Pears are great backyard fruits. New Englanders have been growing pear trees since the 1600s. While the commercial industry has shifted to Washington and Oregon because of better growing conditions and fewer disease problems, pears still make great backyard fruits.
The keys to growing pears is finding the right variety and proper growing conditions. Traditional varieties, such as Bartlett, Seckel and Bosc, are popular. In colder areas try Luscious and Magness. One reason pears don’t fruit well is poor pollination. Pears need at least two different varieties for pollination. Pear flower nectar has only about 10% sugar, compared to 50% sugar in apples, so they’re not as attractive to honey bees. Pears grow best on well-drained, fertile soil. However, they’re more tolerant of cool, clay soils than apples.
Although pears may take three to five years to start bearing fruits, they can produce for more than 40 years. For pruning, just remove dead, broken or diseased branches and thin out overcrowded branches. Crowded branches can lead to poor air circulation and fire blight disease. Select fire blight resistant varieties such as Luscious, Magness and Moonglow.
A new disease in Connecticut, called pear trellis rust, causes orange leaf spotting. It needs junipers nearby to complete its life cycle so don't plant pears within 1,000 feet of junipers or grow resistant varieties such as Juniper hortizonalis or communis.
Pick pears when they’re firm, but not ripe. They'll ripen off the tree. You’ll know it’s time to harvest your pear by lifting the fruit horizontally and giving it a slight tug. If it easily separates from the tree, then they are ready to pick.