not to do heavy reshaping since I havnt really seen what it can do.

Please let me know what you think.

Noogy - Although im in a relatively big city, im in the middle of nowhere and in canada. Finding good plants is hard work. Almost as hard as taking care of it all sometimes.

Thanks again

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 6:34PM
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