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Pawpaws and More

by on April 19, 2015

We haven’t posted much because there hasn’t been much to post.  But now that Spring is once again upon us, Murstein is up and walking again, and things are (ever slowly) getting done, there’s stuff to talk about.

The pawpaw trees arrived!

They reminded me of nothing so much as this Guardians of the Galaxy clip.

Because it’s taking forever to get the place done, we thought we’d start putting in a few fruit trees as we can manage to do so, and maybe they will be ready to go online by the time we move in. Murstein and I debated over the first batch. Cherries maybe? But I can buy cherries at the store or farmer’s market, no matter how delicious. However, I had always had my heart set on pawpaws, so pawpaws we got.

Not only are they the largest edible fruit native to North America, they are, by all accounts, delicious. Because we’re getting old and I didn’t want to waste years growing a tree that might have less than stellar fruit, we splurged on three grafted trees from Stark Bros. nursery. They were great to deal with, made tracking the shipment easy, and paid me absolutely nothing for that endorsement.

If you have one pawpaw tree, you should have two, because they are not self-fertile. You need pollen from another non-related tree to make things happen. Personally, I like sets of three for that reason. In case something happens to one, we don’t have to wait 3-7 more years for fruit again. In this case, I picked these three, with descriptions from here:

SAA Overleese – Selected from Overleese seed by John Gordon, Amherst, NY, in 1982. Large fruit; rounded shape; green skin; yellow flesh; few seeds; matures in mid-October in NY.

Prolific – Selected by Corwin Davis, Bellevue, MI, in mid-1980s. Large fruit, yellow flesh; ripens first week of October in MI. Fruit size medium at KSU.

Sunflower – Selected from the wild in Chanute, KS, by Milo Gibson in 1970. Tree reported to be self-fertile. Large fruit; yellow skin; butter-color flesh; few seeds; ripens early to mid-September in Kentucky and first week of October in MI. Fruit size large; averaging 155 g/fruit and 75 fruit per tree at KSU.

The weekend after the trees arrived was sunny and perfect for planting. We gathered all the stuff and set to work.

The soil was rich and black, easy to dig, crumbly, and had plenty of earthworms. Good omens for future production. (We added some peat moss to make it easy for the roots to spread out at first. Also compost.)

Baby pawpaws need shade for the first year or two, because their natural habitat is the understory layer of a woodland. The sun will fry the young’uns. But after that, they produce the most and best fruit in full sun. We thought long about how to make good shade that we could remove one day. Planting them in the understory of our woods, or in the dark area of the yard, was too permanent. When we went to three garden/farm supply stores and failed to find shade cloth, I had a MacGyver Epiphany. How about tomato cages with old t-shirts? I unrolled some line from the fishing pole that (unfortunately) hasn’t seen any action since 2001, found some really stable (bigger at the bottom than up top) tomato cages, and stitched the bottoms of the t-shirts on to the cages so they would stay in place instead of blowing up or away. The neck of the shirt is left open for circulation and a bit of light, because even baby pawpaws need to eat.

Murstein brought water-holding tree rings so that the soil stays moist, but not too wet. The maker of the tree rings claims that these can go two weeks, from full to empty. This is good for us, because since the Minifarm doesn’t have water (yet), we have to port it in gallon jugs every week that we fill at home.

It was a long, exhausting day of planting, but someday, instead of funny t-shirts (tree-shirts?) this view from our front window will have a beautiful pawpaw grove.

Other things we got done this weekend, Reader’s Digest version:

* First inoculation of the lawn (around apple trees and mulberry bushes and in land that will one day be garden space) with Milky Spore, a natural bacteria that preys on the grub-children of the Japanese beetle. Since I saw these in the yard in previous summers, I want to have a welcome committee for them this year. 😉

* Murstein dug/burnt out the cardboard used as a spacer between the clay chimney pipes and the concrete we poured as a chimney cap last year. The intent is to fill in the space with a fireproof caulk, since clay and concrete expand at different rates and we don’t want any crazy cracking up there. However, it started to rain and the roofing material is slick, so we thought better to finish this another time.

* Murstein also cut some dead wood off of the big old apple tree and severed some real ropey mother-vines of poison ivy that are climbing up some dead trees. Eventually the dead trees will come down and be used for hugelkultur beds, but for now, just stopping those giant ivy vines from reproducing themselves is a very worthy goal.

* Personally, I care more about useful than pretty, but I caved when I saw “6 for $5” Stargazer lily bulbs at the grocery store. I know, I know, they might be crap, but I’ve bought crap before that cost more than $5 so it wasn’t that bad. If they grow, it will make me happy and feed the bees. What more excuse do I need? We have over 10 acres, so I can afford to be totally frivolous with two square feet.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to blog from the Minifarm this weekend.

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