Sunday, December 25, 2011

Winterizing banana trees

There has been much deliberation on growing and winterizing banana trees unfortunatley the wholesale advise usually given rarely takes into consideration the specific growing zones of each gardener. Growing zones make all the difference when overwintering, growing, harvesting and cutting back banana trees. With the right approach you can give your banana trees a much needed head start in the spring. In this post I will explain the fundamental approach on how to grow and protect your banana corms during the cold months from zones 6-10. These instructions will be broken down into seperate growing zones. zone 6, zone 7, zone 8, zone 9 and finally zone 10.

Lets start with zone 10. When cultivating banana trees in zone 10 planting dates for small plants can be as crutial as when to winterize for northern zones. Small banana plants should be planted whithin a 4 month timeframe during the winter and spring. Ideally November-March will provide a mild climate for the small plants to become established before the summer Suns. Summer sun will burn the leave of small plants turning the leaves brown and eventually killing the plant. Plants may be obtained and grow in containers until the ideal planting dates arrive but be sure to keep them in non direct light until then. Direct sun from morning until noon would be ideal. Container grown plants exposed to direct sun will often suffer root damage as the Plants roots are quite literally steamed creating a cascade affect from rapid browning of the leaves to mold and fungus infestations. Once the plants are more mature 2-3 feet tall they can be moved into larger containers and then moved into direct light but until then it is imperitive they be eased into direct light. Bananas require a large amount of organic material in the soil to thrive. During warm weather, apply a balanced fertilizer once a month a 8:10:8 NPK fertilizer is adequate. A mature plant may require as much as 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of the above fertilizer each month. Young plants need a quarter to a third as much. Spread the fertilizer evenly around the plant in a circle extending 4 - 8 feet from the trunk. Do not allow the fertilizer to come in contact with the trunk. Feed containerized plants on the same monthly schedule using about half the rate for outside plants.

Zone 9. Growing bananas in zone 9 can be a rewarding experience. The lack of tropical insects, Subtropical temps, mild winters and warm humid summers can make for great results. As with growing most bananas we recommend planting in the spring after the danger of frost has passed. In zone 9 that would be around February 20th. When growing bananas in zone 9 It is important to plant in early spring before the summer heat. Bananas require a large amount of organic material in the soil to thrive. During warm weather, apply a balanced fertilizer once a month a 8:10:8 NPK fertilizer is adequate. A mature plant may require as much as 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of the above fertilizer each month. Young plants need a quarter to a third as much. Spread the fertilizer evenly around the plant in a circle extending 4 - 8 feet from the trunk. Do not allow the fertilizer to come in contact with the trunk. Feed containerized plants on the same monthly schedule using about half the rate for outside plants. Plants may be obtained and grow in containers until the ideal planting dates arrive but be sure to keep them in non direct light until then. Direct sun from morning until noon would be ideal. Container grown plants exposed to direct sun will often suffer root damage as the Plants roots are quite literally steamed creating a cascade affect from rapid browning of the leaves to mold and fungus infestations. Once the plants are more mature 2-3 feet tall they can be moved into larger containers and then moved into direct light but until then it is imperitive they be eased into direct light.

Zone 8. When growing bananas in zone 8 one needs to consider which varieties of banana come into play. Certain cultivars wont perform well in these short summers where others will thrive. Cultivars such as Dwarf Orinoco and Glui Kai have proven to do well under the cold winter conditions with little or no winterizing. The shorter summers in zone 8 require your starter bananas be planted at the first sign of spring. This will ensure a first year crop. Glui Kai is a fast growing musa that beats the 9 month summer clock by producing fruit in 9 months or less where Dwarf Orinoco is more freeze hardy. This means the corm is less likley to become damaged during low temps but the leaves and main trunk will still die back. When container growing banana plants in 8 full sun all summer long is recommended. The mild summers in zone 8 allow small plants to be started at virtually any point in time during the summer months. Container growing banana trees may be a preferable method in zone 8 as a means of avoiding winter die back but it is important to remember that bananas can quickly outgrow containers. Bananas require a large amount of organic material in the soil to thrive. During warm weather, apply a balanced fertilizer once a month a 8:10:8 NPK fertilizer is adequate. A mature plant may require as much as 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of the above fertilizer each month. Young plants need a quarter to a third as much. Spread the fertilizer evenly around the plant in a circle extending 4 - 8 feet from the trunk. Do not allow the fertilizer to come in contact with the trunk. Feed containerized plants on the same monthly schedule using about half the rate for outside plants.

Zone 7. When growing bananas in zone 7 two things need to be consider. 1st being which varieties of banana come into play and the 2nd overwintering. Certain cultivars wont perform well in these short summers where others will thrive. Cultivars such as Dwarf Orinoco and Glui Kai have proven to do well under the cold winter conditions of zone 7 with winterizing. Ornimental varieties such as Musa Basjoo tend to thrive under these conditions. A thick layer of straw or bedding around the trunk will help keep the heat in. It is recommended the banana stalk be cut back at first sign of freeze to minimize shock. Container growing banana plants can be very rewarding in zone 7. Simply containerize the plants for summer growth and remove the plant from the soil and place somewhere warm in the winter time. Bananas require a large amount of organic material in the soil to thrive. During warm weather, apply a balanced fertilizer once a month a 8:10:8 NPK fertilizer is adequate. A mature plant may require as much as 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of the above fertilizer each month. Young plants need a quarter to a third as much. Spread the fertilizer evenly around the plant in a circle extending 4 - 8 feet from the trunk. Do not allow the fertilizer to come in contact with the trunk. Feed containerized plants on the same monthly schedule using about half the rate for outside plants.

Zone 6.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Florida Hill Nursery

Here In the United States the spanish influence is changing the way gardeners are looking at their backyards. While enroute to North Carolina on vacation a short time ago we noticed banana trees in zone 7. Research exposed this cultivar to be Dwarf Orinoco proving hardiness to zone 7. These tropical fruit trees have even materialized in our garden. My wife Angela and I buy plants regularly and find ourselves frequenting local garden centers and online plant nurseries buying the odd tropical plant, most times we dont expect them to make it passed the first cold snap but find ourselves in a situation that most all gardeners find themselves in at various stages of their gardening lives. Somehow we get attatched to these tropical plants and our passion for gardening grabs the reigns from here it becomes a challenge, a hobby of sorts. Here we are years later you will find a shrinking backyard  reduced to "trails" filled with Mango trees, Papaya trees, banana trees and passion fruit vines. Once you make it through the shrubbery you'll find a husband and wife talking about the flowers in bloom and the flowers to come, tasting fruit and testing they're gardening skills. Defiantly trying new plants and counting the years since a particular tree was planted. After much deliberation and several gardening forums later the only way Angela and I could surmise these tropical plants made it into our backyards was with the help of stealthy tropical plant ninjas, not that we are complaining it has helped us connected on a different level. Thumbing our noses at growing zones seems to be commonplace for us now. Here it is December you will find a backyard with plants covered by plastic shelters, heated with spaceheaters and a husband and wife talking of the fruit and flowers to come this spring.