The Q&A Archives: fire blight

Question: A few years ago we discovered fire blight in our autumn blaze pear trees. We fought it as best we could. This year part of one tree has come out ok the other part has buds but didn't bloom. The other tree looks like it might still have some blight problem. We were thinking of getting rid of the trees. Should we and if we do can we plant something else in the same place or not.

Answer: If you are willing to use preventative sprays every spring, and you really like your trees, there's no reason you can't keep them. Fire blight is a bacterial infection that spreads rapidly. All infected twigs, branches and cankers should be removed from the tree. Prune well back--6-8"--from evidence of infection. That is, if you see signs of infection on the last 6" of the branch, prune off 12-14" to be sure you are removing all infected material. Be sure to disinfect your pruning tools after each cut. Use one part household bleach to nine parts water, or dip your cutting tools in pure alcohol after each cut. After you've removed the infected plant parts you can help protect the remainder of the tree by spraying with a lime-sulfur (Bordeaux) dormant spray. If the preventative spraying regime sounds like too much work, you may want to replace your pear trees with a different type of tree. Fire blight is most prevalent on apples, pears and rose bushes so avoid those if you want to replant in the same place. Good luck with your trees!

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