How Long Does a Pawpaw Tree Take to Produce Fruit from Seed?

how-long-does-it-take-pawpaw-to-fruit-from-seed

Maria has questions about how long it takes a pawpaw tree to produce fruit from seed (note that she is asking about Asimina triloba, not the tropical “pawpaw” Carica papaya):

“I read with interest how to grow pawpaw from seeds. Nowhere is mentioned how long does it take to produce fruit. I live in southern Ontario and don’t know any place with pawpaw fruit, we never eat it either. Local nursery is selling a plant about 3 ft tall ($40), must be 2 to 3 years old. They told me it will take another 6 to 10 years to produce fruit. We may not be around in 10 years therefore I was reluctant to buy the plant. The plant is common pawpaw and they suggested to get another variety from somewhere else as 2 trees are need it. It’s disappointing that knowledge of such a big nursery is so limited to a fruit tree common to southern Ontario. Should I buy the plant and when it blooms (how many years?) try to cross pollinate as suggested in your article. Can I pollinate from bloom to bloom or I need another tree?”

Great questions, Maria.

So How Long Does it Take for a Seedling PawPaw Tree to Bear Fruit?

According to a presentation by Patrick Byers at the University of Missouri:

“Seedling trees take longer to come into production (5 – 7 years) than grafted trees (3 – 4 years).”
I have read in multiple locations that a seedling pawpaw will bear fruit in 4 – 8 years, which lines up pretty closely with Byers’ 5 – 7 years. 10 years would be quite long.
Grafted trees already think they’re a mature specimen, so if you want to take some of the time off your wait for fruit, plus take the guesswork out of what kind of fruit the tree will bear – buy a grafted tree. I enjoy growing pawpaws from seed, as I share in my popular how-to post here, but if you have a source for improved pawpaw tree varieties, go for it.

Getting Your PawPaw to Fruit Faster

As pawpaw trees usually start to bear fruit at around 6′ in height, if you want a pawpaw to fruit faster, take better care of it. This goes for most fruit trees. Regular water, feeding, mulching – these are what get them established and growing.
For pollination, you should really have two pawpaw trees. It’s even better to plant three as it gives you a little redundancy in case you lose one. Some pawpaw trees can pollinate themselves from pollen from one flower to the next on the same tree; however, you cannot count on this tendency.
You can hand-pollinate pawpaw trees. I have not done it myself as the local insects did a fine job for me. The California Rare Fruit Growers have a very good guide to growing pawpaws and in it they cover pollination:

“Poor pollination has always plagued the pawpaw in nature, and the problem has followed them into domestication. Pawpaw flowers are perfect, in that they have both male and female reproduction parts, but they are not self-pollinating. The flowers are also protogynaus, i.e., the female stigma matures and is no longer receptive when the male pollen is shed. In addition pawpaws are self-incompatible, requiring cross pollination from another unrelated pawpaw tree.Bees show no interest in pawpaw flowers. The task of pollenization is left to unenthusiastic species of flies and beetles. A better solution for the home gardener is to hand pollinate, using a small, soft artist’s brush to transfer pollen to the stigma. Pollen is ripe for gathering when the ball of anthers is brownish in color, loose and friable. Pollen grains should appear as small beige-colored particles on the brush hairs. The stigma is receptive when the tips of the pistils are green, glossy and sticky, and the anther ball is firm and greenish to light yellow in color.”

I had a Florida pawpaw variety (Asimina parviflora) bloom and set fruit at the young age of three, but that isn’t all that common for the common pawpaw.

If you want to “create your own luck,” get a few grafted trees, take great care of them and throw in a few more seedling trees at the same time. The trees don’t take up a lot of space and can fit in around larger trees such as oak and hickory due to their shade tolerance.
Good luck – may you get much fruit!
*Original image at top by Wendell Smith. Creative Commons license.

A Novel Method for Propagating Yams

aeroponics-yams

Happy Independence Day to my American readers.

I am a direct descendant of John Howland, crew member on the Mayflower. I’m still not sure we should have left the British Empire, honestly, but any holiday that consists of barbecues and blowing things up is okay by me. I also think the Constitution was a bad idea and that the War of Northern Aggression was won by the wrong side, so I know my views are in the minority… and I’d better get to today’s post before one of you reports me to the SJW firing squad or something.

On to the yams. Curtiss shared a video with me on a novel method for propagating yams, from aeroponics to cuttings to the field:

In the video he states that cuttings from yams not grown in aeroponics systems don’t behave the same, implying that cuttings don’t take as easily.

yams-from-cuttings

I’m not sure why that would be the case. I am wondering if you could skip the expensive aeroponics setup altogether.

Sure, it looks cool – but I hate plumbing.

I like this part, though:

yam-field

Also, this part:

Harvesting-yam

I have actually started Dioscorea alata via cuttings. I didn’t realize you could get them to work so well from just a single node, though.

My common method of yam propagation is this:

But what if you don’t have roots? Or what if you want a LOT more yams? The method in the video Curtiss shared is tantalizing in its abundance – you can make a LOT of yam plants via cuttings.

My experiment with growing yams from cuttings was like this: I just took a few little cuttings with a couple of nodes each, then put them in pots and stuck them in a mist house that a friend with a nursery owned. A month or so later, I had rooted yams ready for planting.

No aeroponics required. However, it did have the benefit of regular misting. I’m not sure how yams would root if I just stuck them in pots.

Worth continuing to research, for sure. And I’m sure Curtiss will be experimenting and sharing results. He’s definitely better at building complicated systems than I am.

Sprouting Moringa Seeds (No Luck? Maybe You Missed a Step!)

sprouting moringa seeds

Retired Senior Chief asks “can you lend any advice on sprouting moringa seeds? I have about a 3% germination rate right now and very frustrated.”

My answer:

Yes!

Sprouting moringa seeds is really easy – you just need to know a few things first.

Fresh seeds are needed

Moringa seeds lose viability rapidly in storage.

Make sure you get fresh ones.

Also, it’s probably a good idea to wait until the pods brown on the tree before picking them. A pod picked green may not have finished maturing the seeds – let nature work, then harvest when mature.

Sprouting Moringa Seeds Like Warm Temperatures

Moringa seeds like it warm to hot. Sprouting moringa seeds in a cool winter or spring is a losing proposition. I found this out when I ran my plant nursery. I wanted to get a bunch of seedlings started early so I’d be ready for the early summer plant shows, so in February put a bunch of pots out in the nursery and planted them all with good moringa seed.

Nothing happened for a couple of months. Then, a few seedlings emerged. Most of the seed failed.

This made me get smart.

The next time I planted moringa, I started them in pots on top of a heat mat (like this one).

Even in February, they came up fine and grew well. 80 degree weather is good for germination… 60s and low 70s, not so much.

Watch the Water

Too much water can kill young moringa seeds and trees. Don’t soak them. Plant your seeds, water them well, then water them again when the soil almost dries out.

Sprouting seeds and young seedlings have a high tendency to rot. Overwatering seedlings will often kill them. The trees can take a lot of water once they get taller, but when the wood is still green – watch out.

Moringa seeds take a week or two to sprout. I believe sprouting moringa seeds right in a good-sized pot or in the ground will give you stronger trees than starting them in little trays, as the roots are quite vigorous and like to move downwards.

You’ll find more on moringa in my book Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening: The Secret to Growing Piles of Food in the Sunshine State.

Good luck and happy gardening!

Rooting Cuttings the Easy Way with Mini Greenhouses

step1-take-cuttings

I learned this method for rooting cuttings back when I was a Master Gardener.

It’s an easy method to propagate plants and you’ll get much better success rates than you will with uncovered pots.

In this video, you will see how it’s done:

Now let’s break it down step by step.

Rooting Cuttings the Easy Way

If you’re tired of abysmal strike rates on your cuttings, this simple system will help.

First, take your cuttings.

step1 rooting cuttings the easy way

Those are Coccinea grandis vines, AKA perennial cucumber, AKA ivy gourd.

Since this vine does not produce viable seeds, it can only be propagated from cuttings.

Each cutting contains two nodes. One will be buried to produce roots, the other will produce new leaves and vines.

Now it’s time to fill some small pots with loose, moist soil.

Step2-fill-pots-with-soil

The “pots” we’re using are just old tomato sauce cans with holes punched in their bottoms for drainage.

Now it’s time to stick your cuttings.

step3-stick-cuttings-in-soil

Rachel is using a piece of bamboo to make holes. Cuttings can be damaged and may rot if you stuff them into the ground. It’s better to punch a little hole, then pop them in.

These vines root very easily so we’re not using any rooting hormone on them. If you have something that’s a little harder to root, dip your cuttings in rooting hormone before planting.

Pop them in the hole made by your piece of stick, then firm the dirt around the stems.

Now it’s time to start making our mini greenhouse.

Take a stick and put it in the middle of the soil, pressing it in so it’s firmly upright.

step4 rooting cuttings the easy way

Now put a clear plastic bag over the stick.

step5- rooting cuttings the easy way

White grocery bags will also work, though you can’t see your cuttings as easily.

Now rubber-band that bag into place.

step6-put-bags-over-pots

Once you’ve bagged up these pots, place them in the shade. If they’re in the sun, they’ll cook.

Open them up every few days to let a little air in. I like to blow into the bags to give them some extra carbon dioxide, but that’s just me.

After a few weeks, your cuttings should start rooting. When they’re firmly rooted, remove the bags and plant them up in pots of their own.

Rooting cuttings the easy way takes a few minutes and cheap materials.

Try it at home – you’ll be impressed by how well it works.

 

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rooting cuttings the easy way pinterest graphic

How to Germinate Jackfruit Seeds

jackfruit-germination

Today we’ll cover how to germinate jackfruit seeds.

First – here’s my video on jackfruit germination:

About Jackfruit

Jackfruit are a very productive tropical tree and a relative of mulberries, breadfruit and figs.

They also are capable of bearing the largest fruit on the planet.

Look at this one!

germinate jackfruit

Image from Sin Chew Daily

The guy on the left is like “TAKE THE PICTURE ALREADY!”

Inside the jackfruit and around the seeds is a delicious, tropical-sweet flesh like nothing else on earth.

sprout jackfruit seed

The trees bear abundantly and require little care to cover you in Jackfruit. Even in South Florida, somewhat outside their normal range, jackfruit can do excellently – as my friends Chuck and Sarah can attest.

Jackfruit_Tree_South_Florida_With_Sarah

But how do you grow your own jackfruit tree?

Seeds!

Let’s germinate some jackfruit seeds, shall we?

How to Germinate Jackfruit Seeds

Germinating jackfruit seeds isn’t hard but you do need to start with fresh seed as the seeds dry out and die quickly.

Obtaining Jackfruit Seeds

You’ll have to find for an ethnic market to obtain jackfruit unless you’re lucky enough to live someplace where jackfruit are regularly grown.

Now you know my favorite source for rare edible plants. Go and hunt.

Open that jackfruit up and save those seeds.

Here’s how my wife opens jackfruit now:

After you’re done munching on delicious jackfruit and cleaning the latex off everything in the kitchen, it’s time to plant the jackfruit seeds.

Jackfruit seeds look like fat beans. If you don’t have time to plant them right away, just set them aside on the counter – they’ll keep for a few days.

Don’t put them in the fridge!

Jackfruit have very little tolerance for cold and you may kill the seeds. If you need to keep them for a week or more, put the seeds in some moist soil or with a damp paper towel. They may rot or sprout if you leave them for too long, so it’s better to plant quickly.

Planting Jackfruit Seeds

how-to-germinate-jackfruit-seeds-pinterest

You can plant jackfruit seeds in pots, but direct-seeding jackfruit also works quite well.

If you use pots, make sure you pick deeper ones. Jackfruit like to send roots down fast and deep and will rapidly outgrow a small pot.

Here’s a video where I plant jackfruit seeds right in the ground:

They grew well, then I thinned the cluster of sprouts down to one tree. It’s been less than a year and that tree is about 3′ tall now.

Plant your seeds 2″ deep and wait. It will take a month or two for them to come up. Be patient and keep them watered. Before planting, I often soak seeds in water overnight in case they’ve dried out a bit. It seems to help.

Jackfruit come up with long, thin green shoots that resolve into two little leaves at the top.

My friend Amanda had this one come up in her compost heap – it’s a good example:

Jackfruit seed sprout

Remember: jackfruit do much better in the ground than they do in pots. Get them in the ground once they’re a decent size and get them growing with lots of compost.

How Long Does it Take a Jackfruit to Bear from Seed?

Some sites will say it takes years and years for a jackfruit to bear from seed but this isn’t necessarily correct. The tree in our yard apparently started bearing at about 5 years of age. Your mileage may vary.

Jackfruit grow quickly and like water, fertile soil and plenty of sun. Light frosts may kill young trees but older trees can take some cold.

I cover the potential for growing jackfruit outside their range in my book Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics.

So – what are you waiting for? Go ye out and germinate jackfruit seeds!

How to Make Homemade Potting Soil With Three Simple Ingredients

homemade potting soil recipe

Today you’ll learn how to make homemade potting soil using only three simple ingredients. I’ll also give you alternate recipes for potting soil in case you don’t have those three readily available.

My Homemade Potting Soil Recipe

If you’d like to see me make my homemade potting soil, here’s a video I created illustrating the process:

First, you’ll need a place to work.

I like to spread a tarp on the grass and use that as my mixing area, but you can work on any solid surface. A tarp is easy to roll back and forth to help you mix, but making potting soil isn’t rocket science and you can really do it anywhere.

Second, gather your materials. My potting soil recipe has three main ingredients:

1. Rotten Wood

Fresh wood chips will eat up a lot of the nitrogen in your potting soil mix and can cause your plants to struggle. Rotten wood doesn’t cause that issue, plus it holds moisture and provides a loose and airy texture to the mix.

homemade potting soil recipe ingredient rotten wood

As you know if you’ve ready my popular book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting, I don’t throw away or burn the logs and sticks that fall in my yard. Instead, I use them to feed the soil.

Leaving a pile of brush and logs in a corner of your property to rot over time will give you a ready source of rotten wood.

If you haven’t started doing that yet, just go for a walk in the woods and get a nice sack of fluffy, crumbly wood and drag it home.

2. Aged Cow Manure

I gather manure from my neighbor’s cows and leave it on a piece of metal in the sun to age for a few months.

Homemade potting soil recipe aged manure

Fresh cow manure is too “hot.”

If my home-baked manure sounds too weird, just pile it up in a compost heap somewhere and let it go for a few months. That will leave you with a nutritious, organic-matter-rich pile of good stuff for your homemade potting soil.

NOTE: Manure in the United States is often contaminated with long-term herbicides that will destroy your garden and your potted plants. Read Karen’s story and learn more about that danger here.

3. Sifted Soil/Grit

I let my chickens do a lot of composting for me, like this:

I go into the coop or chicken run, sift out the grit, soil and compost, then use it in my homemade potting soil.

Homemade potting soil recipe sifted chicken run soil

You don’t need to do that, though. No chickens? No problem.

I sift grit from the local creek bed and add that sometimes. I’ve also just added good garden soil, old potting soil mix from expired plants and even regular old sand.

Mix It All Up

Now all you need to do is get mixing.

Smash the rotten wood into smaller chunks, break up the cow patties, and pour in the grit. I use one part rotten wood, one part aged manure and one part grit/soil in my potting soil recipe, but don’t overthink it. If it looks loose and feels good, the plants will be happy.

As you’ll notice in my video, I often leave pretty big chunks of wood in my homemade potting soil. The potted plants seem to like them and they act as moisture reservoirs and soil looseners.

If you need a finer homemade potting soil for starting seeds, just crush the mix finer or run a coarser mix through some hardware cloth to sift it.

Alternate Ingredients for Homemade Potting Soil

If you don’t have cow manure, try goat or rabbit manure. Both work quite well. Homemade compost is also excellent, though I never seem to have enough for everything I want to do.

Don’t have grit/sand available? Vermiculite or perlite both work nicely, though you have to buy them.

Rotten wood can be replaced with peat moss or coconut coir. I prefer the coir. It seems to repel water less. You can also use leaf mould. Sift it out in the local forest – it’s wonderful.

Along with these ingredients, I’ve also added some ashes, crushed charcoal, coffee grounds, old potting soil, peanut shells and even moldy cocoa nibs.

When I ran my nursery business I often stretched my potting soil budget by mixing purchased soil with rotten wood chips I got from a local tree company and set aside for years to break down.

Just keep your homemade potting soil loose and fluffy with a good mix of ingredients and your plants will do great.

 

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how to make homemade potting soil a homemade potting soil recipe graphic for pinterest

Gardening in Shells and Mango Propagation

South_FL_Food_Forest_Mango

I’ve got two questions from a reader I’ll answer today today: gardening in shells and mango propagation. Let’s jump in!

Deniz writes:

Hope you and your family feel much better since the car accident. It has finally rained today after weeks of drought, I hope it rains in the tropics soon too. I had questions about starting my own mango trees. What do you things is the easiest method to start from seed and can mangoes also be grown from cuttings? I am also planning on making a food forest with mango as the main large tree, the only problem is that that soil was infilled with shells to about a depth of two feet, what would be a easier method to grow trees in this substrate then digging it all up and replacing? The sediment that it produces is white and does not retain water and contain any organic matter. In the summer weeds grow all of the garden except for this area, and this area is the only area large enough to make a food forest as I have a small yard.”

Let’s attack mango propagation first:

Mango Propagation

Growing Mangoes from Seed

Mangoes are very easy to grow from seed.

Take seeds right from fresh fruit and don’t allow them to dry out. Plant them an inch or two deep in potting soil or compost and keep them watered. It usually takes about a month from them to germinate. Years ago when I started my first mango from seed, I read that if the pit sends up multiple sprouts, it will produce “true to type.” If it sends up a single shoot, it’s a wildcard.

Some sites recommend cutting open the husk of a mango seed and just planting the embryo. This may increase your germination rates but I haven’t found it necessary. If you do open it up, you can see whether it’s polyembryonic or monoembyronic, i.e. a multiple or single-shoot type. The polyembryonic seeds have multiple sections inside them.

If it’s a single-shoot seedling you get, don’t worry. It will likely give you fruit, but if you want a specific type of fruit, you’ll have to graft to make sure you get that.

Fortunately, mangoes are very easy to graft. My grafting video demonstrates multiple easy methods, and there are more online.

This page has a lot on mango propagation, plus grafting.

Growing Mangoes from Cuttings

Mangoes are not normally grown from cuttings.

Seedlings or grafting would be my recommendation, though from rumors on the ‘net some people have apparently rooted them from cuttings.

I tried air-layering my Grandpa’s mango tree without luck and eventually gave up. That’s a more forgiving method than cuttings and if it didn’t work, well, I just don’t want to bother. Seeds it is!

Gardening on Shells

The shell fill sounds like the problem with many gardens in the Florida Keys. High pH, no water retention, almost zero organic matter.

According to UF:

“On our type of lime rock fill soils, with high pH, minor elements will become insoluble in water. This is of concern since unless something is dissolved in water, it cannot be absorbed by plant roots, even though it may be present in the soil in high levels. With the addition of organic matter such as composted plant materials, mulch or leaf litter, the soil pH can be lowered. Over time, the area with added organic matter can be fertilized with minor elements. The elements will stay soluble and plants will produce healthy vigorous growth and happiness for you.”

I’m a member of Steve Solomon’s Soils and Health Group on Yahoo so I sent your question on gardening in shells by them for more insight.

Russel Lopez wrote back:

“I’m not familiar with mango trees, but I don’t think I would go to all the trouble of digging out substrate, unless you have access to heavy equipment and lots of good fill to replace it with. You would essentially be making a pot in the ground.”

He then linked to this article, which notes:

“Early studies of tree roots from the 1930s, often working in easy-to-dig loess soils, presented an image of trees with deep roots and root architecture that mimicked the structure of the top of the tree. The idea of a deeply-rooted tree became embedded as the typical root system for all trees. Later work on urban trees that were planted in more compacted soils more often found very shallow, horizontal root systems. Urban foresters have successfully spent a lot of energy trying to make people understand that tree roots have a basically horizontal orientation, to the point that even many tree professionals now believe that deep roots in trees are a myth. The truth lies somewhere in between deep roots and shallow roots.”

I have read that gardeners in the Keys will hack holes right into the compacted lime rock and shell mix, fill with some soil, then plant. The trees survive and thrive.
I would make a hole a few times the size of the root ball, put in some local earth, then plant. Mulch, keep it watered, and see what happens. Trees are very resilient. If you don’t have rock beneath, the roots should find what they need. Watch for pH issues, though. If the leaves yellow, I recommend adding some sulfur as well.
You can also foliar feed with compost tea and/or a balanced fertilizer containing micronutrients. Steve Solomon recommended Dyna-Gro to me but I haven’t had the chance to try it yet.
Good luck and send me updates! I would love to hear how your mangoes grow.

Propagate Yams the Easy Way with Yam Minisetts

yam-minisetts-ready-for-planting

Grab yourself a big root, a knife and some ashes… it’s time to propagate yams!

Also see the CARDICaribbean video on propagating yams here:

Though I pick on the method in my video because I’m not a fan of soaking yams in pesticides or herbicides, it’s a fine presentation with good information otherwise.

Propagating Yams in Three Steps

how-to-propagate-yams-image

This is the minisett method of yam propagation. If you have bulbils, you can just use those; however, some yam species don’t make bulbils or you may be starting with a store-bought yam and don’t want to plant the whole thing. A good-sized yam can get you a dozen or more plants if you divide it well.

Step 1: Divide the Yam

To propagate yams from minisetts, get a fresh yam and cut it into pieces while ensuring you have a good piece of skin on each one from which the new growth will emerge.

making yam minisetts for yam propagation

You can cut the yam pieces even smaller than I cut them in the video. Half that size will still work. Larger pieces will give you stronger vines, however, so there’s a balance between getting more plants and getting more vigorous plants.

Step 2: Dip the Pieces in Ashes

Dip the cut pieces of yam in ashes and let them dry a bit.

dipping yam minisetts in ashes for propagating yams

Ashes seem to help heal the wound and protect it from infection. It’s a traditional method practiced in places where yams are grown. Pieces will also grow without ashes, but it’s an easy step so I follow it.

Step 3: Plant Your Yams

It’s important to plant yams in loose soil as they are a root crop.

In Florida sand I just dug a little hold and buried them and they’d get nice and big; however, in clay it’s important to loosen lots of space to give the roots a place to grow.

yam-bed

If you like, you can plant your yam minisetts in a big pot or a bed to ensure you only get ones that will sprout. When the vines start popping out from the ground, transfer your yams to where you would like them to grow – and don’t wait long – the vines will grow fast and become a big tangle if you don’t act quickly.

Ensure each yam has a solid stick they can climb. Shoot for 6-7′ tall poles or ever larger.

This is how I cut stakes:

Alternately, yams can be grown on fences or on trees.

More On Yam Propagation

Yam bulbils will also work for planting if you have access to them; however, not all Dioscorea species will make bulbils.

Note: I have successfully propagated Dioscorea alata from cuttings, but I don’t think that method will give you good yields, at least in the first year. If you can’t get roots or bulbils, go for it, though.

Usually it’s just easier to propagate yams by cutting big roots up into minisetts. Try your local ethnic market for yams and other treasures.

With the potato yam, just use entire roots from the cluster without cutting them into pieces, as that is supposed to work better.

Potato-yam-dioscorea

Here are the buckets (and a bag) of cut-up yams we planted, plus the still-intact potato yams:

yam pieces ready to plant yam minisetts

Now it’s time to cut stakes!

Discover more on yams in my survival plant profile.

I also cover yams as a crop in my books Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening and Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening.

Some recent reviews of Grow or Die:

grow-or-die-reviews

Though tropical yams won’t work in colder climates, temperate gardeners will have luck with the Chinese yam, AKA Dioscorea batatas.

Have fun – yams are a wonderful staple crop with good flavor and beautiful vines.

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