Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I Love Mystery Plants

I have had many compost piles, and I often have plants growing from them because I discard seeds and my composting areas have never been hot enough to kill the seeds. I actually have always enjoyed the surprises that pop up in my garden. This season, after I planted eggplant seeds for the first time, I observed the seedlings in that area of the garden bed popping up, much more than the amount of eggplant seeds I planted and they didn't all look the same. Once they grew bigger I was able to identify which ones were eggplant seedlings (thanks to Google images!) and that left me wondering about the others with very unique leaves. I searched the internet trying to identify the plants while trying to think about the different foods I frequently toss into the compost, but was unable to identify them on my own. I pulled many of them out of the garden, but left the two largest to continue growing since they were unique and weren't crowding anything at the time. It seemed to be growing a trunk like a tree, but mostly I just thought they were a unique weed. 

Mystery Seedling Sept 24 2016
Leaf detail, Sept 29 2016
I discovered a website that I could submit a plant identification question with pictures and it would be answered by volunteers and students from a University. I submitted my question (including the fact that this soil used to be where my compost was located) and photos of the plants at about 1 foot tall. 
I received this helpful response a few days later:
"Any chance you tossed some papaya seeds in the pile some time ago? If so, you could have a batch of seedlings. (If not, please let me know.)
And if that's so, you'll need frost-free conditions to bring them to mature fruiting plants. If you want to try, here’s an informative site: http://www.tropicalpermaculture.com/growing-papaya.html

And this site says “Papayas thrive in USDA hardiness zones 9-11, which corresponds to minimum winter temperatures of 19℉ to 40ºF (-7℃ to 4ºC). They may be damaged or die if exposed to prolonged frost, and prefer climates that are warm throughout most of the year.”http://www.wikihow.com/Grow-Papaya."
I had purchased one papaya many months ago, and a quick google search confirmed that Papaya trees are what I have growing in along with my eggplants!
I was so excited to know what these plants are and to realize that they are something awesome like a tree that can grow to 15-20 feet in a very short amount of time and possibly provide us with fruit if I can care for it right. I very cautiously relocated the two papaya trees to an area with more space to grow yesterday (Oct 24, 2016). Not disturbing their roots was impossible since they were growing so close to the eggplants and in the garden bed, but I had better luck with the first one I moved and it seems to have less transplant shock than the other. We will see if they continue to grow at their fast pace. The best time to plant papayas here is in the Spring, since they are very frost tender, so I will need to baby them once the cold hits. Then, once they flower, I will know if they are female, male or hermaphrodite plants, which will determine if we will be getting fruit from them. It should be a fun adventure with 2 free, surprise plants.

Right after transplant, Oct 24 2016
The other tree with less transplant shock, Oct 24 2016
Both young Papaya trees Oct 24 2016, each just over a foot tall.

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