Pawpaws are flexible in their soil requirements. The main thing is good drainage. The soil must be well drained. Soil pH should be moderately acid to neutral, in the range of 5.5 to 7.0. Pawpaws are happiest in a rich, deep, loamy soil with high organic matter content.
In addition, they appreciate an organic mulch. In the wild, a natural mulching layer of decomposing leaves is normally present. Excessively dry sites should be avoided. Moist soils are ideal.
Tips for Planting A Pawpaw Tree
Help young seedlings and saplings establish themselves by fertilizing pawpaw trees with a balanced liquid fertilizer every few weeks for the first growing season. Afterward, use a granular fertilizer or a layer of compost in warm climates. Keep the area around the tree weed-free. Pawpaw trees can’t pollinate themselves, so you will need two different types of trees to produce fruit. To further complicate matters, the insects that pollinate pawpaws aren’t efficient or abundant, so you may have to fertilize the trees by hand to get a good crop. When you can see a brown ball of anthers with yellow pollen grains in the flowers, it is time to gather the pollen.
Use a small, soft artist’s paintbrush to transfer the pollen from one tree to the stigma inside the flowers of another tree. The stigma is most receptive when the pistils are green and glossy and the anthers are hard and green. Most flowers contain several ovaries, so each flower results in more than one fruit. Don’t overdo it! If you pollinate too many flowers, you’ll have to thin the crop to prevent the branches from breaking under the weight of the fruit.
Papayas start flowering when they are about one metre tall. The males flower first. Male flowers have long, thin stalks with several small blooms. Female flowers are usually single blooms, bigger, and very close to the trunk.
Cull most of the male plants. You only need one male for every ten to fifteen female plants to ensure good pollination.
And that’s it. You should end up with one very strong and healthy female plant per bed. (And a male plant somewhere…) If the weather is warm enough, and if you are growing your papayas in full sun and in good soil, then you could be picking the first ripe fruit within 10 months.
Establishing Young Trees
For good fruit production the trees should be grown in full sun. While it is true that pawpaws are shade tolerant, they will fruit much less in the shade. Because of the large size of the leaves, windy sites are damaging and to be avoided.
Prepare the soil in advance of receiving your young pawpaw tree. The soil from the hole should be thoroughly loosened to a fine tilth. The hole should be the same depth as the root system, and 2 or 3 times the diameter of the root mass. In an orchard setting, we recommend you plow a furrow down the row, rototill the soil to a loose tilth, and then mound the soil into raised beds. Pawpaw trees do not have fibrous roots. Their roots are fleshy, similar to magnolia. And like magnolia, pawpaws transplant better if moved in the wet climates, not hot days.
For the first growing season keep the trees well watered. Do not overwater, however. Drowning the tree is bad. Keep the area completely free of weeds & all competing vegetation up to a 2-foot radius. Weed control is essential to successful establishment.
Using the Pawpaw Fruit
The fruit is primarily used for fresh eating. It is extremely perishable and is amazingly delicious when it is perfectly ripe. It can be used much like you would use a banana.
Try replacing bananas with paw paw fruit in a banana bread recipe or adding paw paws to a berry smoothie. For longer-term storage you can freeze the fruit and make ice cream out of it. Any recipe that requires adding heat or cooking the pawpaw is not recommended as the flavor compounds are extremely volatile and cooking can destroy the delicious pawpaw flavor, although it seems to retain a good flavor when mixed with flour and used as a baking additive.