It’s been a very warm fall in Florida this year. As I write this it’s December 8, and there have been no freezes in the Gainesville area, and temperatures held steady with daily highs in the 80s though October and November, only slipping a bit into the 70s now that it’s December.
All that heat, and no damaging freezes, have meant tropicals planted outdoors have been performing spectacularly this fall. Papayas especially benefit from an extended warm fall. We plant out three-foot tall potted papaya plants in spring, and if we get them in on time and take good care of them and the weather cooperates, they ripen lots of fruit. They always make plenty of fruit that can be harvested in the green stage as a vegetable, but it’s a little tricky getting them to ripen lots of fruits. This year the weather cooperated.
The warm weather has benefited the papaya plants inside the greenhouses, too. A greenhouse gets hot during the day as long as the sun is shining on it, even if the outside air is cold. But at night, the greenhouse indoor temperature dips down close to the outdoor temperature, (unless you’ve got big heaters running). So warmer night temperatures outdoors means warmer night temperatures inside the greenhouses, and that means sweeter fruit.
The long-term forecast still doesn’t have any freezes in store for our area (although beyond four or five days out, it’s pretty much a guessing game, of course). The last two winters have been fairly mild. Normally we let winter have its way with the papayas planted in the ground. This year we’re talking about maybe trying to protect some of the shorter, more compact-growing papaya plants, so that if it turns out to be another mild winter, they can have a huge head-start over the small papayas we plant out in the spring. Not sure exactly what kind of structure we’ll rig up protect them, but I’ll be sure to post pictures of whatever creative thing we come up with.