Sunday, September 13, 1998
MOST fruit trees bear the first crop after a wait of a few years. People make frequent queries about the trees that start giving fruit within a year of their planting. The papaya tree starts bearing fruit in the very first year of planting it. It bears fruit heavily and has numerous nutritional and medicinal properties. Same is the case with phalsa. The small fruit is available in summer and its sharbat is extremely refreshing. Both these fruits grow from seed, though phalsa is propagated by cuttings too. What should we do to successfully grow these fruits?
The general complaint from gardeners who tried to grow papaya trees is that they planted the tree which grew well, started flowering and yielding fruit and all of a sudden the fruits and leaves turned yellow and the leaves sagged. Within a few days the plants died. There was softness of the stem near the ground level. The reason was rotting or collar rot.
In fact, at the time of planting we forget to consider two main things. Papaya is extremely sensitive to waterlogging and frost. In the protected areas of four walls, frost may not be a problem when it is grown in the garden. The selection of the site needs utmost care. May be, you have planted the tree at the end of the slope in your garden. Perhaps there is a slight slope and you did not even know about it. The rain water stagnates or seeps through the roots that get damaged very fast. Yellowing and drooping is a sure sign of waterlogging. There is stunting of growth and poor fruit development. Do not make mounds of mud with the stem to give it support. The loose soil in a mound conserves moisture and remains continuously in touch with the main stem, thereby causing rotting. This also becomes a potential breeding ground for insects. Do not think papaya needs less watering. Due to a superficial root system, it needs plenty of water but it has to be light, but frequent, watering. The drainage too has to be ensured. You can even make a double basin around the main stem and water the outer ring so that it does not come into contact with the main stem.
Punjab Sweet, Pusa Delicious and Pusa Dwarf are some excellent fruit-bearing varieties which are available at the P.A.U. Ludhiana. The height in these cases varies between 165 to 210 cm. Other varieties are Washington, Honey Dew, Coorg. Honey and Co-1. Freshly extracted seed from a delicious fruit, gently washed and sown in a bed or in a polythene bag, can serve the purpose. There are chances that the fruit from such a tree may not be similar to the one from which the seed was obtained but it can be sown. After it emerges, drench the soil with captan, added at 2 gm to a litre of water to prevent the seedling from dying due to damping off disease early on. Repeat drenching after four days.
As the papaya tree tends to overbear, it is necessary to remove some of the fruit. This will improve the size and quality of the fruit. In old plants, the third year onwards, the size of the fruit gets drastically reduced and the quality deteriorates. This is the time when the plant should be removed and replaced. The reduction in size of the fruit is due to reduction in the internode space (leaf to leaf).
In the beginning, at the time of transplanting you cannot specify which tree will be fruit bearing and which one will not. The male tree has no capacity to bear. If you find more number of male trees, identified by bud like flowers on long stalks emerging from the main stem, replace them with fresh plants. Keep a ratio of one male plant to 10 female plants. The female plant can be identified by flowers emerging directly from the main stem. Even if you find a male tree growing in the garden of your neighbour, dispense with yours. Pollination is carried out by insects. There are trees which carry both male and female parts.
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