The papaya or papaw tree (Carica papaya) hails from the tropical Americas but can be grown in warm to mild climates. Even large plants are frost tender and can be damaged or killed by near freezing temperatures. Eat papaya fruit fresh or make them into juices and smoothies once they turn yellow.
Collect papaya seeds from a ripe fruit. Remove the gelatinous sarcotesta, or sac, that coats every seed by rubbing them against the sides of a colander or sieve. Allow the seeds to dry and store in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for as long a year before planting.
Plant four papaya seeds in a gallon container containing sterile potting compost. Bury the seeds at a depth of no more than 1/2 inch and place the container in full sunlight with when the temperature is at least 15.5 degrees Celsius/60 degrees Fahrenheit. After germination, which takes two or three weeks, remove the weakest seedlings by cutting them off at the soil line. Fertilise the seedlings with liquid fertiliser every two weeks until they reach a height of 12 to 14 inches.
Plant your seedlings in the garden in groups of three or four. Choose a sunny spot that is sheltered from the wind and leave a minimum of 8 feet between plants.Water them regularly to keep the soil moist but avoid waterlogging it.
Sex your papaya plants once they have started to flower after five or six months as only female plants will bear fruit. Females have single flowers borne along the trunk while males have long sprays of flowers. Leave one male plant per group or one male plant per eight or 10 female plants to ensure pollination.
Fertilise papaya plants with 1 to 2lbs. balanced granular fertiliser every other month.
Hermaphrodite papaya plants have female flowers containing small, pollen bearing stamens. A hemaphrodite plant will act like a male plant in the garden. Papaya plants will bear fruit within a year after being planted out. Yields drop after three years so guarantee a constant supply by sequentially planting out new papaya plants.
Do not plant papaya seeds without removing the outer sac as it inhibits germination. Do not prune papaya plants as their growing point is at the tip of the trunk. Do not allow potted papaya seedlings to become pot bound before planting them out.