[nafex] The heartbreak of grafted pawpaws

Elizabeth Hilborn ehilborn at mebtel.net
Mon Nov 23 07:28:25 EST 2020

Hey Lee! Nice to hear from you, I hope that you are well!

Yes, thank you. Water is not an issue in this case I believe.

My shading system should not be either, but let me describe and tell me 
if you think it is too much.
I plant new grafted trees in full sun. I take an opaque 4 foot high 
plastic tree tube and leave it as an open sheet. I set it like a screen 
on the SW corner of the plant so it gets AM full sun almost to 1pm then 
is shaded in our scorching summer afternoons. The shade is not full from 
the plastic, but sun intensity is much reduced.

For others considering tree tubes for animal protection or whatnot- I 
tried leaving tree tubes as full enclosure tubes for a couple summers 
and killed pawpaw trees apparently by heat build up. It is better to 
leave big gaps for airflow in the sheet-type tubes. But in 7a central 
NC, I have better luck with sheets for shading pawpaws.

I grow seedling pawpaws in tubes in 6a VA no problem, but I also leave 
big gaps in summer for airflow. Close up tight in winter. against 

I realize as I write this, that I have grown (and killed) a LOT of 
pawpaws by this point!

The seedlings and sprout transplants thrive. It is only the grafted ones 
that die (except for the Shenandoah who let me have such good fruit for 
a bit - just long enough to miss it now...)

On 11/23/2020 6:08 AM, Lee Reich wrote:
> Just a couple of comments on your pawpaw experience:
> “Water attentively” is not necessarily watering correctly which is all important to the health of a plant. If the soil is well-drained, whih it should be, I generally recommend 3/4 gallon per square foot estimated spread of the root system, once a week. (More frequently for an initially planted potted tree which is, essentially, still growing in a pot until its roots reach out into surrounding soil.
> As far as shading, older trees do best in full sun. A grafted tree’s portion above the graft was taken from mature, fruiting wood, so its top portion is mature and will do best in full sun right from the get go. (I also have seen no definitive substantiation that even seedling trees need shade when young if given good soil conditions, which mostly means adequate moisture.)
> Lee
> Lee Reich, PhD
> Come visit my farmden at
> http://www.leereich.com/blog <http://www.leereich.com/blog>
> http://leereich.com <http://leereich.com/>
> Books by Lee Reich:
> •The Ever Curious Gardener: Using a Little Natural Science for a Much Better Garden
> •A Northeast Gardener’s Year
> •The Pruning Book
> •Weedless Gardening
> •Uncommon Fruits for every Garden
> •Landscaping with Fruit
> •Grow Fruit Naturally
>> On Nov 22, 2020, at 2:33 PM, Elizabeth Hilborn <ehilborn at mebtel.net> wrote:
>> I planted my first pawpaws in 2009, I ordered the superior Peterson pawpaw varieties directly from Neil himself. One of four survived - a Shenandoah that was vigorous until 2015, then visibly declined. I removed the dead tree this summer. My working hypothesis was that the tree suffered a pruning injury back in 2013 or 2014 that became infected with fungus. That Shenandoah was an outlier, but it is the only grafted tree that has ever successfully matured fruit for me. It showed me how delicious selected pawpaws can be.
>> Every other grafted pawpaw I have planted (about 16 of them) has died but for two five-year-old (at site) trees that are still less than 16 inches high.
>> The typical scenario is that the plant will sit for a few years in my artificially shaded site as it becomes established. Then in its third or fourth year at site it starts rapid growth. Within a year to three years of putting on height, it flowers, maybe begins to set fruit (they do not always get this old) then midsummer, the leaves suddenly wilt and the tree dies within a few months. Post mortems reveal seemingly healthy roots, no trunk lesions, no discoloration of cambium.  No clue.
>> The kicker is that I have healthy seedlings all over the place. Some seedlings are seven years old, volunteers in the woods where I tossed overripe fruit. Some were planted intentionally. The rootstock sprouts well if I leave it and seems healthy. Rootstock has started producing fruit (not very good fruit). I have divided rootstock from dead grafted trees to start new patches with the hope of later grafting. I have not seen remaining rootstock, divided rootstock or seedlings die like the grafted varieties.
>> How I care for them:
>> I water attentively for a couple years after planting, then only when weather is unusually dry. I shade the young grafted trees for two - three years at site. I only plant trees in spring. I have tried planting at ground level and recently higher in mounds to discourage root rot (no indication of root rot, just varying procedures).
>> I plant with no amendments in soil, but top with compost around the site. The trunks are not smothered.
>> This year, I transferred soil from a native pawpaw patch in the woods to the struggling small grafted trees in the hope they would get something they needed. They still are struggling. I will see next year.
>> Any ideas? Has anyone else dealt with this?
>> Pawpawless in central NC zone 7a
>> Elizabeth

Elizabeth Hilborn, DVM
Bee Well Mobile Veterinary Services, PLLC

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