Papaya

I grew up around papaws. My grandpa grew them. My uncles grew them. My parents grew them.

They live in memory, but the old papaw has of late taken a back seat to the more luscious, tropical papaya.

 

Photo - Worayoot Wongnin / shutterstock

 

For the gardener, the major advantage of papayas over the papaws is that they produce bisexual flowers, which means that a single tree will produce fruit. This is a boon for gardeners with compact backyards, who can often provide papaya-friendly warm, sheltered microclimates for one 2-4 m tree, but not for two.

 

Growing

Papayas like a frost-free climate (try growing babaco instead if you get frost), decent summer rainfall and reasonably rich soil, high in organic matter. These plants are the Formula One racers of the fruit world. Seed-raised plants will be cranking out fruit within twelve months of germinating. Life lived so fast is inevitably short, and though trees can bear for up to six years, older plants tend to be more prone to diseases. Propagate by collecting seed from self-pollinated, bisexual varieties and renew stock every few years to ensure a continual supply of fruit.

 


Photo - bouybin / shutterstock

 

Harvesting

Papayas are ready to harvest in 5-6 months after flowering.To avoid ripe fruit rot, which causes unsightly black legions on the fruit, pick papayas when they are half-coloured. Wash the fruit to remove any sap, then wrap in newspaper and ripen indoors.

 

Troubleshooting

Papayas require perfect drainage and will suffer from root rot if they get wet feet. They also love soil rich in organic matter, so add plenty of well-rotted compost prior to planting.

Fungal diseases commonly affect papayas, but their severity can be reduced by preventative spraying with copper hydroxide in spring. A top dressing of gypsum applied in spring will supply calcium without changing soil pH, making trees more resistant to fungal outbreaks.

 


Photo - bouybin / shutterstock

 

Varieties

Southern Red’ - a heavy producer of sweet, juicy, orange-red fruit. Also available in a dwarf form.

Sunrise Solo’ - the most commonly grown papaya in the world, favoured for its small, pear shaped fruit containing wonderfully fragrant pink flesh.

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About this article

Author: Justin Russell