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pattimair
How I do prune a 5-way pear tree to form a canopy?
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All of the grafts are within 3 feet of the ground. Pruning to form a canopy to walk under is my goal. If I let each branch grow laterally I will lose many feet of gardening space. I hope you can picture what I'm saying, this is typical of all multi-fruit trees.

I have had 4-way pears. One is within the bounds of the raised kitchen vegetable bed. The horseradish grows below it. I have trained the lateral branches with supports. You can espalier with wires, or support with poles. Like apples, they tend to send shoots upwards from the arching fruiting branches. These need to be selectively cut away. Depending on your region, pears, even asian pears, are subject to fireblight, a disease which withers and blackens the growing tips of the branches. This must be pruned away with sterile implements. It can seriously impact production or even kill the tree. Pears are subject to coddling-type moths and various other insects, diseases and fungi. I do not spray, ever. In their regions, bears and squirrels will rob you of your harvest. You do not say if your rootstock is standard or dwarfing. This will determine the size of your tree and the amount of space which it will require. Do not skimp on space or crowd it. It will need air to circulate to keep it disease free. What a wonderful addition to your garden. Take care of it and it may live longer than you.
Barb, my thought is to select one of those upward facing branches and support it's vertical growth. The horizontal part that extends outward from there could be removed. This is in an attempt to make it narrower to walk around. I don't know the rootstock. However I can see the graft point as it is 6 inches above soil level. I believe it is important to have it planted lower. Since I can't dig it up and replant it I think I should build the soil up around it. Is that correct? There are raised vegetable beds about 5 feet away which is why I need to be able to walk around the tree. The possible diseases and pests is a whole other issue I will have to inform myself about. I will spray no poisons either but I do foliar spraying with seaweed. I hope to build strength and health to avoid problems. If that's not enough I'll be asking more questions. For now-waiting. Thanks
Hi pattmair, I am with Glenn on the stakes. I would use treated 2"X4" X10'(5cmX10cmX3meters) and sink 18'-24"(46cm-61cm) in the ground. Ask the lumberyard about the  nonpoisonous treating lumber or cedarwood. If you do not have intertube, you can use an old water hose instead. You may need to remove small fruit ( fruit pruning) to stop branches from braking. You can pick & use pear not fully mature, in pies or to eat out of hand. Young branches should not have a full load of fruit for a few years. It is like asking a 3 year old human child to carry his weight or more in sand.         Joel
The tree produced only a few pears on the dominant variety. Now that the varieties have equal number of branches I hope to see pears on them all-fingers crossed and waiting patiently. It will be hard to do but I will not allow more than a few fruit to ripen. Again, if I have to remove some fruit that will feel like some success.
Hi Patti It sounds a wonderful tree that you have. Five trees in one means that you should never have any problems with pollination, so you will get the best crops possible. I have found that pears are easier to train than apples as they lend themselves to natural fruit spur production. I have a conference pear trained on an extension to my house. I don,t know how long your tree has been in the ground or how stiff the five branches are, but it sounds like you just need to make all five branches grow as vertically as possible till they reach the height you require. I don,t know if you have your tree supported by a wooden stake, but i would suggest a tall stake. Maybe 7 or 8 feet tall. In the top of the stake you need a sturdy eye screw. From this eye you can attach chords [washing line or similar] that attach to the branches to stop them flopping down. I would suggest rubber slings around the branches made from old bike tyre inner tubes. You may need two slings per branch, depending on the length of the branches. It is certainly going to look a little weird and i am sure will be a talking point for your friends and relations. Good Luck Glenn A point of interest. You have five different types on your tree. On a TV programme recently a specialist grafted 250 different apples onto one tree.
Allotment, this tree has been in the ground for several years and has just come into my care. It had grown to about 8 ft tall but the top 5 ft was one variety-the top graft took over and the other varieties yielded nothing. I cut it back to 1 branch per variety so they have an equal chance-at least that is how I reasoned. I believe the one variety had been dominant for a few years. Now the tree is about 3 and half feet tall and wider. I believe your suggestion on training the existing branches vertically is what needs to be done. Yes it will look funny but I imagine in time those trained branches will become self supporting and I can remove the stakes. Thanks
  Do you envision a pear tree canopy without stakes when the branches are bearing pears? I am remembering a small peach tree with a spreading canopy that bore so heavily that in fruiting season it had ~10 propping stakes around it. We just appreciated the peaches!  :-) Come to think of it, the young pear trees I have grown & the older pear trees I observe have had a more upright columnar shape than that peach tree canopy. Here are some pages of Pear tree photos with various Pear shapes from Google images: http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&source=imghp&biw=1003&bih=617&q=pear+... And Glenn, I do plan to absorb your instructions on how to embed a hyperlink! @ http://kitchengardeners.org/blogs/kc-and-mac/mystery-vegetable#new 
If the tree bears so heavily that stakes are required to support the branches I'd consider that success! No I am just talking about the structure itself. I didn't see any pictures of five way pears specifically but a picture of what I want would be great. I'll be looking for that. Clearly these multi trees lend themselves to espalier growth but it just wasn't planted with that in mind. And the grafts are placed around the trunk so even espalier isn't quite right either. The most obvious thing to do is to support the lateral growth of each branch. That would take alot of space that is not available. There would be no problem if the branches were grafted on 8 feet or so high. If I knew more about grafting I might have chosen to do that. I think these low grafts are not grower friendly. The natural tendency of all of them is that one fruit type will dominate. As with this one, the top 5 feet was one kind. Thanks for your help
Your multi-Pear may have been put together with low-fruiting & easy picking in mind. It sounds like intentions for the surrounding space have changed somewhat. I once met an orchardist on his honeymoon who walked all the way across town from from their B&B with his bride to tell me how he would prune my Apricot trees to keep them low & easy to harvest. I mention this because you say in your Profile that some may consider you an obsessive gardener ...  :-) As Joel commented, "You are not alone."  :-)
Ha Jessica, that is so-obsessive, I mean. That could be me, walking across town to address a gardening issue on my honeymoon. Good story. I imagine we all would define ourselves as obsessive. That is why we care so much about each other's efforts. Yeah this tree was planted without understanding how it would mature. Now that I'm on the scene, taking responsibility for it, working for the tree's owners, they are trusting me to know what to do. I know more than they do but not much about these multigrafts. This is the first I have cared for other than a mature one that took over the yard with those low branches. And the lowest ones didn't produce fruit anyway. Only at the top. I thought then that they were not a very good idea. Now this one I hope to get better results from. In searching online I have found nothing yet about what I am attempting to do. Directions for pruning are all about a low, wide tree.
  I am glad you have this prior experience: "And the lowest ones didn't produce fruit anyway. Only at the top." It sounds like inherent nature wanting to prevail. Is there any possiblity of the tree being moved when dormant? One of my most-revered friends here is a landscaper who can find the right spot for any tree or plant that is not welcome where it is. Let's just say her interests in gardening run deep! Do you have any photos of the tree? I/we could walk you through the photo-posting process ...

 

 

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