Could use advice planning a Paw Paw orchard

Looking for advice and suggestions. (I live in western PA in z5b or 6a depending on the map used)

So, I have 50 seedlings growing indoors that I plan on overwintering in the garage (maybe planting a few this fall to see how they do). A few of the tallest are 13 in now, I planted in january. Hoping to plant them next spring. I’m planning on doing this again next year with even more trees.

I’m thinking of planting them 8 ft apart in a zig zag or triangular pattern within rows to plant more per area, or maybe traditional straight rows. 15 ft between rows.

I’ve collected lots of hairy vetch seeds to plant either in spaces between trees or in between rows. Vetch is a nitrogen fixer and the field I’m planting in is low in nitrogen.

I had the field bulldozed recently as it was overgrown with multifloras and blackberries. I have a large pile of manure that I will spread out soon where I plan to plant.

For mulch, I think straw would be cheapest and help with weed suppression. I will be mowing regularly between rows.

I’m thinking of buying tree tubes to use as shade for the first few years, though they aren’t cheap. Blue-x is the cheapest and they have a 30in size that should be sufficient. Fiberglass stakes would probably be best so they can be reused.

I’d like to try grafting to these trees at some point though I’m not sure when would be the best time to do so (before or after planting and at what age).

I have 4 grafted paw paws that I bought and planted last year (shenandoah, allegheny, mango, and wabash) and will likely buy 2 more at the ohio festival this year.

As you can see, I have plans for what to do. I’m just not too sure about them, haha. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!!!


You might find my report on Jerry Lehman’s pawpaw/persimmon orchard helpful. He recommends putting two seedlings in the same hole for better pollination.


In my limited experience a grass- and weed-free area around each tree is extra important for pawpaws (compared to other fruit trees), so mulching with straw or some substitute is something I would recommend not cutting corners on.

Nitrogen is a very transient soil nutrient. Unless you’re doing things on a yearly basis to keep nitrogen levels up they’re going to quickly revert to a baseline that would likely be considered low by modern fertility expectations.

Vetch is aggressively vining. It could quickly overgrow small pawpaw trees. I might use it anyway, but be prepared to keep it off your trees. Assuming you’re going to keep a significant weed-free area around each tree, I’d be curious how much good the vetch could do your trees, especially young trees, however many feet away it would be. I also wonder how practical a fairly tall vining crop would be for your aisles and whether it wouldn’t be more practical to keep the aisles mowed lower than would be good for growing vetch.

If I had started pawpaws in pots – direct seeding is another option I like – my first thought would be to keep them in pots until they were big enough to be planted out without any need for shading.

I, too, would be very interested in answers to/thoughts on your question of when to graft, advantages/disadvantages of grafting at different stages.


I was just reading that yesterday, actually! I haven’t heard of planting 2 per hole with paw paws. That’s an interesting idea.

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They will be mulched well. I used pine bark mulch for my other trees but that could get too expensive with the orchard. I have close access to free horse manure so fertilization shouldn’t be a problem.

The vetch I have does get somewhat viny but not aggressively so. It should be pretty manageable if I don’t plant them too close to the trees. They end up being like a 1-2 ft high bush that dies back pretty quickly mid July.

They are in 4x14 in pots. I would think they would establish more quickly and be better off in the long run if planted 2nd year but keeping them in pots til they are big enough is another option I’ll consider.

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Here’s a tree tube that an experienced commercial pawpaw grower told me is perfect for pawpaws- double walled, vented (v. important), just the right amount of light:

Tubex 4 foot Combi-Tube, vented, with oak stake. Can buy from

I have read that pawpaws should be minimum two years old before grafting. Graft when they are starting to leaf out, say half inch to an inch of leaf showing. Don’t graft dormant.

Also: I find pawpaw wood softer than apple so it’s much easier to strangle grafts with overly tight rubber bands- I’ve done it. So keep this in mind.

More pawpaw grafting advice:


Thanks for the advice, hambone. The Tubex combi-tubes look like they would work great, though they are quite a bit more expensive than the 30" Blue-x tubes (340$ for 100 vs 120$). I wish they had smaller sizes than 4 ft, as I don’t think it would be necessary to shade them til 4 ft unless deer browsing would be a problem. I have had deer browse some of my paw paw’s leaves a few times but I haven’t heard of problems with them eating stems or branches.


I am new to pawpaws. I planted mine ( potted) in the spring of 2015. Potted pawpaws can handle full sun right away.

In 2016, I moved them so I did not graft on them. This year I grafted one scion and it took.

My pawpaws grow ever so slowly :disappointed:


Well, if the potted trees are at least 2 year old or they are grafted they might be able to handle full sun. Until then, it’s best to keep them mostly shaded.

Moving paw paws once planted is usually a bad idea, I’m sure you found that out though. Congrats on the successful graft!

Yes they grow very slowly, but it will be worth it!

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I’d get 'em established and growing in their permanent location, then graft them.
Have had too many containerized pawpaws that I grafted and transplanted… seemed to be doing well, but 2-3 years down the road they seem to reject the graft and resprout from below.

Spacing and arrangement… I can’t even begin to make a recommendation.


That’s good to know. I won’t do any grafting til after they are established in ground then. Thank you, Lucky!

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This discusses spacing for orchards. It’s a simple read. It also details when and how to plant (raised bed rows) & spacing between row minimums.

Cultural Advice



Rabbits like to bite off my seedlings. They manage to grow back (I don’t think pawpaws are as picky about growing only from tips as some plants are), but I’d at least put a little bit of fencing to protect against that.


The place I bought my pawpaws, Logee’s, set all their pawpaws out in full sun during the summer. Judging from the size, they are about 2 year old plants.
Yes, moving pawpaws, even after one year’s growth, was not recommended. The tap roots went very deep. I caused a setback of my plants.


I’ve been using the Kentucky State University PawPaw Program’s guidelines for organic production which recommend 8 ft within rows and 12-18 ft between rows. I suppose I could also do a diamond pattern in rows so it would be like 3 rows of trees all 8 ft apart and then 15 ft between these multi rows. Not sure what the downsides would be for this, if too much shade would be a problem. I plan to keep the trees at a manageable height (no higher than a ladder would reach).


They probably do need to be in shade, even in a bot. Mine simply won’t really grow even when shaded by nearby potted plants.

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A very experienced paw paw planter has for years been using a de-bottomed 5 gallon paint bucket to enclose his field planted young seedlings. They are worked down into the surrounding soil a couple inches deep. Among the benefits are temporary Sunlight relief, keeping fertilizer/mulch/water where they help most, weed control, and disinviting roving pests. Using bright white plastic will increase indirect lighting. The buckets are removed in a year or 2 after seedlings have developed enough roots for the plants to start growing upward. The more root system to get water to the leaves, the less threat of young leaves drying up in hot Sunlight. For me, I prefer cleft grafting the single young trunk where it is about 3/8" thick with the scion after the roots have developed well, whether that is 2ft to 4 ft above the ground. When the side buds poke out below the graft on the trunk, they should be rubbed off soon, and checked for regularly.


TJ, in my experience………….

Your plan for your orchard layout is fine. I would not complicate it with diamonds, etc. 8x15, will work, but design it to match your mowing equipment. I’m on 8x18 which works for me. Sometimes I wish I had a bit more room within rows—perhaps 9’.

Your biggest battle will be with grass and weeds within the rows. They are probably the worst enemy of young trees. I’m not sure vetch is the answer. I use wood chips in each row of trees, but even with the chips, weeds and grass are hard to keep out. I use glyphosate, which is labeled for pawpaws. It’s used extensively by Kentucky State U, but be sure to clip all suckers down before applying.

I don’t like using tree tubes on grafted trees. Grafts need attention, and the tubes just interfere. The trees don’t need shading once they are about 18” tall—usually after one good full season of growth. If you are worried about deer, I recommend an electrified 3-D fence (plenty of references on line). Deer may not browse heavily, but they will quickly destroy a pawpaw tree with rubbing. Rabbits are generally only a problem for the very small trees. Keeping weeds and grass low will discourage rabbits (another strike against vetch). Establishing perches for raptors is also effective. For fencing around individual trees—if you must—see Northern Pecans blog for ideas.

Manure can be useful for nutes, but can be difficult to meter accurately. I use KSU’s recommendations on N fertilizer spread under trees before bud break. I generally use ammonium sulfate to keep the pH low.

Pawpaws are easy to graft, beginning when they are pencil caliper—in ground or container. I’ve had good luck planting out small trees and grafting them the same season. With good first-season growth, you should be able to graft in the second year. Availability of scionwood will probably govern your grafting timing. Grafts will grow well in containers, especially if you can control the temperature and moisture via a tunnel or even some kind of lean-to. 80 degrees is ideal. Don’t worry if you can’t graft your orchard trees until they have some size—the grafts will explode in growth from a tree with a good root system. However, I don’t like to graft a tree more than 1.5” in diameter, as it creates a weak area over time.

I am still trying to learn the best way to prune and shape a pawpaw tree. They are not like apples, which can be trained to create good crotch angles. Pawpaws naturally have a very poor crotch structure which is difficult to correct (think callery pear). Loaded with fruit, add in some wind—disaster in the making. KSU recommends a single leader, but in my experience that still does not prevent bad angles.

Good luck and keep us posted.


Thanks so much for the input, marc5!

The vetch is more for nitrogen fixation rather than mulch. For mulch, I am leaning towards using a good amount of straw, though I’ve heard that can cause problems with voles. I could very likely end up having to use glyphosate.

I haven’t thought of anything better, or cheaper, to use for shading young trees rather than the tree tubes, while giving some protection from animals. Most of my saplings are under 1 ft so far. I’m planning on planting some seeds in the field this fall so and planting more in the pots I have left, so I will need something to keep them shaded and protected for at least a year.

Electrified fencing would be nice but I can’t afford anything like that. I have the time to tend to the trees but not much of a budget for them, unfortunately.

Thanks you again for all the info, it is quite valuable to me.

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On a side note, I recently planted some persimmons (Prok and Yates) and jujubes (Li and Sugarcane) that I’m pretty excited about! I planted them upwind from where I plan to plant the paw paws so they can act as a bit of a windbreak. All are fenced and will be well mulched soon.

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