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Asian pears are often called apple pears because they are crisp like an apple, but have a pear-like flavor and aroma. While slightly exotic, they are relatively easy to grow. Most trees cultivated for home gardens are dwarf varieties that reach only 8' to 15' tall. Select the variety that’s right for you taking into account flavor, size and climatic zone. Popular types include Korean Giant and Shinko.
Tip: For a decent crop of fruit, Asian pears need to be cross-pollinated with a compatible variety. At least two trees should be planted within 50' to 100' for best pollination.
Pear trees need at least six to eight hours of sunlight a day for decent fruit production. Pears like well-drained soil, so work a soil conditioner into the top 8" to 10" of soil.
In early spring, dig a hole almost as deep and twice as wide as the tree’s root ball. Most trees grow best when planted slightly above the surrounding soil. Carefully pull the tree from its container. Loosen and untangle any encircled roots and place the tree into the hole (Image 1). Backfill with soil and water well (Image 2). Add a 2" layer of mulch around the base of the tree but not up against the trunk (Image 3).
Pear blooms must be protected from spring frost damage, which can wipe out a year’s crop. If frost is predicted after fruit-bud set, place lightweight fabric over the tree to form a tent. Add a small heat source such as a light bulb on an extension cord.
One month after planting, apply a half-pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer around the base of each tree. For established trees, a pound of fertilizer per year may be needed. In the first year or two after being planted, pear trees require regular watering. Prune any suckers that sprout from the base of the tree and any stems that shoot straight up from a branch.
By removing some immature fruit, the tree can focus its energy on producing fewer but fuller-sized pears. Thinning also prevents limbs and branches from breaking under the weight of too much fruit. When the fruits are about the size of a cherry, remove enough so that no two pears are closer than 6".
Unlike European pears, which are picked from trees before they mature, Asian pears are left to ripen fully on the tree. Depending on what part of the country you live in, harvest can begin as early as mid-July or as late as early October. The best way to tell when the pears are ready is to taste one.
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