Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pam's Tip on Papayas

Pam's recent comment on the post about our first attempts growing papayas was too good to leave alone. Here's some of her advice, which has helped us re-think how much we'll be fertilizing our papaya plants, and other considerations we'll be mulling over. Thanks, Pam, for giving us the benefit of your experience! Here's a reprint of the comment:

Pam Croom said...

"Sigh...I miss my papayas!
I used to live in FL, but we weren't far enough south to leave them in the ground.
I'm not sure you know that they aren't long term trees like apples.
Your first crop is the best and it generally takes two seasons.
Nailing them may have scared them into early flowering, but the plants might not be big enough to support fruiting. You may not get any fruit if you planted them this season.
I had mine planted for year two along the sidewalk in my flower bed and people would come off the street to ask what they were. They are such cool plants!
And at about 8-10 feet they cooled the front of the house!

Another problem you might be running into is soil amendments. Go easy on that! I was told by a papaya grower to not fertilize too much. The tropics are very productive, but the soil is nutrient poor. The carbon cycle in the tropics is very tight (all the fertility is tied up in the living canopy), so when you provide lots of nutrients the plants suck them up and try to grow faster than their neighbors so they don't get shaded out. All the growth goes into leaves and stems not fruit. My bougainvillea in FL had the same problem-the plant was huge and beautiful, but it would never flower because I was treating it too good.

I read all that stuff about needing male and female plants too. They both produce fruit-the issue is that you need both sexes for sexually reproduced fertile seeds. I just want fruit!

Your own papaya's might surprise you in taste! I'm not a fan of store bought papaya like tomatoes, but a papaya picked at its ripest turned out to be a real treat. I'd dehydrate chunks-it was just like candy.

A papaya grower in CA told me he thinks the issue in growing papayas in the states is not air temp (at least for short periods), but root temperature. He thought the roots need to be maintained above 50 degrees. There is a mountain papaya (not as sweet) that I've toyed with the idea of trying here in AL and put heating tape around the roots. You've inspired me-may be I'll try it next summer!"

Thanks, Pam! :)

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