Growing Delicious Papayas
Papayas might just be one of the most underrated fruits ever. They taste great in smoothies, salads, or even just raw on their own. Farming them is also considered highly profitable as they’re relatively easy to grow, always in demand, and can be sown at any time of the year.
If you’re interested in growing your own papayas and have some questions, you’re in the right place. We’ve got the answers to some frequently asked questions and lots of insider tips for a successful harvest, so read on to find out more.
1. What are the basic conditions to grow papaya trees?
Papaya trees are tropical plants that can grow to be very large; about three to seven feet in length. They originated in South America and thrive in tropical climates all around the world, including Mexico and Thailand. As for the fruits, they can be harvested anywhere between six to ten months.
As for any crop, you will need the right kind of soil and weather. For soil, it’s best to avoid any that’s cold or wet. Instead, you should use soil that’s ideal for drainage, such as clay loam soil, which is a soil mixture that’s made of mostly clay on top of the usual rocks and minerals. A protip is to mix the soil with organic compost in a 1:2 ratio. If you have access to hay, mix a little of that in as well, about one-third the amount of compost you add. This is a winning combination!
In terms of weather, papaya trees thrive in warm, even hot weather throughout its growth. If you don’t live in a tropical climate, you should try to place it in full sun and protect it from cold wind. Needless to say, avoid growing it in winter! In fact, sustained temperatures under 32 degrees Fahrenheit might cause damage to the plant and stunt its growth. As a gauge, papayas tend to grow better in zones 10 and 11 in the U.S.
2. What type of papaya should I grow?
In terms of type of papaya, most papayas have the same sturdiness and high growth rate, with only some varieties that are especially productive. These include the Papaya Amazone, Red Lady, Solo Variety, Washington series, and the Honeydew Variety.
That said, your choice of papaya usually comes down to the taste and zest. You should check with your local farming community on what works best, but here are some varieties that people tend to prefer: Washington Variety, Honeydew Variety, Rainbow papaya, Ranchi and Kakadam papaya.
3. When and how do I plant the papayas?
There are two ways to plant papayas — either by planting seeds or planting seedlings. If you buy the plants from a proper nursery, it’s likely you’ll get them in seedling form in a polybag. Ideally, they should have survived for more than 40 days and be about 10cm long.
It’s quite straightforward to plant seedlings from a polybag, as the polybag actually serves as an outer layer that protects the vulnerable plant roots. Simply prepare the soil to be about 15cm in height, and then create a hole that’s larger than the clay ball in the polybag. Slip the entire bag in, and refrain from watering them for the first 36 hours.
For seedlings that don’t come in a polybag, you should also prepare the soil in the same way. Dig a hole that is roughly 15cm deep and drop two or three seedlings in it. Gently press the soil around the hole by hand and irrigate it with normal water. If you intend to grow more than one tree, make sure they’re planted at least six meters apart!
If you’re more determined to plant a papaya tree from seeds, take note that you should only start after the monsoon or snowy seasons, or choose to grow them indoors in a pot during these seasons. Otherwise, starting sometime in February or March is ideal. Again, prepare soil that’s 10 to 12cm in height, then plant the seeds using any method you prefer — be it spraying rows, drilling, dibbling or broadcasting. Keep each row at least 12 to 15cm away from each other, with 10 to 15cm of distance between each tree. Water them by hand, and look for signs of germination in two to five weeks.
4. How do I care for the papaya plant?
With successful germination, congratulations, you’re all set to have your own papaya tree if you care for it right. The first step is always to get the irrigation and watering of the plant right. Note that papaya trees, or any other tree for that matter, don’t do well in standing water — so irrigation is key in preventing drowning roots. As long as you irrigate it well, you can water the papaya plant freely.
The next thing you should consider is fertilization, especially if you did not mix the soil with organic compost. Apply nitrogen after the first month of planting, and then phosphorus and potassium once you see the growth of fruits. Remember to remove all weeds before applying any fertilizers!
5. How do I harvest the papaya fruit?
For the best fruits, each papaya tree should be limited to growing six papayas. Once the papaya matures, you’ll be able to tell by the yellow stripes that appear on the fruit — usually six to seven months after you start planting. It’s also possible for mature papayas to ripen even after it has been detached from the tree.
Usually, harvesting them by hand is fine, as long as the fruits seem ready and ripe. Simply cut them off and store them in a cool area. If there are unhealthy fruits, cut them off as vegetables. Prune the tree once a year for consistent growth and new harvests each year.
There you have it, a beginner’s guide to planting your own papaya trees. It’s definitely a good investment with plenty of nutrition, such as vitamins A, B, and C, as well as calcium and iron that’s good for the digestive and circulatory systems. The fruit itself is also sweet and enjoyable, but even more so knowing that you’ve grown it on your own. Start your papaya farm today to reap these benefits!