Father’s Day is approaching, and I think of all of the work my parents, Frank and Louise Sheffer, put into their garden on Pine Ridge Farm outside of Ansonia.
They had a cold frame, made in the form of a wooden box, with glass window frames, which allowed the sun to get in and was used as the top. The frame was placed on the ground and used to house, protect and harden off seedling and small plants without artificial heat.
My parents had many plants and as I have reported before, at one time had over 1,000 varieties of iris. They were truly beautiful at the end of May. Along with that would be many different varieties of peony. Next to bloom were the daylilies, other perennials, the huge vegetable garden and all kinds of celosia, zinnias and sunflowers. You name it, they probably grew it.
Dad was called the Johnny Appleseed of Ansonia as he started and planted so many trees in and around the town.
One of his favorite trees was the Pawpaw tree. This tree can be found in Ohio as they are a native and often can be found in most places such as a bottom of the ravines, steep hillsides and creek banks. It was a smaller tree with large, tropical looking foliage, and he loved its fruit that became mature in late summer. It is a member of the Annona family and distantly related to the Magnolias and Tuliptree so you can imagine the huge foliage.
This tree grows 25 feet tall and 15 feet wide.
Pawpaw is somewhat exact in its requirements for successful growth. In youth, it requires shady sites to become established, as intense sunlight will harm the leaves of young trees. After several years, saplings can grow in partial sun to full sun, where the heaviest fruit crops will be realized and only if a genetically different strain of Pawpaw is planted nearby for cross-pollination of the perfect flowers. Trees grown from separate seed sources or transplanted from different sites will eventually yield fruits, but those within a single colony will not, as they are all clones that cannot cross-pollinate and yield fruits.
Pawpaw strongly prefers soils of variable pH that are evenly moist but well-drained, deep and rich, high in organic matter. It will tolerate drier soils with some degree of difficulty. Its root system is very coarse, so bare-root transplants should only be dug while dormant in late winter or early spring and transplanted immediately to a shady site. Trees dug as balled and burlapped specimens fare better, but should still be dug while dormant. Trees grown in containers from seeds are much more successful. Pawpaw grows in full sun as an adult tree to full shade and is found in zones 5 to 8. The light green immature fruits are borne singly or in fused clusters from the thin twigs and ripen to a yellow-brown tasty fruit in late summer.
Pawpaw is essentially free from diseases and pests. Its main problems involve re-establishment following transplant shock due to its sparse root system and fruit set as related to self-infertility.
Dad loved them!
Charlene Thornhill is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her community column Along the Garden Path. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.