Here in tropical Central America, we have two distinct seasons, wet and dry. The wet season, from about April through November, generates humongous amounts of water! A good rainy season is essential to the water supply to keep the Panama Canal working through the dry season. It is also the growing season. The abundance of water makes everything so green that it grows at slightly slower than the speed of light!
Our little area in the jungle has a poor quality of soil. Even though it is heavy red clay, things grow quickly. The soil is difficult to work with for planting anything! So, we decided a couple of years ago to begin composting, in hopes that augmenting the soil would be helpful in improving its quality.
A simple four-foot hole in the back yard received most of our kitchen waste. I rotated around the four quadrants of the compost hole, adding not only kitchen waste but some potting soil, peat moss, and sand. The kitchen waste decomposes quickly.
Last trip, we had our large front deck tiled and had a small planter built into one of the corners. We used our composted soil to fill the planter. By the time we left, in March, everything we had planted was growing well. There were a number of small unidentifiable things starting to grow. We thought they were weeds but according to our friend down the street they were tomatoes and papaya. We left them alone!
On our return, the planter was overgrown with not only the plants we had planted but many tomato and papaya plants. The papayas were now seedlings about eighteen inches tall.
We love papaya and it grows well here if it has the right conditions. It likes full sun and good drainage. Our lot has now got more than a dozen papaya seedlings planted in various test places. We need to find locations that the plants like as it gets quite windy here in the dry season. Our planting attempted to offer sunny locations somewhat protected from the wind. We will see how successful we were.
Papaya trees grow fast and die-hard! Even slightly cool temperatures can kill the tree. It doesn’t like shade, cold, drought or wind. It is between six and nine months from seed to first fruit, then production is ongoing. The single stalk tree grows up to thirty feet tall. OK, that’s seed to 30 foot maturity in six to nine months! You should be able to literally watch it grow. It only lasts about four years. It’s like it grows and produces so fast that it burns itself out!
We are looking forward to seeing how prolific our papaya trees are. As they grow fruit, we will have to watch them carefully as the hungry birds will be doing the same.