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ElizabethB
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Banana question

I have a lot of banana plants growing out side of my patio fence. I have no idea what variety they are. I know that they need about 18 months to fruit. Most winters the upper portion of the plants freeze so in the spring I cut off the mushy parts and the dead leaves and may get 1 or 2 small bunches that rarely ripen. Last year we had no hard freeze. My plants produced 10 bunches. Mostly small but a couple of bunches had 10+ bananas. After my neighbor helped herself to my bananas I was left with 2 nice bunches. They never got very large - maybe 6" max. They started turning dark but were still hard so I took the bunches in and put them in the tub of the hall bath and closed the shower curtain. A few did finish ripening and got soft and very sweet. Most stayed hard.

Any advice?

Thanks
Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

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lorax
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Show me some pictures of the plants and fruit, please! I can probably ID the cultivar for you. Also please show us the condition of the banana patch, so that we can give you better advice.

That said: in terms of plantation care, it sounds like you need to go in and break up the mats (the corm areas of the plants) in order to give the plants a bit more breathing space. You probably also need to feed them a bit more; bananas are extremely hungry plants, and what you're seeing in small bunches is the fact that the plants think they're starving. Unless you have a certain type of plantain, you should see about 100+ fingers per bunch, not 10+; anything to do with small yields is to do with nutrition to the plants while they're growing up.

I fertilize my bananas daily with seaweed emulsion, and despite my extreme altitude (they're considered an "impossible" crop for the high highlands, a viewpoint I'm dedicated to changing) I still see excellent bunches, although the fruit itself is smaller.

When you harvest bunches green, try hanging them in the shower rather than letting them sit, and pop a green garbage bag (or a blue one, if you've got those) overtop, leaving the bottom open for air circulation. This provides a slow ripening tent and you should be able to mature the whole bunch, hand by hand, this way. Generally, though, you should harvest the bunch when the first fingers start to turn yellow. "Tree" ripened bananas are one of nature's great treats.

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ElizabethB
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Thanks Lorax. There are no fruit left on the plants. It is not maintained. :oops: The plants are just there - kind of for additional screening outside of a shadow box fence. So I will work the mats and thin them out . Should I do that now or in the spring? How much should I thin ie how far apart should the plants be? Should I remove the smaller, younger plants or take out the large old ones to make room for the newer ones? Should they be fertilized now? What NPK ratio do they like? Should I spread compost after cleaning them up? The leaves are browning up pretty heavily. We have had a few nights in the lower 40s and upper 30s then back up to lows in the 60s. Crazy south Louisiana weather. :? What about the brown foliage? I have been leaving it on the plant until spring thinking the brown leaves would help protect the plant from cold. I don't look to them as fruit bearers - mostly for screening, the ornamental appeal and the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind. :oops: I did get excited this year when I saw the unusual amount of fruit.

I will take any advice you can give and try to take better care of my plants. The bananas that did ripen were very sweet.

Growing bananas at 10,000 feet definitely makes you an expert.

BTW - the neighbors that were stealing my bananas moved :!: and took their obnoxious barking dog with them. Yeah!
Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

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lorax
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OK, here goes.
So I will work the mats and thin them out . Should I do that now or in the spring?
First off, no mat maintenance until after the spring thaws. You want more mass over the winter to keep the corms from freezing too badly (although it sounds like you only get stem damage, which is terrific.) Mulch 'em in well and you'll be fine.
How much should I thin ie how far apart should the plants be? Should I remove the smaller, younger plants or take out the large old ones to make room for the newer ones?
Generally, leave the mother and two daughters, ie the largest that hasn't fruited yet, an intermediately-sized one, and one smaller one, with preference for "sword" type pups - those have very thin leaves to begin with but are taller. "Water" pups, which have broader leaves to begin with, are poor bearers and generally less healthy plants. Take anything you've removed and plant it elsewhere, and put the water pups in the compost or give them away.
Should they be fertilized now? What NPK ratio do they like? Should I spread compost after cleaning them up?
No feeding if you're heading into frost. Generally, bananas can be treated like very big grass - balanced NPK is a good idea, but when you start to see flag leaves (the small leaf that comes just before the flower head) up the K dramatically. So if you're using something like 11-11-11 (which is generally recommended) when you see the flag, switch to 5-10-20 or something similar. That will aid fruit development and ensure that the highest possible number of female flowers set fruit.

Absolutely top-dress with compost, though. That's never a bad idea.
What about the brown foliage? I have been leaving it on the plant until spring thinking the brown leaves would help protect the plant from cold.
That's a good idea. If you want to keep the pseudostems more insulated, you can wrap burlap and frost cloth around them as well. This might even be enough to keep them from mooshing out on you.

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ElizabethB
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WOW :!: My brain hurts. If I read you correctly plants that have fruited need to be removed. Kind of understand what you are saying about thinning. Will add compost and let the leaves sit on the plant through winter. Our winters are generally mild so I won't be wrapping the plant. Even if some die off I have plenty more. I will wait until spring (which is late February early March) to work the mats and thin my plants.
This week I will toss some compost around my plants. Fertilizing schedule - when do I start and how often?

Thank you so much for the wonderful info. I will be picking your brain again. :clap:
Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

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ElizabethB
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BTW - "hard freeze" ie 5 or more hours of freezing temperatures are rare. We get "light freezes" 2 - 3 hours of temps at 32 or below and then only rarely. Occasional frost. Really a very mild climate. Very hot and humid during the summer. Does that info change any of your recommendations :?:
Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

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lorax
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If I read you correctly plants that have fruited need to be removed.
Yup. They're done. Bananas fruit once and die, and if you've taken the fruit you should also take out the plant by cutting it off near the soil line. I recommend doing this in steps - banana pseudostems are crazy heavy. I recently cut down a 12-foot plant, and we weighed the sections individually. It was over 2 tons. For my own comfort, I cut in about 2' sections, but you should bear in mind that I'm an artisanal baker by trade and knead all my bread by hand, which has given me phenomenal upper body strength for a woman.
Fertilizing schedule - when do I start and how often?
Start as soon as you've pruned the mat, and depending on what your fert is, anything from daily to weekly. As I mentioned above, I use algae paste in the plants' daily watering schedule, which means they're constantly getting a little somethin' somethin' with their water. If you're using granular ferts, apply monthly. If you've got a liquid, daily to weekly - with preference to low-dose daily feeding. It seems to make very happy plants.
BTW - "hard freeze" ie 5 or more hours of freezing temperatures are rare. We get "light freezes" 2 - 3 hours of temps at 32 or below and then only rarely. Occasional frost. Really a very mild climate. Very hot and humid during the summer. Does that info change any of your recommendations?
Nope. You still need to give the plants their dormancy period in the cold months. If you push them to grow when they'd rather be sleeping, you'll end up with one of two things: unhealthy, unhappy bananas (or) dead ones. Your summer climate is ideal for them, though, and if you can get them fully fed you should see a growth rate of close to one leaf per week.

Here's something you might not have known: bananas' fruiting is dependent on a genetically incoded number of leaves. For most cultivars, it's somewhere between 42 and 48 leaves to fruit. Pretty neat, huh?

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applestar
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I am lurking in this thread and taking notes like crazy :()
Thanks, Lorax! :-()

P.S. just counted my super dwarf cavendish leaves and there are a baker's dozen -- long ways to go yet. :roll:

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ElizabethB
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Right about the weight issue. George puts the cart on his mower and parks it right next to the plants then dumps the cart at the road for pick up. I don't compost the banana plants or leaves - too stringy and way more than I can use. I easily fill my 2 bins with leaves, grass clippings ,manure and kitchen scraps.

Thanks again. :P
Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown



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