Bananas in New Jersey

Leo A. Martin
Fri, 13 Feb 2009 17:04:18 PST
Bananas are fun to grow if you can. But one thing to remember is that
bare-root banana shoots or tubers can be really tricky to root. They need
to be very warm and somewhat moist but not wet or they rot. If you get a
shoot or a tuber in the fall or winter you are probably better storing it
cool and dry until it's really warm, unless you can provide substantial
bottom heat.

Rooted plants are much easier to transplant, but be very careful not to
disturb the root ball, and don't keep them too wet until they are growing
strongly. In the winter, bananas tolerate cool and bone-dry soil much
better than cool and moist soil.

There are many people in the St Louis, MO area with banana clumps in the
front lawn. In the fall they host a banana party, which involves shovels,
a large tarpaulin and plenty of beer. The clump is undermined, topped at
some level, the tarp pulled under the clump, and the clump dragged into
the basement. In the spring when it is warm the process is reversed. I
haven't heard of people getting bananas this way and I'd be surprised if
they do, since topped shoots usually don't produce flowers.

I have fruiting bananas against my house here in Phoenix. I drape frost
cloth from my roof down over the bananas on the 10 or so freezing nights
we get each winter; I get fruit every year. If you want fruit, I suggest
dwarf varieties such as Raja Puri, which has leaves extending up to
perhaps 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide, and bunches with 12 hands of 6
bananas each, borne low enough for most dogs to reach easily. (And they
will if they can.) Raja Puri has excellent fruit, better than store-bought
Cavendish bananas.

There is a miniature Cavendish variety that is supposed to fruit when
under 2 feet tall. This would permit people in cold-winter climates to
grow bananas for fruit. I haven't tried it.

Bananas fruit after about 18 months of uninterrupted growth from planting
out bare root. They need enormous amounts of nitrogen fertilizer during
warm weather. I don't think you could burn them with ammonium sulfate.
Each shoot should unfurl one or more new leaf per week, or you aren't
fertilizing enough.

Banana juice stains almost anything black. Be careful with your clothing,
your dog's teeth, the concrete, and your skin.

Leo Martin
Phoenix Arizona USA

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