It's the time of year that I dread...time to dig up the bananas. For those of us in colder zones with no greenhouse, we have to do it in order to ever get fruit. Everybody has their own methods of overwintering bananas. This is just what works for me.
Here's the last picture of my mini-plantation, the day before I started digging.
The next day, I started by cutting most of the leaves off of the pseudostems. P-stems with fruit were left alone.
I couldn't quite comfortably reach the top few leaves on a few, so I dug them first.
Digging them is actually pretty easy. The roots are pretty shallow, and easy to cut. I just cut a circle around each plant, and gently get underneath the corm with a shovel and tip them over.
We had .02 inches of rain in October, so the ground was nice and dry, as were the corms. Normally, if the corms were wet, I would let them dry out in the sun for a day or two. At this step, you can clear all of the dirt and cut the roots off if you want to. I tried to clear as much dirt off as possible, just because it makes moving the plants a bit easier. They are heavy enough without dirt weighing them down any more. The roots left on the corm will die anyway, so cutting them off will not hurt the plant in any way. Due to the fact that I had so many plants to dig and move, I didn't bother with the roots. Here's what one looked like after clearing most of the dirt from it.
Here's a few plants, ready to store. Notice that I have left pups on the mother corm. A couple fell off in the moving process, but that's ok. The whole idea here is that when the mother p-stem is through fruiting next year (hopefully), the pups will still have a large corm to draw energy from. They grow exponentially faster when left attached to the mother corm!
The p-stem in the middle of this picture is about 7 1/2 feet tall, and started growing from the ground from a mother corm last Spring. I have a couple more pups that are even larger than this (8 feet or so) that started at ground level also from a mother corm. In contrast, I have had a couple of plants that originated as pups separated from mother corms that have yet to achieve 7 feet after 2 full seasons!
Banana plants, ready to store under the house. The large plant in the middle has a nine foot p-stem, and the whole plant weighed several hundred pounds. One of the large pups broke off of this one in transit.
Normally, I would have left a leaf on most of these plants. The nine-footer pictured above had several leaves left on it, because I am anticipating a bloom very soon on this one. In fact, I was quite shocked that it hasn't bloomed yet, as others have bloomed around eight feet. The more leaves that the plant has at blooming time, the bigger the bunches of fruit. You don't NEED to leave any leaves on the plant, the theory is that it will help the plant start growing quicker come Spring (more green surfaces to make energy). After taking these pictures, I cut every leaf off of my plants because I am moving them all to Knoxville, TN from Nashville. I am moving there next month.
I also dug up my musella lasiocarpas to take with me. They are one of my very favorite banana plants! They also store VERY well dormant under the house. Here they are. Hopefully I'll get a couple of flowers next year from the two biggest plants.
After loading them all into a trailer for the trip to Knoxville, here's what it looked like. That's the 9 footer on the left side.
After arriving in Knoxville, I took another picture of the trailer, sans tarp.
Then I got a few boards together and placed them in the crawl space. They are just more a precaution than anything else. I stack the corms on them, in case water were to somehow flood the crawl space. I don't have any pictures of this process because it was getting dark and I was tired and just trying to get it all done. This is the hardest part of the whole deal. Dragging corms underneath the house can be tricky and hard work! They are awkward and heavy, and I only have a few feet of headroom under the house to work with. After stacking the plants under the house, you can throw a sheet or two over them if you want if it makes you feel better. I didn't. They also don't get one drop of water all Winter.
Hope this helps somebody. It's all in fun! The whole reason is to get fruit, obviously. I did put a few pretty small pseudostems under the house too, in hope that they would make it. Some don't. It's not a fool-proof method, and doesn't work with every banana, but it should with most. Cool, dry, and dark works very well in my experience. Good luck to everyone overwintering their bananas this Winter, and I hope you all get large bunches of fruit next year!