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Asian Pear Is Great Home Orchard Pick

THE FRUIT OF THE ASIAN PEAR has traditionally been imported into the United States for more than 100 years. Fortunately, increased commercial production in California has boosted its local popularity and reduced its historically high price tag.

ALSO CALLED THE APPLE OR SALAD PEAR, the Asian pear’s fruits are round and they have a crisp, juicy texture. It is very different from the European pears we are accustomed to. Commonly grown in China and Japan for centuries, the trees are quite hardy here and can be grown with great success.

WE ARE SEEING AN INCREASED INTEREST in the home orchard in general with the raging popularity of buy local, grow local. The New Century Asian pear, Pyrus x ‘Shinseike,’ is a wonderful choice for the first-time tree fruit producer. Unlike most tree fruit, such as apple, pear, and peach, this specific cultivar of Asian pear is partially self-fruitful, which means you don’t have to have a pollinator to get adequate fruit set. So you only need the space to grow one tree.

PLANT IN FULL SUN IN AVERAGE SOIL that retains moisture, and by the third growing season you will be able to harvest. The fruit will change from green to yellow when ripe in late summer and fall. The fruit holds well on the tree and stores well once harvested. If planting more than one, space them 10 to 15 feet apart to receive adequate sunlight and air circulation.

SOME ANNUAL MAINTENANCE is necessary. In the winter, prune to promote a sturdy frame to support the heavy fruit. In the spring, thin fruit, if necessary, to produce larger fruit, encourage annual fruiting, and reduce overall fruit weight on the tree to prevent breakage. Also be on the lookout for some common pest and disease problems, such as fire blight, codling moth, and two-spot spider mites to keep your home orchard beautiful and productive for years to come.


ASK THE GARDENER

by Angie McManus

Q I would like to start vegetables from seeds. In the past, the plants invariably grew too fast and became spindly.

A Mid-March is a good time to start vegetable seeds indoors so that when our frost-free date arrives, usually May 10, our seedlings have rooted and are ready to be transplanted. Providing the right environment is hard indoors when light levels are so low during the winter. It is best to place your seeds in a south-facing window or under lights if you do not have a good window. The lights should not be used before the seeds germinate, but only afterward. Keep them under the lights for 14-16 hours each day. Keep the lights 2-4 inches away from the seedlings and move lights up as they continue to grow. Temperature and humidity are also important. Indoor temperatures should be 65-75 degrees. Heat mats are very useful if the space is drafty. A humidifier can also be beneficial. Use a good potting soil that is peat-based. The soil should be consistently moist. Be careful not to over-water since the seeds can rot if over-saturated. Half-strength fertilizer can be used every third week but be careful not to over-fertilize. Acclimate them before planting them in the garden.


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