Pears need good air drainage because: 1. They bloom before apples, yet their blossoms are only slightly more resistant to cold than peach and sweet cherry. 2. Low, sheltered areas of poor air drainage may result in greater susceptibility to fire blight and leaf scorch (heat blight). Pears are often grown on "poor" fruit sites because of their tolerance for heavier soils. However, they do much better on good sites of high elevation.
The following cultivars may be considered for planting in Michigan. Pears need cross pollination and any pear cultivar should pollinate any other cultivar. However, Bartlett and Seckel do not pollinate each other very well.
Early Midseason Cultivars
Clapp's Favorite - Good for eating and canning but very susceptible to fire blight. Moonglow - Used fresh or for canning. Resistant to fire blight.
Barlett - Good for fresh use or canning but susceptible to fire blight. Lincoln - Large fruit produced in abundance, blight resistant. Maxine (Starking Delicious) - Large fruit and somewhat blight resistant. Parker - Medium to large fruits, blight susceptible.
Late Midseason Cultivars
Anjou - Good for eating fresh or canning, susceptible to fire blight. Bosc - Russeted fruit, good for fresh use, canning or cooking. Very susceptible to fire blight and the fruit will not tolerate cold storage. Duchess - Large fruits. Gorham - Fruit similar to Bartlett but later and tolerant of a longer storage period. Seckel - Fruits brown but flavorful, used fresh or pickled. Very resistant to fire blight. Needs a pollinator which can be any other cultivar except Bartlett.
Dumont - Large pear with good flavor. Tree tends to alternate bearing with age.
Pears should be planted in the spring, since fall- planted trees are more subject to winter injury. Trees should be planted deep enough so that bud union is below ground level for seedling rootstocks or 1 to 2 inches above ground level for dwarf rootstocks.
Pears are pruned to the modified leader method. The modified leader method begins by cutting back 1 year old, unbranched trees to 3 1/2 to 4 feet above the ground. If the new trees are well branched, skip this step in the first year.
The second year save one of the most vigorous upright shoots for a leader. Remove all sharp angled branches and select one or two branches to be scaffold branches (the branches that will make up the structure of the fruit tree). The saved branches should form a wide angle from the trunk, should be widely spaced from each other and located on opposite sides of the trunk. The lowest of the scaffold branches should be at least 2 feet off the ground.
At the next pruning, again save the highest shoot to be the leader. Save two more side branches for scaffold branches. The branches saved should be spaced far apart and should form wide angles from the trunk. The branches saved last year will need pruning. Each branch will have in turn produced branches, called laterals. On each scaffold branch, save two or three laterals that are at least 6 scaffold branch.
Never let the side branches get out of proportion with the top. If need be, cut or head back the side branches.
In the fourth year continue to save additional branches to be scaffolds as described before. Remove any rubbing branches and prevent the formation of narrow V crotches.
By the fifth year the tree will have all the scaffold branches required, and it will not be so important to maintain a well developed leader.