Grit Blogs > Life in the Fast Lane

Going Native, Part II

Andrew WeidmanPawpaw

There’s no denying that winter has come. Maybe not a full-blown, years-long, Westeros Winter, but winter nonetheless. There’s snow on the ground — ground which has frozen, I might add. Birds busily flock to the feeder outside the window and the suet block nearby. Canada geese are on the move, the resident geese restless and eager to join their migrant brethren as they travel south.

Snow

This time of year can be difficult for gardeners. There’s no sun-warmed soil to run between your fingers, no ripe tomatoes to pluck, no roses to smell. Even a patch of weeds needing pulling would be welcomed right about now.

Sure, seed catalogs have been rolling in, and who doesn’t enjoy the green thumb version of Fantasy Football? Nosing through the pages, writing lists of seeds for all the new, exciting vegetables you want to try next year, dreaming of how lush and glorious 2017’s garden will be ... The only problem with that fix is that it really only makes the ‘green fever’ itch that much worse.

Where am I going with this?

You may remember that last October I posted a blog entry about Pawpaws (Going Native) and the decision to add two to our mini orchard. A friend of mine mentioned last week that the time to pot up pawpaw seeds was fast approaching. That reminded me of the bag of seeds I had stored in peat moss last fall. Hurrah! Here was a chance to do something productive involving potting mix and seeds!

Seeds

Pawpaws have ridiculously long taproots, and I’m told they can stretch their roots downward at least a foot before they ever poke their heads above the soil line. Most instructions tell you to store the seeds in the fridge over winter and then plant them in the ground. And wait. And pray. And forget where you planted them. And try not to mow the seedlings over when they finally emerge in July.

As I reported in the original post, pawpaws do sprout in storage, sometimes before winter ends. I don’t like taking chances, and the thought of overlong taproots in a ziplock bag combined with forgotten seedlings being pulled for weeds by mistake turned me towards starting them in pots. Many growers I know use two-liter soda bottles as pots — tops cut off and holes punched in the bottom for drainage. We don’t drink soda, so bottles are scarce, but I did happen to have two Deeproot pots, pots actually designed for the job, 18 inches tall and 4 inches square. Imagine that! I had the right tool, not a work-around tool. When does that happen?

Deeproot

This morning, I spent a pleasant half-hour filling a pot almost to the top with potting mix, positioning four of my nine seeds in the top, and covering them with an inch of mix. I saved the rest of the seeds to plant next month as insurance in case the first four didn’t spend long enough in the fridge. One source recommends four months of cold stratification, and my math is only giving me three and a half, so I'm hedging my bets again.

Now, back to waiting for spring.

Waiting