So we are here for part two of our blog visit with Pawpaw fanatic Ted Weeden in Harleysville PA, whose homestead and Pawpaw farm I had the pleasure to visit in August 2020. A quick review on Ted for those who missed our previous article, Ted has been part of an informal association known as the Backyard Fruit Growers since 1999. I first met him when he presented about Pawpaws back at the BYFG Winter Workshop event in February.
Ted received a BSEE in Electrical Engineering from Syracuse University. His interest in Pawpaws came from when he attended a Pawpaw tour at peoples homes in Lancaster County in 2000. That following spring he purchased and planted his first Pawpaw tree on his two acres of land. His relationship to his land goes back 35 years and his 2 acres is a part of 20 acres of land owned by various people. The excess rain and spring time snow melt runs over his property.
Ted began hosting annual tours of BYFG enthusiasts in 2010. He currently has 16 named cultivars of Pawpaws, 8 pawpaw hybrids of his own, 15 European Pears, 1 Gingko Tree, 15 Asian Pears, 4 Peaches, 2 Pecans, 3 Red chestnuts, 8 Dawn Redwoods, 8 Bald Cypress, 3 English Walnuts from seeds. The walnuts were taken out by a fungus he believes was spread via the Spotted Lantern Fly. He originally had 18 cherry trees, now down to a few, and also lost a big Pin Oak tree to Hurricane Sandy.
This wasn’t it when it came to the complexity of Ted’s Garden of Eden. He has 6 female kiwi vines where 3 female vines out competed one male kiwi vine and it perished. Two years ago he planted another male kiwi and the hard freeze in April killed it. So now he’s down to all female kiwi vines and you need a male vine to get fruit. There are plans for a future spot for a male kiwi vine. He even has a Hican tree, which is a Pecan and Hickory Nut crossed. Ted claims it followed him home, after many attempts to get it off his vehicle after a trip to Lancaster County. He took it home and planted it. A row of White Pine was planted as part of his vision for a Pine forest. He uses the brush from broken tree limbs to make hedgerows and the pine needles as mulch.
Ted uses all dropping from the pine trees as carbon in his compost and he says it works amazingly. What is even more interesting Ted says an inch of pine mulch takes a year to break down. Along the tree line he has planted Green Giant Arborvitae. It produces an oil in the leaves that deer hate, which is beneficial because a large herd of deer comes through his property, although fortunately Pawpaws are one of the few plants they don’t bother. How could I forget the three varieties of thornless blackberries and a mulberry relative known as a Che tree which produces seedless fruit!
Ted showed me his espalier Sunflower pawpaw which he waited till the tree was 6-7 feet tall and topped it. He cuts off the vertical growth every 2-3 years.
He uses Japanese beetles he catches in his lure trap as a fertilizer. Through this method he got rid of them in two years back in 2000 and 2001. Ted says one gallon contains 1442 bugs and he had collected 72 gallons in those two years. The beetles were making a comeback so this summer he was able to trap another 5 gallons worth to collapse the beetle population again. As a fertilizer he mixes about half gallon of dead beetles and 5 gallons of water to make a dark tea. Then he pours it around his younger pawpaw trees. He then covers it with mulch to keep the smell away.
He lost 60-70% of his flowers to the late frost we got earlier this year but there were a lot of secondary blooms. He hand pollinated his pawpaws three years in a row including this year in the beginning. This year he hand pollinated 5 different times over a 3 week period to assure himself a good crop of pawpaws. .
The largest Pawpaws come from his RS-3 hybrid. It is a cross between Rappahannock X Shenandoah and fruit usually weighs up to 600-625 grams. He calls his massive fruit “bumper fruit” and usually sells his pawpaws to a guy who makes pawpaw kombucha. Ted said he sells him half a year’s supply. Since 2010 every third week of September Ted participates in a pawpaw tasting event. He also grafts and sells root suckers from his trees.
In addition Ted maintains his own little farm on the land, so yes he does many things while continually developing his passion for the Pawpaw.
POP has acquired three pawpaws from Ted to plant in fall 2020 at “The Hub”, our new POP Learning Orchard at The Woodlands. The varieties are Hanna (a cultivar patented by Ted), Overleese, and RS2. We are excited for them to grow and produce and continue the legacy of our favorite local Pawpaw fanatic!
This blog post written by POP Orchard Director Alkebu-Lan Marcus.
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