Fireblight on Pear Trees

Friday, June 19th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Feed camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons with an acid plant food now. Remove dead flowers and mulch to keep the soil cool.
    • Plant fresh herbs from young plants. Basil, rosemary, thymes, mints and sages are just a few ideas.
    • Check roses for black spots on the leaves and treat immediately to prevent defoliation.
    • Hydrangeas have giant pink or blue flowers. They will brighten the shade garden all summer.
    • Meyer lemons, with their sweet-scented blossoms, are attractive and easy to grow. Plant one in a container so you can move it to a protected spot in the winter.

Fireblight on Pear Trees

“The last time you went out to check on your orchard, the pear trees were setting fruit and everything seemed fine. But all of a sudden, it looks like someone took a torch to whole branches of it and now the tree looks dreadful.”

If this sounds familiar to you, chances are your pear trees have fire blight. Fire blight is a destructive disease common on pear, Asian pear, quince and sometimes apple trees. It also affects pyracantha, cotoneaster, hawthorn and some other related trees and shrubs. The disease can destroy limbs and even entire shrubs or trees if left unchecked.

Fire blight actually starts in the spring with a light ooze from cankers on branches, twigs, or trunks. The ooze turns dark after exposure to air, leaving streaks on branches or trunks. However, most cankers are small and inconspicuous and infections may not be noticed until later when flowers, shoots, and even young fruit shrivel and blacken.

The infection usually enters through the flowers and then moves down the branches, infecting fruit, leaves and stems as it goes. Dead, blackened leaves and fruit are the result which give the tree a scorched appearance, hence the name “fire blight.”

In warm, moist spring weather, the disease becomes active and usually infects the blossoms if it rains while the tree is blooming. This year it seems that conditions were perfect for fire blight, and we are seeing a lot of customers with this problem.

Once it has infected a tree, the only thing to do is to prune it out. You must prune at least 8 inches below the damage. This often means also removing a larger branch to which the infected branch is attached. This is necessary because the infection spreads down into the tree ahead of the visible portion.

Dip pruning tools in 70 percent isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) or 10 percent bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water solution) between each cut. Wash and oil shears when you are finished. Dispose of all infected plant material.

Next winter, you can spray your trees to help prevent fire blight. Copper sprays can be used before bud break – when leaves emerge from the buds. Streptomycin (an antibiotic) can also be used from bloom through petal fall period to prevent infection from occurring. Repeat the spray at 4-day intervals through the bloom period, but do not apply streptomycin when the maximum daily temperatures are below 65°F.

Any excessive amount of new growth on your tree is easily susceptible to fire blight infection, so use only low-nitrogen fertilizers on susceptible trees. Be sure to completely clean up around your trees this fall, picking up any dead twigs and mummified fruit on the ground, and disposing of them.

This has been a particularly bad year for fire blight in California. Trees bloomed early, and warm, moist weather spread the disease rapidly. Pruning is your best option to control the disease this year.

New Fruit Trees

Friday, January 8th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Bare root season is here. Choose and plant your favorite fruit trees and roses now.
    • Start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other cool season crops indoors for planting outside in March.
    • Many fine varieties of flowering dogwoods, tulip magnolias, Japanese maples and other specimen plants are now available at nurseries for winter planting.
    • Primroses will give you the most color during this cold weather. Choose some pretty ones now for your boxes and beds.
    • Check the watering of outdoor container plants especially if they’re located under the eaves or porch where rain can’t reach them.

Mouth-watering Fruits for the Orchard

It’s a new year and a new decade! So why not add some new fruit varieties to your orchard this season. Bareroot season is the best time to find new and interesting fruit trees. While the trees are still dormant, they are shipped to nurseries all over the country to make their way into orchards large and small.

Apples are one of the best fruits for our region. Our cold winters and warm summers are good for apple-growing and there are dozens of fine varieties to choose from. Some old varieties that are worth considering are Gravenstein, an heirloom apple that is unsurpassed for making delicious applesauce. Arkansas Black, a red apple so dark it can sometimes be almost black, is making a come-back lately. It is an excellent keeper and it’s crisp, yellow flesh becomes more aromatic in storage.

Two “pink” apples are very popular. Pink Lady® is the brand name given to the ‘Cripps Pink’ variety of apple bred in Western Australia. A hot climate apple, it is very crisp with a sweet-tart, distinctive flavor and is a good keeper. The skin is reddish-pink over green when ripe, and the white flesh is sweet, tangy, and refreshing.

Pink Pearl is a California introduction from 1944. It has a dull, yellow-brown skin but on the inside, it has shockingly pink, sweet-tart flesh. Even the blooms are bright pink. It ripens in late summer and makes a beautiful and tasty pink applesauce.

Honeycrisp is a new variety from Wisconsin. These large, attractive apples grow on very productive trees. When ripe, in September and October, they are crisp and juicy and they practically snap off into your mouth. Fruit keeps for up to six months.

Pears also do very well in our area. One of the newer varieties is Harrow Delight which comes from Harrow, Canada. This is a high-quality, early, fresh market pear with excellent fire-blight resistance. It ripens early in the season with fruit that is similar to Bartlett in appearance with excellent flavor and smooth, non-gritty flesh.

Cherries are probably the best loved fruit of all. Most cherry trees require a pollenizer but Sweetheart cherry is self-fertile. It puts on large crops of bright red, crunchy fruit with mild, sweet flavor. It is the latest cherry to ripen, extending the cherry season.

Cherries tend to be large trees, but there’s a new dwarfing rootstock for cherries from Zaiger Genetics. The Zaiger Dwarf Root™ dwarfs trees to about 8 feet tall and is perfect for container growing, and also adaptable to many soil types.

There are lots of mouth-watering fruits to add to your orchard, large or small. So take advantage of this mild weather and plant some new fruit trees today.

A Gallery of Great Pears for the Home Orchard

Monday, September 21st, 2009 by Jenny Watts

Pear trees produce generous crops of delicious fruit and make handsome landscape trees with their glossy leaves and white blossoms. They are long-lived trees and are one of the easiest fruits to grow in this area.

There are many tasty varieties to choose from that will give you fresh fruit over a long season. ‘Bartlett’ is the earliest pear in this area. It is the thin-skinned yellow fruit familiar in the market in late summer. Perfect for canning, and excellent for drying, they are sweet and juicy and delicious for fresh eating. ‘Sensation Red Bartlett’ is similar, but with an attractive red skin. ‘Harrow Delight’ is even earlier than ‘Bartlett’ and very similar with smooth, sweet flesh.

Mid-season pears mature in September and October. ‘Anjou’ is a large, green pear that is firm but not especially juicy. Sweet and mild-flavored, it makes delicious pear pies and is an excellent keeper. ‘Bosc’ has long, narrow fruit that is heavily russeted. The flesh is crisp and fragrant with a distinct flavor. Baked or poached, it is one of the best. The smallest of the commonly grown pears, ‘Seckel’ is also the sweetest. So small that they can be canned whole, they are also delicious fresh.

Late season pears ripen in November. ‘Warren’ pears are juicy and sweet with buttery texture and very good keeping abilities. ‘Comice’ pears, green and often with a red blush, are the favorite of many for eating fresh and as a dessert pear. They are too juicy for cooking, but the very best for fresh eating.

Pears need pollination to bear a good crop. Plant two or more different trees within 100 feet of each other and they will all bear more fruit. If you only have room for one tree, plant one grafted with three or four varieties, or do your own grafting. Most varieties will start to bear significant harvests 5 to 6 years after planting.

Choose a site with full sun, moderately fertile soil, and good air circulation. Pears will do well in many different soils. Space standard-size trees 20 to 25 feet apart and dwarf trees 12 to 15 feet apart.

Pears do best with a small amount of fertilizer early in the year. Heavy doses of nitrogen will make the tree more vulnerable to fire blight.

Pear trees live for many years and with proper pruning and care, will give you an abundance of delicious fruit.