This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol3", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
When a plantation is first started, pruning seems such an easy matter - and to any gardener with the right spirit within him it is an attractive and interesting occupation, calling as it does into exercise those faculties of judgment, foresight, imagination, and restraint that go to the painting of a picture or the writing of a book - that all sorts of resolutions are formed that the trees and bushes shall be constantly attended to and personally trained from year to year, so as to become living witnesses to the master's care; but each year the task grows heavier, until long before the plantation has reached maturity it has become an expensive item of organization. There are some jobs on a market garden that must not be governed by the sole consideration of the cost at the moment; for instance, a special place of punishment ought to be reserved for the gardener who leaves weeds to go to seed, even at path sides and odd corners. The public ought to be protected against having to look at such spectacles of neglect, and the State ought to be saved from the expense which will be involved in the crop of evil habits that will ensue through the subtle medium of suggestion. The pruning of the fruit trees, however, is not such a matter, and must be decided by considerations of how much will pay to do, and unless the grower has strength enough to do it easily, instead of summer pruning and spurring, after the fourth year, all that will be necessary to maintain the trees in bearing will be to shorten shoots of a too vigorous growth, to take out crosspieces, and to remove broken and dead branches.
Fig. 352. - Pyramidal Pear Tree.
Pears are very variable in their habits when on the Pear stock: some are as spreading as any Apple, and require as much room; others are upright and compact, and lend themselves to planting in alternate rows with Plums better even than most Apples. The distance for their planting will be about the same as that already given for Apples. When on the Quince stock it is generally found more convenient to plant Pears altogether at about 3 yd. by 4 yd., and to plant Strawberries among them for the first three or four years, than to leave all the ground to them, except, perhaps, for a crop of spring-flowering bulbs.
When dealt with in this way it is a good plan to give Pears a mulching of stable manure in the autumn of every third year. This has the effect of keeping the soil open and friable, besides feeding the trees and alluring the roots to the surface. The cost of wheeling on and spreading the manure, if the roadways in the plantation are wisely arranged so as not to have the rows too long, will be 30s. per acre. The cost of the manure will vary, according to the distance from town and railway station, from £10 to £16 per acre. The cost of pruning, commencing at 3s. per 100 trees, will increase to 1s. 6d. per dozen if summer pruning and spurring is continued, but need not get above 9d. per dozen if the trees are left free after the fourth year. Hoeing will cost £2 to £2, 10s. per acre. If no bulbs are grown after the Strawberries, and the land is turned over with the fork in the winters when the mulching is not done, this will cost £2 per acre.
Pears on the Pear stock vary greatly as to the time they come into bearing after planting. Probably the planter will restrict himself to those varieties that come into bearing at the fifth year, when the produce may reach £7 or £8 per acre, going ultimately up to £50 or £60 an acre for a full crop. On the Quince, by the fifth year the trees can make good show of fruit, and if the soil is quite suitable a gross return of £60 or more an acre can be obtained in a good year, when the trees are ten to twelve years old, if proper care has been taken with the picking, grading, and marketing.
The cost of picking will be found the same for Apples and Pears - on dwarf trees, with fair crop on, from 1 1/2d. to 2d. per bushel; on half-standard trees, from 2 1/2d. to 4d. per bushel, according to denseness or otherwise of the under crop and the consequent difficulty of working the ladders. Of course no hard-and-fast rule can be laid down; the prices are as variable as the amount of the crops. In mixed plantations of Apples, Pears, and Plums, with average crop and conditions, the usual price is 6. per bushel all round, including "running " the plums where necessary.
In Mr. Theobald's work on Insect Pests of Fruit the list of those injurious to the Pear extends to twenty-eight, some of them with names more terrifying than the Greek deities, and it is no wonder if the prospective planter pauses when he finds that he must fight such a phalanx of foes. He may, however, be reassured, for from many of them he will receive little injury, unless he attempts to pronounce their names!
By far the most serious of them is the Pear Midge. Its presence will be readily detected by the abnormal swelling of the fruitlets a week or two after the blossom has fallen. One knows that those which are fertilized and are making a bid for life quickly stand out from the others and commence growing, but the effect of the Pear Midge cannot be confounded with this natural swelling. The fruitlets affected rapidly take on an appearance of swelled head, becoming enlarged at the blossom end and shrinking at the stalk end. If they are cut open, a little brown speck is seen just below the top, in a week or two longer the fruitlets fall off", and then, if they are opened, they will be found to be rotten inside, and to contain several small white grubs. The more choice the Pear the greater the mark it seems to be for this pest. No remedy appears yet to have been discovered that can be called in any sense effectual. In the case of dwarf trees the affected fruitlets can be picked off" and burnt with the grub in them; but this is impossible where large trees are concerned, and until all growers agree to take measures alike, it is difficult to say of what use it is one grower here and there even picking off the infested fruitlets, if the majority are content to leave the matter to nature, as their fathers did before them.