Want to know how to grow papaya in north Florida? It can be done if you know the right tricks.
I’ve been told it’s “impossible” to do in North Florida’s climate, but nevertheless, in the fall, we usually eat papaya for breakfast on a regular basis.
They’re really good. Someone came over the other day and remarked “What – you have papaya? Too bad you can’t grow those here!”
They were serious!
I was growing papaya – and am growing them – and will be growing them in the future!
So, today’s post is for those of you that think growing papaya in North Florida is impossible. Ready? Here we go!
How To Grow Papaya In North Florida Without Getting Really Sad Because The Frost Killed All Your Precious Plants And Left You With Nothing To Harvest
Catchy title, right? I think eHow would love it.
Here’s how to grow papaya in North Florida. Papaya, as you know, is a tropical fruit. It’s not a real tree – it’s actually just a big fleshy plant that develops a woody stem over time.
If it gets cold, the tree will rapidly wilt and suffer. A hard freeze that lasts any period of time will kill a papaya tree right to the ground.
Fortunately, papaya trees grow very quickly and bear fruit rapidly, even from seed. If you want to eat papaya, you need to start your trees one year in pots, then plant them out in the spring of the next year.
If you started papayas from seed right now, they’d probably grow to be a foot or more tall by the time it gets chilly and their growth stops. When it freezes, they die, of course, so if you start them in pots, bring them in on cold nights or pop them into a greenhouse.
In spring when all danger of frost has passed, plant your papaya trees in rich soil in a somewhat sheltered location. Against a south wall is great – just plant them closer than the trees in the image above. RIGHT AGAINST the wall is good. Growing dwarf varieties of papaya will also make them easier to protect; however, even if you plant your little trees out in the garden in spring, with lots of water and good compost (plant them on top of something horrid and nitrogenous, as I explain in my book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting), they’re going to fruit. It’s also important to plant at least a few papaya for the sake of pollination.
In a rich garden bed, they’ll grow like gangbusters in the heat and start bearing fruit by late summer. By fall, that fruit will be ripening. If a frost threatens, pick the fruit and bring it indoors to ripen – or cover the trees with blankets and pray over them.
Another method is just to grow the papaya trees in big pots and haul them into your greenhouse for the winter. They’ll keep producing for a few years this way.
Growing papaya in North Florida may not be the most efficient way to spend your gardening time, but the flavor of ripe papaya along with their health benefits makes them a great addition to your homestead.
If you end up with a bunch of green papayas right before a frost and they’re too green to eat, check out the green papaya recipes I posted.
Anyone else growing papaya in North Florida?