Consider growing papaya right in your back yard and spend nothing more than the cost of a single fruit. In my original blog, gardening for free (part 1), I covered the basics of gardening from kitchen scraps, propagating and harvesting seeds from season to season. Papaya are beautiful tropical plants that can produce fruit when grown in containers, which will then be moved indoors before the first freeze.
How to Grow Papaya from Seed
To grow papaya, you will need to buy one whole papaya fruit that has not been refrigerated. Refrigeration will stop the seed from being able to sprout. When you are ready to plant, and only when you are ready to plant, cut open your papaya and set aside about 30 seeds. The first time I tried this, I waited a couple of days to plant the seeds and they did not sprout, so plant them immediately.
~ Take a large pot and mix with organic potting soil and compost, about 50/50. Place pot in sunny area. Ideal temp for starting from seed is 70 degrees.
~ Plant each seed individually by poking the seed about 1 inch down in the pot. Cover with dirt and water daily. I originally planted the seeds in May, so we were already having 90 degree days and my seeds still sprouted fine. Papaya is a tropical and loves warm weather. Once your seeds sprout up, keep a close eye not to give them too much direct sun. If you are seeing a lot of yellow leaves, it’s probably too much sun.
~ Around the six week mark, I tried to separate the plants into other containers and they were quite fragile. To be safe, wait until the 10 week mark and the root system is a little more established.
~ Because I am growing these fruit in containers, I will want to top each plant so that it does not get too tall. Papaya trees grown outdoors can grow to 20 feet in height. To prune or top your plant, simply cut off the top 6 inches or so at the main stem once the plant gets to about 2.5 to 3 feet tall. This will make your plant stockier and easier to manage since you will be bringing these inside in the winter.
Expect your papaya trees to produce fruit in about 1 year, as long as you have male and female trees to pollinate (or some trees are bisexual). You can tell the sex of your Papaya tree by the type of flower. It takes a papaya tree almost a year to flower, so you won’t know if you have a fruit producer until then. For additional info, click here.
The papaya is considered a superfood! They are great in salads, in savory dishes, grilled or use the seeds to make a papaya seed vinagrette.