Growing fruit is a great way to save money


By NORMAN BEZONA

U.H. College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources

Even though the economy is beginning to improve, it is time to get back to the basics to save money.

Growing your own is a good place to start.

Planting short-season vegetables is one approach especially if you are limited in space. If you have a more space, pineapple, bananas and papayas will give you great results with little effort within a year or two. If you have the time to wait for three or four years, you can plant citrus, mangoes and avocados. For even more exotic fruit, you have to think long term for production.

Fruits like jaboticaba, mangosteen, durian, breadfruit and white sapote are examples of fruit that may take 10 or more years to give decent crops. Some like the jaboticaba are worth the wait. A mature tree can produce several heavy crops during the year. This Brazilian exotic is very nutritious and makes great jams, jellies and even wine.

Advantages to home grown fruit is that they can be harvested at their peak, thus being much more delicious than imported fruit found in supermarkets.

Many of our tropical fruits are not grown commercially or if so, they are limited in availability.

To have the best results for your time and effort, my choice is to grow papayas. Papaya plants are a natural for almost any garden. They are prolific and nutritious as well. Probably no other plant supplies the home gardener so much for so little effort. This tropical American, herbaceous, tree-like plant will grow and produce fruit the year around with a minimum of care.

Green, unripe papayas are high in papain which helps digestion. The leaves are also high in papain and used in cooking. Ripe fruits are high in calcium, vitamin A and C.

Your garden can supply an abundance of these delicious fruits. By following modern methods, you may grow many other tropical fruits as well. But one of the best is papaya.

Start out right with good plants, proper attention to fertilizer and moisture needs, and keep insects under control. You’ll harvest some very good fruit that will repay you for your trouble.

There are several varieties, from the big watermelon fruit to the small Solo types.

Most folks prefer the bisexual or Solo strain of papaya. This type produces a high percentage of top quality fruit. Seeds from the large

watermelon types produce male, female and bisexual trees. Most of the male trees must be eliminated as soon as they are detected. They are identified by means of their bloom stems. These are sometimes up to more than a foot in length and have many flowers. Female blooms are produced close to the stem but have no pollen bearing stamen. Bisexual flowers have both ovary and stamen,

thus can self pollinate.

Occasionally, garden shops and nurseries offer Solo papaya plants for sale, and the gardener who needs a few plants will do well so buy his plants rather than to attempt to grow them from seed. For larger numbers of plants, you may grow seed from selected fruit. Seed order forms are available from the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service.

The papaya is a relatively short-lived plant, reaching a height of 12, 15, or even 25 feet in five years. A top quality plant should produce more than 150 pounds in a two-year period. But commercial growers often harvest up to 300 pounds from a plant during a two-year period. After that, the plant becomes so tall it is difficult to pick fruit. Production drops rapidly.

Here are some tips for successful papaya production. Select seeds from a fruit that you like or purchase UH seed. Plant three of four seeds in individual containers, preferably those from which the plants and soil can be removed without injury to roots. Paper potting cups are okay for planting, as long as they have good drainage.

When seeds begin to sprout, fertilize with a soluble fertilizer once a week, mixing according to the manufacturer’s direction. It takes six to eight weeks to raise plants large enough to set out in permanent locations.

Set plants in permanent locations at least eight feet apart. The area should receive as much sun as possible. Put about three plants to a hill, one foot apart in the hill. Keep them there until you determine the sex, then remove the males and weak females.

If the soil in which you are to set young papaya plants is poor, prepare it two weeks ahead of planting by spreading complete garden fertilizer such as 4-4-4 or 8-8-8, compost and well rotted manures over a 4-square-foot area about the site of each hill and dig the fertilizer into the soil. Wet it down so that the fertilizer will dissolve and mix well with the soil.

Fertilize newly set out plants once a week with soluble fertilizer for the first month. Then begin fertilizing with a regular dry garden fertilizer, applying once a month. The papaya requires large amounts of fertilizer for best production. Remember it is a giant herb and not a tree. Spread the fertilizer out over an area roughly covered by the leaves.

A papaya plant won’t thrive in soil that is very dry or soggy and wet.

Young plants must be kept well watered until they are established, then watered every four or five days during the dry season. Mulching will help to conserve moisture. In wetter areas of the island, irrigation will only be necessary during drought periods.

Pests can give papaya growers trouble. The worst pests are aphids, mites and fruit flies.

There has been no insecticide that will give satisfactory control of the fruit fly in dooryard plantings. But harvesting fruit before they become over ripe will help keep damage to a minimum.

Mites, almost microscopic spider-like creatures, sometimes cause visual damage.

This does not usually affect the taste of the fruit.

Nematodes, microscopic worms which feed on papaya roots are also a problem. Good fertilization practices and mulching will minimize nematode damage.

Occasional diseases may cause fruit blemish. Fungicides applied according to manufacturer’s directions usually clear up this problem.

Once you have started your papaya plants, consider the many varieties of bananas since they are easy to grow as well. Vegetable gardens can be a challenge but with the right seed and preparation you can cut those food bills.

If it is meat you want, there are many farmers having problems with wild pigs and chickens. If you are into the hunting mode, they will be happy to have help reducing the population of these animals since they do a great deal of damage

to crops.

This information is supplied by the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. For further information, contact the office near you. The website is www.ctahr.hawaii.edu.

 

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