Yes, thats right folks………….it’s almost christmas blah blah blah……….but that doesn’t mean we can’t go completely bananas down here at Gardenworld !
Ok, so the only bananas I’ve ever eaten are the Cavendish and Lady Finger varieties from northern Australia - a long way from Melbourne. I must say though that I did a farmstay once up at a place called Baffle Creek, about an hour north of Bundaberg. Every morning we ate a homegrown Lady Finger banana in yoghurt, and these were probably the tastiest bananas I have ever eaten (I was pretty caught up in the moment though).
I have heard of some wise old nurseryman who has successfully grown bananas and paw paws down here in Melbourne in a rather large glass house. He swears by the sun ripened fruit that we can’t possibly get from Queensland produce which is picked green so as to survive the arduous transport to our southern land.
Not only that, there is a younger wholesale nurseryman who’s team grows banana seedlings right here in Melbourne. He assures me it can be done. Yes a bunch of bananas can be achieved. Not only that, they offer 5 different varieties !
Dwarf Cavendish – heavy crops of full sized, sweet bananas with a creamy texture.
Lady Finger – small bananas with a rich sweet flavour creamy texture and keep well.
Valery – heavy crops of high quality bananas – I don’t know much else yet.
Pisang Ceylan – small bananas with a sweet flavour and an agreeably acidic aftertaste. Keep well and also a creamy texture
Goldfinger – heavy crops of small bananas that have a delicious tangy flavour and also keep well. Great for fruit salads as the flesh does not turn brown when cut.
Choose a sunny spot. Think about a place where you have protection from the harsh cold winter southerlies and away from frosts – so maybe in front of a north facing wall with something substantial growing either side of it. They won’t like the harsh northlies we get in summer either, so don’t bother planting in a windy exposed spot.
Soil needs to be rich, well draining and worked over with plenty of organic matter such as compost and aged manure – even chicken pellets like Attunga’s Organic Life or Yates Dynamic Lifter. Feed this hungry monster every 6 weeks. Roots will grow nearly a metre out, so don’t just put all the fertiliser at the base of the plant, and don’t overdose more than what the dosage recommends, or you will burn the roots.
One of the reasons I am having a crack at these, is that I have had an old in ground swimming pool converted to a water tank and have about 25000 litres to spare. Expect to use a lot of water and definately apply mulch, as this reduces evaporation and hence water use. Thats not say you overwater, as the plants hate wet feet. Keep moist, but not drowned. In summer, it would be benficial to wet the leaves of a young plant a few times a day. This helps emulate the humid conditions they would be getting in Innisfail. I live close to the coast down here and feel that the conditions will be much more conducive than say frosty Ballarat ! Be realistic.
Remove dead leaves regularly. Suckers will appear from the base of the main stem. Retain only the strongest, usually the first one. This will be the future one, as after the main plant is harvested, we will machete it down jungle style.
It will take 2 or 3 summers until fruit appears. I am currently on my second summer and nothing is yet evident. The retained sucker that becomes the next phase of the plant will itself have a sucker and so the life of the thing just rolls on. This continues indefinately until the plant has moved so far away from where you started, that it may have to be replanted, so it doesn’t end up halfway down the street – like attack of the killer banana plants !
The fruit is ready to be harvested once the bananas lose their ridges, become more rounded, and when the black withered remains of the flowers at the end of the bananas are dry and crumbly – if you haven’t already cut this bit off.
To make the bunch last, just cut off a hand and put it in a paper bag with a ripe banana. Otherwise harvest the whole lot and impress a whole lot of your friends, or get out the dehydrater, dry them, and impress your friends even more. Or drop them over to my house, or, just eat too many of them and get a pain in the tummy.
If you’ve got this far and are still ready – don’t you see – I have gone completely bananas ! You can too, as for the next couple of months we will be stocking these plants, down here at Gardenworld. For more expert advice, checkout these guys from Blue Sky. They should know, their Queenslanders ! Also check out this link at Daleys forum including some Melbourne growers.