Hello everyone! I am fascinated with and almost enamored by paw paws. I would someday like to have hundreds of them, of all different varieties, Wild, grafted, you name it, probably ending up the majority of my orchard, and I have ambitious plans to start many many plants from seed and expand the gene pool of pawpaws that will thrive in my particular ecosystem. I am soon expecting my first 6 trees(Mango, SAA Overleese, Shenandoah, prolific, and two ungrafted seedlings of unkown decent plus 10 seeds) So this post is for anyone and everyone with any experience growing these trees, who can give me ANY advice or information. Particularly, what’s the proper, or rather best, way for me to plant them(also maybe organic fertilization methods if that’s necessary, be it fish or just a thick compost top dress and frequent compost tea waterings maybe)? I heard they transplant better in the spring unlike most other fruit trees, so I was probably going to do half in about a month and half around March, just to see what happens. Although I’d rather do them all right the first time! Should I not disturb the roots (they are in pots) at all when planting because the roots are sensitive, and just take it directly out of the pot and place into the ground, or do I only have to be careful with the taproot? How tolerant are they of acidic soils and should I apply lime when planting because my soil seem to be pretty acidic (don’t know exact ph yet, working on that soil test)? And then probably the biggest concern I have is rainfall, here in South Georgia we get a LOT of rain, basically year round. But it’s the summer showers concerning me, because it can rain every single day in the afternoon and while during the rest of the year my soil seems to have at least fairly decent drainage, there tends to be pockets of standing water and just boggy areas in the middle of summer. USUALLY the water drains within a day when it does stand, but when it just keeps raining everyday it builds right back up again and I know pawpaws don’t like standing water, so, could I just plant them in mounds? We get PLENTY water, and as some of you on the forum may know, no shortage of wood chips either, so I’m not at all concerned about the mounds drying out in my climate. But I’m also looking for some specifics of how I should build/plant the mound, should they be big mounds (5-6ft or something in diameter) or just little mounds slightly bigger than the rootball? I’ve seen people just dig a hole 3-4 inches deep, take the plant out of the pot, set it right in the hole and just mound the rest of the soil up the sides to fill in the cracks and then water+mulch, is that a good approach or is there maybe a better way to do it? And any other information or experiences you all have with these great plants, I appreciate anything you can tell me!!! (Also, maybe if any of you have any extra seeds lying around, I could sure use some of those too, as I said I want as much diversity as possible, as many genes as I can get from as many different locations!) y’all are great and as a 20 year old learning forest gardener I greatly appreciate any and all help
Anyway, we have 2 grown trees that I've had the opportunity of observing for 10 years. They gave a crop this year for the first time (have been trying for the last 5 years but various misfortunes befell us). It was glorious.
- Acidic soil should be OK considering that ours is pH 4.5-5.5.
- Asimina is an understory tree. Young plants can get sunburn if exposed to strong sun. Morning sun + afternoon shade is a good idea. Most of the growers I know even use shadecloth around young plants for the first 3 years after planting. You didn't ask, but: asimina can grow quite nicely near a walnut tree and will enjoy the shade if the walnut is on the south side of it.
- Apart from super sunny sites it's also a good idea to avoid very windy ones. Again, think of the natural situation of an understory tree. The alpha trees, let's call them that, are filtering down the level of both sun and wind.
- It would be good to avoid standing water; yes, mounds should be fine, or a slope if one is available. Our situation is not waterlogged so I don't have first-hand experience with planting on mounds. What you mentioned about planting shallowly and then building the mound around the rest of the rootball doesn't sound wrong. Just bear in mind that your freshly piled material will compress with time (and rain) so you likely need to pile up more than the final intended height. (Not hugely more - just somewhat more and then keep adding as needed.) A large (wide) mound would, in my opinion, be better than just a small pile around the roots so that you don't get struck by Murphy's law in the form of an unexpected drought - during which a very small mound and the roots inside it would be in danger of drying out. Yes, asmina will grow a serious taproot which will make it somewhat drought-resilient but not instantly after planting.
- As to adding other materials to the planting site, I like to include splinters of old wood (think buried hugel) but our situation is opposite to yours: a lack of rain, not an overabundance of it, is the usual challenge. Compost is always welcome. Oh and - loosen the soil deepy, ie. make an extra deep planting hole and then re-fill it to the actual intended depth so that there is a lot of loosened soil under the roots, making it easier for the taproot to develop.
- Planting in the fall should be fine - since your zone is 8b and our land is 1 or 2 zones harsher than that. If you're really worried you can pile up leaves, straw or whatever to give extra protection, but - it's a good idea to always keep mulch some distance from the tree trunk (to avoid excess moisture, critters partying, etc) and when your rootball is not yet wide, this means that your mulch will not be directly on top of it anyway. If i were in zone 8 I would be very, very much inclined to plant in the fall (as I am anyway) in order to avoid your spring-planted tree being exposed to summer heat while still entirely fresh in the ground.
I hope these are useful starting points and people with more years / trees will join in.
just a few comments
pawpaws do not seem to like swamps ( the ground doesn't drain)
but will live happily along rivers and streams that periodically flood, but not so severely that it washes away everything
pawpaws are sensitive to UV light when young , but will thrive on as much light as they can get
this can be accomplished by using some greenhouse plastic (gasp!, yes i said that word) which blocks UV light
shade cloth and trees block both UV light and sunlight
so the plastic should give better growth
as an understory tree, pawpaws are adapted to growing in soil of decaying leaves and wood
so mulching the area with leaves, wood chips, rotted stumps, branches, etc is good
and this will also help modify the pH of the soil. a dusting of lime wouldn't hurt
as Crt mentioned, wind can be a problem, especially when the tree is in fruit
a branch with several 1/4 - 1/2 lb fruit hanging at the end can easily snap the branch if the wind catches it the wrong way
this past September,just as my fruit was beginning to ripen, the remnants of hurricane Gordon came thru here with 40+ mph winds
about 1/3 of my crop was dumped on the ground
a word to anyone with more than a few trees
have a plan ahead of time for dealing with:
fruit that ripens all at the same time,
fruit that is easily bruised,
with very little shelf life
Think about where nature grows pawpaws and you will know the ideal set of conditions for growing them.
Pawpaw trees are an understory tree, that means they like a fair amount of shade to start life in.
pawpaw leaves will sunburn when they are less than four years old, sunburn = death for pawpaw trees.
They also like to live along streams, not on the stream but near it, that means some drainage is required but it also means they need a fair amount of continuous soil moisture.
You don't ever find pawpaw where bald cypress grows with knees, that means no wet feet, ever.