We love papaya. It is sweet and delicious and almost always available here in our yard. We have several trees (plants?) scattered about where they fit within the garden.
We don’t just use them for the table because they cast an excellent umbrella of shade that we use to create micro-climates and beneficial patches for other things in the yard.
We also use them as food for the chickens, and they love them.
This article is about our use of the chickens to spread and germinate the seeds of the Papaya within our yard so we can continue the process of building resilience into our lives.
Chickens love to scratch. The can’t stop it.
This trait can be a pain in the neck for the gardener who lets the chickens out, and the birds destroy the gardens because of their scratching behavior.
We have taken a different path and keep the chickens within their pen and use their unstoppable scratching to our favor (and theirs in the end).
When we have what you could call a glut of papaya, we pick the best fruit for the kitchen, and the “seconds” go to the chickens as a whole fruit.
We throw the fruit into the pen. Ripe fruit splits on contact with the ground and makes it easier for the chickens to access the flesh, but they also eat the skin, so the splitting is not required as a rule. It just happens at times.
We also cut the fruit into pieces and lay it down at times. We have never seen a chicken eat a Papaya seed, not to say that they don’t ever, but I haven’t seen it yet.
So the result is that if the chickens don’t eat the seeds (or only eat half), then there must be a seed bank of Papaya seeds held in the chicken pen’s soil; that is precisely what has happened.
We have posted on the method we use to make organic soil for the raised garden beds (link), and it is this method that we now rely on to take out the work and planning that germinating papaya seeds can be.
Self-sufficiency does not mean having to do all the work all the time. It is about using intelligent processes when it fits, and this is a great example of that process.
When it is time to take soil (composted garden waste by chicken power) from the pen, we inevitably end up with papaya seeds scattered throughout the beds, and the seeds start germinating.
It is really something when you get to treat a Papaya seedling as a weed, but that is precisely what is occurring here at SSHL.
Can you Transplant Papaya trees?
We have found that papaya can and will transplant well “IF” your soil is healthy and full of life. The amount of soil life plays a large part in your success.
Now and then, we find a spot where papaya would fit into the garden design, so we need to go and dig one up that has already germinated.
We can only work with the facts here as we know them, and they are based on our personal experience of transplanting many papaya plants all around the yard.
We have spent a great deal of time and effort working on our soil and the life within it and now have many healthy Papaya in heavy fruit thanks to that earlier work.
The only challenge we have at this stage is what gender the plants are as we move them around the yard to a location where we can use the papaya shade to our advantage while picking fruit as they grow.
We typically plant a couple together to work around this because the female plants are the fruiters, and the males pollinate.
The commercial growers employ labs to clone bisexual plants and early into our self-sufficient journey we bought one of these from a garden center and while it is a great producer, it will eventually grow old and die.
Planning for this means we need to have a pathway of plant succession that is on site with no cost.
In other words, we want the plants in the yard to be self-replicating, and for papaya, this is why the chickens are so valuable to us.
Do seed grown plants fruit slower than garden center plants?
Seed-grown plants can fruit as quickly as the cultivated varieties, with all things being equal, but how long till they fruit is up to you because it depends on your soil.
In the video clip, we show the plants we have on-site at the moment, giving context to the idea of fruiting speed.
The truth is that if your soil conditions are good or great, you can expect above-average results.
We have experienced this firsthand, as shown in the video above, and it shows that a seed put through the chook pen and then bare root transplanted into very fertile soil can produce a papaya plant that is fruiting inside of a year.
Soil is the place to put a lot of your effort and attention.
What Grows Well With Seed Grown Papaya?
We research a lot regarding what and where we plant around the yard, and we have found so many mixed opinions on the web that we now rely on a test and trial process for most things.
We pay attention to what the commercial growers do and see if there are tips we can use to make our food growing more robust and dependable year on year.
We were aware that coffee grows well with Papaya but have discovered that ginger also does very well with papaya.
The only downside is the roots get a little tangled when we lift the ginger at the end of the season. We found that Rosella also has done well with papaya.
The growing conditions of the rosella and papaya are similar, and our trials have given good results.
Do Cloned Papaya produce more fruit than seed grown papaya?
It is possible because commercial growers mostly use cloned plants, which could be for fruit consistency.
What do we think? Well, according to our experience, it depends on the soil and the plant’s location.
We have both types in the yard, and you would be hard-pressed to tell them apart. Some of the seed-grown plants have very crowded clusters of fruit; it is difficult to pick them because they are so tightly packed in.
The bought clone plant has easier picking but still is a generous cropper. One thing to point out here is we have at least two varieties on-site, with the bought one being red papaya and the other variety being yellow.
As to how much fruit we are getting, I can tell you that from mid-April 2021 to mid-Sept 2021, we have picked 36kgs of prime organic Papaya, which does not include some of the fruit that went to the chickens.
The papaya is one of our best fruiting crops. At least half of that came from the seed-grown plants that have popped up through the yard.
What if you don’t have chickens in your yard?
It’s time to be creative. Consider if having chickens will suit your situation because the simple thing of keeping chickens is the ultimate first step towards self-sufficiency, in our opinion.
What the chicken can do for your yard’s fertility over a few years is something to behold. The best part is that they will behave like a chicken no matter what.
There is no training or coercion to be done, and they turn up every day happy to do chook stuff, all for free.
We have a few other gems to share with how to benefit the chickens and, in turn, supercharge your garden’s yield and quality. That is for another post.
For now, if you don’t have chickens, then the next time you have papaya (organic only), save the seeds and go out to the garden and mix the seeds with a good layer of mulch that has plenty of bug activity on the surface under the mulch and even better has worm activity below as well.
Scratch the seeds into the soil and cover them up with the mulch. Now forget about them. When they are ready, they will come up. As they get taller, you can lift them carefully and spread them wherever you like.
If this is not easy enough, get a compost bin and put the seeds there. It doesn’t matter where they go because all these methods work. It comes down to how much input you want in the process.
Is organic fruit better for seeds?
This is a topic that sets many people off. Our perspective is that organic food is better than chemically grown food for various reasons.
We don’t know what chemicals are used on any particular piece of fruit, but many of the insecticides and fungicides alter the plant’s makeup.
Some of the processes harm the seed viability, and there is no red sticker on the fruit at the supermarket to alert us to this potential issue, so we don’t buy any non-organic fruit at all now, mainly because we grow 90% of our fruit on site.
We have had success teaming up with chickens with many things in the garden. Getting them to build soil for raised garden beds with the soil being loaded with seeds that are looking for somewhere to grow is just one way we co-operate with them.
Try it for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
Article by Tim Blanch for TheTropicalHomestead.com. He is a qualified Permaculture designer.