Things grow amazingly fast here in Panama. Especially in the ground. Especially in the Azuero. When I saw papayas volunteering in a rental backyard, I thought “Ooo.” So the next time I ate a really delicious papaya instead of throwing the seeds away I put most of them in a pot and nurtured them along, the way I would have done up north.
That was a year ago this past November (2012). Within a few weeks I had a few hundred papaya seedlings. I thinned them, gave some away, and they kept on growing, slowly. When the little cuties were perhaps three months old, I realized they couldn’t remain inside any longer and transplanted the biggest (about four inches tall) to pots of their own.
These, I put outside on the deck, as my rental at that time had no land associated with it. I wish I could say they throve, but they didn’t. In late May I moved to a house in Las Tablas with a little yard. One of my first actions was to move my three little papayas out of their pots and into the ground. They were about six inches tall at that time.
The first had gotten a bit of root rot and I didn’t expect it to survive, but survive it did. With a vengeance! It’s taller than I am now. The second was the healthiest and immediately shot up two inches. Then, unfortunately, my dog Eeany got something in her eyes and decided that rubbing them on the soil around that particular papaya was the thing to do. She broke it in half, and it died.
But I was in landscape mode at that point, and really wanted three across that strip of land, so I scraped the seeds from the papaya I was eating into the dirt in where the broken plant had been. Within a week, I had dozens. So I pulled all but the best three and discarded the others. They throve.
By November of 2013 all three of the main plants were the same height, almost six feet tall. Even the one that got such a late start. Imagine. From seed to six feet between June and November. All three were flowering. My favorite turned out to be a girl papaya, which means it has to be pollinated by local boy papayas or one of my other two, both of which are hermaphrodites. Hermies are apparently the most desirable plant to have, because you will for sure get papayas.
It’s March now, and I do indeed have papayas on my papaya trees. They aren’t very big, but that changes daily and I may have a harvest within a month.
The moral of this story involves the sizes of the plants. The one that grew from seed right in the ground is as tall as the other two of the main trio, even though it is probably six months younger. It’s “litter-mate” which was transplanted to a pot for a few months and then moved out by the road, is barely two feet tall. Phenomenal.
Also, have a peek at this grape tomato plant. It spent most of its early life struggling in a pot, but after two months in the soil – look at it now!
Life is persistent in Central America.