Michael Judd

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since Dec 10, 2011
Michael Judd has worked with agro-ecological and whole system designs throughout the Americas for the last 20 years focusing on applying permaculture and ecological design to increase local food security and community health in both tropical and temperate growing regions. The founder of both Ecologia, LLC, Edible & Ecological Landscape Design and Project Bona Fide, an international non-profit supporting agro-ecology research.

Michael has returned to the Mid-Atlantic to put down his roots and apply his knowledge of whole-system design to suburbia. In addition to authoring 'Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist', teaching, and building a straw bale house, Michael and his wife Ashley recently welcomed Wyatt Wizard to the world. Their budding homestead is in Frederick, Maryland.
Frederick, Maryland
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Recent posts by Michael Judd

Steve Lansing wrote:What variety/ source is recommended for me to purchase Paw Paw for my property and how best to prep the clay to allow best growth? Also full sun or part shade? Thanks.

Check out Peaceful Heritage Nursery who is in a similar zone with a good selection of paw paw genetics. The key to clay is organic matter, deep mulch. I recommend a minimum of 8” deep by 4’ diameter of organic matter per paw paw tree. As long as the clay drains it should be fine. Full sun for full fruit.
1 year ago

J Webb wrote:This week I added two Paw Paw trees to our property. I purchased a "Mango" and a "Shenandoah" cultivar from Logee's. They arrived in good condition.

My understanding is that the young trees prefer a bit of shade, so I placed them in the shade of the Norway Maple which dominates our small yard. The ground is mostly clay which I amended with some potting soil, pearlite, & vermiculite.

Does anyone else have these varieties of Paw Paw? I'd love to hear how they are working out for you!

Congrats. Shenandoah and Mango are on the light colored flesh and sweet side of the paw paw fruit spectrum
Shenandoah is an excellent cultivar by Neal Peterson that bears consistently over a 2-4 week period, longer than most. Mango is favored for its sweetness but be mindful that it ripens very quickly, faster than most, so it makes a great pulping paw paw.
Your grafted trees do not need shading that is only helpful during the first year as a seedling, as long as you have adequate moisture aka tons of mulch, your paw paws will do well in full sun and be most productive, if it were me I’d take them out of the shade and put them in the sun for the best fruiting. Happy paw pawing!
1 year ago

Susan Nusser wrote:Hi Michael!
I  have two pawpaws in my very urban plot in southeastern Wisconsin.  I planted them about ten years ago and for the last couple of years, they've had a ton of baby fruit in the spring that disappears before it grows into actual pawpaws.  At first I thought it was the squirrels, so this year I netted the trees, but still had problems because I think the birds were getting the small fruit.  I'd like to have more netting coverage, but that means I'm going to have to prune the tree so I can fit the netting around it.  Will pawpaws fruit on new growth and how much pruning can they take?  I live in the city, so I like little fruit trees (i have a triple-grafted apple, a cherry and two hazelnuts).  I have a neighbor about three blocks away who does not have any problem with birds and squirrels in her pawpaws, so I'm wondering what I can do to get more fruit for myself and less for the critters.

Pawpaws generally respond well to intense pruning. I like to keep my trees at 8-10’ tall and laterals 3-4’ in length for many reasons I expound on in the book but one is that fruiting occurs on 1 year old wood. The pruning encourages lots of 1 year old wood and keeps the tree invigorated - potentially extending its productive life.  This can be in your favor should you decide to net.

Early fruit drop can also be a tree’s defense if it does not have adequate nutrition..
1 year ago

Mk Neal wrote:Welcome, Mr. Judd!  I have wanted to grow paw paw ever since first trying one. Just got my first harvest this year (two fruits).

I have a question about the shoots that the trees produce.  My two trees are four years old now, and have begun putting up a lot of shoots within about ten foot radius of main trunks.  If I leave these be, will they grow into trees in their own right, forming a grove?  Also, are the shoots beneficial to the “parent” tree?

The shoots will become trees and form a thicket but that will slow down fruit production as it shades itself out sometimes I’ll let a shoot ten feet away grow to establish a properly sourced ‘orchard’ ideally these shoots get grafted (which is done easily) especially if you don’t know the genetics of the rootstock. 10-12 ft is recommended spacing for productive trees in full sun.

The ‘paw paw’ is a long lived root system potentially living for hundreds of years, that will continuously send up shoots that live an avg of 20-30 years. So (are the shoots beneficial to the parent) yes but not optimal for fruiting.
1 year ago

Rene Gobeyn wrote:Welcome Michael, I'm new to this topic, and forums in general so I hope I won't be repeating questions that have been answered elsewhere.

I will be starting to farm again in NW (upstate) NY this summer (zone 6A) I have two overgrown hillsides that I plan to convert to fruit & nut permaculture orchards. Will paw-paws work in this area? If so, should they be planned as understory, or primary trees.

I have checked with the neighbors and nobody has ever seen paw-paws growing in this region so I am wondering if I should include them in my planning

Thank you for your inputs

6A sounds doable as long as they are in sheltered/microclimated sites, ie not windy, south facing. I would talk with Akiva Silver of twisted tree nursery there in NY for the most regionally adapted seed stock.
Full sun is ideal for fruiting and needed summer warmth.
1 year ago

Vernon Inverness wrote:I've had the privilege of eating a pawpaw fruit once and that was enough to know that I want to make it a regular part of the rest of my life.  I have, unfortunately, never seen pawpaw trees growing in the wild here during my foraging forays.  What is the best way to get started growing them (i.e. - seed vs. root-stock) and will they thrive in my area?

I don’t know a darn thing about northeast Oklahoma but zone 7 sounds promising for paw paws. That seems to be their sweet spot around here. Moisture and wind protection are the variables to design for. The paw paws big leaf evapotransporates moisture quickly so keeping it out of drying winds and consistently moist yet draining sites. If your area is dry you can imitate these needs with grey water basins (see Brad Lancaster’s work) and remember full sun = full fruit.
Seed is ideal because the paw paw grows a tap root very quickly. I germinate paw paw seeds in the spring in 12 inch deep tree pots and try to plant out the same fall. Hard to get purchased seedlings that don’t have compromised roots.
1 year ago

Andrea Locke wrote:I am interested in advice on several aspects of paw paw cultivation.

(1) Producing paw paw fruit. I live on a small island off Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada. The winters here are mild (usually rainy from October through April with temperatures dipping to just above freezing, with 1-3 weeks of snow and freezing temperatures) so I am not concerned about winter survival, but summers are cool and I'm not sure there is enough heat to reliably ripen the fruit.  The summers here are long, dry, and sunny, but daytime temperatures are often only about 20-25 C (about 70 F) with maybe a week getting up closer to 30 C (about 80 F).

I know that at least one fruit aficionado on Vancouver Island has them successfully fruiting in his backyard garden (Bob Duncan of Fruit Trees and More) but he has them espaliered against a south-facing wall in an intensive fruit tree situation. I am hoping to produce fruit with paw paws planted in the understory under sweet chestnuts, similar to the mixed chestnut and paw paw setup that they are using at Red Fern Farm in Iowa. However, I am concerned that the shading effect of the chestnuts might reduce the heat units to the paw paws even more. In their native habitat they do well in shade, but it is a heck of a lot warmer in summer there. Do they need a minimum temperature to ripen, or a certain cumulative number of heat units?

(2) Overwintering very young seedlings. I bought seeds from England's Orchard in Kentucky last spring and asked for the shortest-season seeds they had. So far I have about a dozen that have germinated and are growing outside in pots. They are pretty small, only a few inches tall and with about 4-6 leaves. I am not sure whether I should leave them out in pots for the winter, perhaps in my unheated 'greenhouse' (it's one of those semi-opaque garage shelters that I use for tomatoes and other plants that need more heat or extended season), versus bringing them into a cool room in the house. I wonder if the latter would be safer, and maybe even allow them to grow a bit more over the winter. So far they have not dropped any leaves for the winter and it is about 7-10 C out there (45-50 F).

(3) Seed germination. More than half of the seeds I planted this past spring/early summer did not germinate this year. I'm guessing maybe a 20% germination rate? They were stratified by the grower so in theory should have been ready to sprout when I got them. Someone at the NNGA/NAFEX meeting suggested that they might need warmer germination temperatures than what I had here (I had them in the warmest microclimate available outside, but see note above about summer temperatures). Should I leave the unsprouted pots outside overwinter for another winter of stratification in hopes of some sprouting next year, or if they have not already sprouted are they basically done? I don't think they dried out at any time, not sure what the normal germination rate might be or how long the seeds might last following planting. Another option would be to bring them into the warmest spot in the house, which would be near the wood stove, in hopes of getting enough heat for a successful late germination of the non-starters.

Thanks in advice for any insights or suggestions. - Andrea

In your neck of the woods the warmest micro climate you have or can create combined with the most adapted seed genetics are going to be your best bet. I would keep them in full sun if you have extra rock, surround the trees, and if possible create a south facing horse shoe micro climate. I would get seeds from Bobs earliest producers vs seed from Kentucky and/or grafted cultivars. On the paw paws extended growing range it’s all about the regional seedling genetics, which will keep adapting.

I would not over winter paw paws outside anywhere it touches freezing. The fleshy paw paw root will die if frozen in pots. In the unheated greenhouse sounds fine but I would heavily mulch around the pots- here in our cold midatlantic winters I create a square of strawbales then which I put all my potted paw paws inside and cover with wood chips for the winter, an unheated garage will work as well- but they do need dormancy.

Properly handled paw paw seed can be in the 90% range for germination, moisture and cold for 90 days I germinate my seeds on a heated seed mat or at indoor room temps. I detail my process well in my book.
Maybe we’ll come visit you one day, we love your part of the world.

I’m thinking it might be Bob, that I read uses seaweed to heavily mulch his paw paws...
1 year ago

Bryan de Valdivia wrote:I'm in mid-Missouri, and just got 4 seedlings from Forrest Keeling, but I'm not sure where to plant them. The soil here is heavy clay, and I've been told the seedlings like well-drained soil + shade when young but full sun when mature for better fruiting. Problem is, if I plant them in a draw where I've got some standing trees and more organic matter they will be in shade their whole life from the hickories and oaks, but if I plant them on higher ground they will have heavier clay soil, though I can then shade cloth them for some protection from the full sun.

Where would be best? That is, what's more important, and are my sources correct on their needs? If I place them under shade cloth, what percentage should I use?

Thanks Michael! Perfect timing on your book :)

Defiantly full sun. Draining clay soil is fine, challenge us not so much direct sun after the first year as it is adequate moisture, aka tons of organic matter. Be cautious of windy sites which desiccate paw paws large luscious leaves and inhibit pollination.

Your seedling is at least one year old so it is heavily mulched and not exposed to drying winds “technically” no shading is needed. I think the repeated need for shade on paw paws after the first year is because folks aren’t providing sufficient moisture retention, aka MASS mulch.
What I recommend is a minimum of 3-4 foot diameter mulch ring 8-10 inches deep, whatever you got- wood chips , straw, leaves, bought mulch, just lay it on wide and deep- imitate that forest floor.  
1 year ago

T.J. Stewart wrote:I would like to buy a few Paw Paws.  I don't have a lot of space to devote to them, so I want them to be as sweet as possible (I don't like tart fruit) and good tasting.  What's the recommendation?

Cultivated paw paws have a wide range of flavor and texture profiles. On the one end there is nearly white flesh with simple sweet tones, and on the other nearly orange colored flesh with rich complex aromatic notes. Everybody has their preferred spectrum, I’m the kind of guy who loves fruits like durian so I prefer the richer complex cultivars. Cultivars on the sweeter end are: Shenandoah, Mango, and Sue. Cultivars on the richer side: Susquehanna, PA Golden, and Sunflower.
A sweet spot in the middle is Allegheny. I delve into cultivars flavors size productivity etc in the book.

For tight spaces you can plant two saplings in the same hole and let them grow out as “one” tree, they will work it out and cross pollinate each other.
1 year ago
Paw paws and Permies-
Two of my favorites in one place!
Honored to be here, pumped to talk Paw paws.  

Thank you for the gracious and warm welcomes, I’ve been a long time fan of the permies forum.  
1 year ago