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Cold Hardy Bananas This forum is dedicated to the discussion of bananas that are able to grow and thrive in cold areas. You'll find lots of tips and discussions about keeping your bananas over the winter.


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Old 12-12-2006, 02:04 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Sunscreen cover for winter protection

Our area is marginally freezing Zone 9 with maritime influence. I will attempt this year to see if I can save the banana leaves from winter injuries. So below is the plan. I will post pics on the progress of this project later and how it turns out by spring time.

I purchased the sunscreen patio shade cover from Home Depot to be installed over my bananas. The 6 ft x 20 ft roll is $30. This patio cover blocks 75% of the sunlight, mildew resistant, and guaranteed to last 15 years. We seldom go below 22 deg F, so frost protection over the top should be enough. Counter-intuitive that it blocks the sun, so you might say. Actually, that is my intent of shading out partially the sun during winter. It is not only the freezing injury from frosts that could damage tropicals like bananas, it is the chilling injury.

Chilling injury comes about when you have a lot of sunshine in very chilly air temperature, something above freezing to 45 deg F. In this case, banana leaves will suffer tremendous damage, even much more than frosts at times due to the combined effect of sunlight and chilly air. What happens is that the Choloroplasts gets fired up or electrons gets excited from the bombardment of sunlight, but the rest of the photosynthetic team is asleep due to low metabolic activities caused by low temperature. With the captured energy nowhere to go, it creates free radicals that ran rampant in the leaf tissues and damage a lot of cells, the end results are fried banana leaves.

When shading the bananas out during the winter sunshine, I hope to preserve their leaves as long as it doesn't go below 24 deg F this winter, I should be okay, and no need to build a greenhouse either, and hope to get away with this.
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Old 12-13-2006, 08:39 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Sunscreen cover for winter protection

sounds great Joe!

Good luck with this project!
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Old 12-18-2006, 08:03 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Cold Re: Sunscreen cover for winter protection

I had no idea the sunlight was bad for the nanners when it's cold.

After our first frost singed the leaves, I pulled mine (still in 25 gal. buckets) under a temporary patio cover (basically a tent w/o sides) for frost protection. It is white so there is bright light, but no direct sunlight.

They seem to be doing ok without further damage. Could this just be an optimistic observation?

Do you think it'd be better to shade them a bit (I already have the shade cloth) just to be sure?

On another note, I am going to build a planter on the side of my garage (south facing) for a couple of them for next year and was going to put up a clear UV durable corrugated 'roof' for next winter as a sort of greenhouse so I don't have to dig them up and store them elsewhere. Would this be a good way to overwinter them if the 'inside' temps stayed above 60 degrees during the day?

And lastly, I got a 'California Gold' spear sucker about a foot tall in August. It grew new roots, but no new leaves (though I saw the spiral leaf tip starting to come out). It is also with the other normally growing plants under the 'tent' and most likely now dormant, but I was considering bringing it inside to see if I could wake it up sooner and get some leaf growth overwinter so it grows faster next spring when I'll plant it in the ground outside with the rest. What do you think?

Thanks!
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Old 12-18-2006, 08:12 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Sunscreen cover for winter protection

microfarmer,

Direct sunlight is bad when it is colder than 45 deg F. So any diffuse light would greatly help. Definitely the white cover will help a lot, anything to filter out direct sunlight. The white cover will actually reflect more sunlight away. One of the reasons why I wanted a darker color is to keep the canopy warmer up a bit and at the same time providing some shading and diffused light.

Any temperature above 55 deg F will help prevent leaf damage under direct sunlight but will provide some active growth, so by all means do it, when you have 60 deg F.

Joe

Quote:
Originally Posted by microfarmer View Post
I had no idea the sunlight was bad for the nanners when it's cold.

After our first frost singed the leaves, I pulled mine (still in 25 gal. buckets) under a temporary patio cover (basically a tent w/o sides) for frost protection. It is white so there is bright light, but no direct sunlight.

They seem to be doing ok without further damage. Could this just be an optimistic observation?

Do you think it'd be better to shade them a bit (I already have the shade cloth) just to be sure?

On another note, I am going to build a planter on the side of my garage (south facing) for a couple of them for next year and was going to put up a clear UV durable corrugated 'roof' for next winter as a sort of greenhouse so I don't have to dig them up and store them elsewhere. Would this be a good way to overwinter them if the 'inside' temps stayed above 60 degrees during the day?

And lastly, I got a 'California Gold' spear sucker about a foot tall in August. It grew new roots, but no new leaves (though I saw the spiral leaf tip starting to come out). It is also with the other normally growing plants under the 'tent' and most likely now dormant, but I was considering bringing it inside to see if I could wake it up sooner and get some leaf growth overwinter so it grows faster next spring when I'll plant it in the ground outside with the rest. What do you think?

Thanks!
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Old 12-18-2006, 08:14 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Sunscreen cover for winter protection

Something really bad happened this early morning when it go down to 27 deg F. The cover was blown away by a light breeze last night. So I got significant fried leaves today. I will try to do a better "anchoring" job tonight when I get home.
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Old 12-18-2006, 10:09 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Sunscreen cover for winter protection

After posting the previous, I looked my plants over and found 2 (Super Dwarf Mini Cavendish and CA Gold) with frost damage from last night that sat closer to the edge under the 'tent'. They were looking so good, too...

I have cut all but the last leaf off and moved them all into the dark garage 'til spring. The others were showing signs of leaf spotting.

I may try putting up a grow light in a spare bedroom and move a couple in there, but the closed off bedroom is cooler than 60 degrees. It may warm up nicely with a HPS though...

I'll have to think about it...

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Originally Posted by pitangadiego View Post
There is no excuse for still having grass. I haven't mowed in 20 years. With all that space, I could plant another 100 bananas.
My new hero...
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Old 12-20-2006, 10:36 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Sunscreen cover for winter protection

Early this morning, on my way to work, about 6:00 am, I have heard on the radio that we have a rare pogonip event. A pogonip is a cloud of frozen fog that are composed of tiny needle like ice crystals. I don't how my bananas are going to handle this but for humans, it can injure the lungs. This was reported by the national weather service to occur in Sacramento Airport and vicinities and could include some areas of Davis. I have my car inside the garage and perhaps was not exposed to this and haven't checked it until I arrived at the office.

From the Farmer's weather almanac: "The word pogonip is a meteorological term used to describe an uncommon occurrence - frozen fog. The word was coined by Native Americans to describe the frozen fogs of fine ice needles that occur in the mountain valleys of the western United States and Canada. According to their tradition, breathing the fog is injurious to the lungs."

My bananas have no lungs but they could freeze out there, cover or no cover...
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Old 12-21-2006, 01:30 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Drummer Re: Sunscreen cover for winter protection

Welcome to the... ...First Day Of Winter...

JoeReal...I hope your bananas made it thru the pogonip ok. I live out of the general fog zone at a bit higher elevation (about 134 ft. ASL) so didn't get it here. Please keep us informed of the shade cloth sunscreen and how your other bananas are doing in general.

I am a new banana grower. I had 5 red bananas from Home Depot (and prolly just ornamental) that I killed last winter by planting them late, in the wrong place, and not knowing anything about them or their needs. After that failure, I read a lot of info online (gotta love the internet!!) and am better prepared to care for them properly. I'm still making mistakes, but not as tragic...

I now have 6 bananas (Ice Cream, Goldfinger, Dw. Orinoco, Dw. Red, Ca Gold, and Super Mini Dw. Cavendish) and am growing them in 20 gallon containers. I got them in the middle of July so I didn't think they'd get to full size by winter so decided pots were the best option til next Spring istead of digging them up a couple months after planting...

Five of them were mail order from Florida and am very satisfied with the company I bought them from, Green Earth inc. (http://www.bananaplants.net/bananaplants.html). They came packaged well, were very reasonably priced, and didn't come with pests or diseases. I would purchase from them again. The only drawback is (in my opinion) a limited selection.

The gentleman I got the CA Gold from says it does very well in his town of Modesto. I went to his 'plantation' and although he plants them out in a field, it backs up a subdivision and he seems to get a bit of extra warmth from the paved surfaces around his newer neighborhood and the intensive planting of homes maximizing the pavment in the area creating a warmer microclimate than the surrounding orchard/farmland in the general Modesto rural areas. He also grows many sub and full tropicals around his home and he is very good at it.

I live in an older established neighborhood with 1/4-1/2 acre lots with the occasional 1+ acre parcel (one of which my property backs up to) and less pavement causing less thermal mass. I've gotten heavy frosts and temps to about 20 degrees.

It's been bad enough in years past to cause all the leaves to drop off my established lemon trees. By the way, even though they look dead, they do grow back, but don't fruit for a couple years...

The P/O had 4 vertical irrigation pipes with lawn spray heads on top in the canopy of each lemon tree when I moved in and I used them once. It created the most unusual tree shaped ice sculpture you can imagine, and the trees didn't lose any leaves, but I think encasing lemon trees in ice is prolly going to lead to unwanted breakage.

I've since removed them. It may keep the surface layer of the canopy at around freezing as opposed to 20 degree air tempurature and have some merit if the citrus is propped up preventing breakage, but is not viable for bananas.

A tip I learned for winter protection for my citrus is to keep bare ground around my citrus (something I've been a bit lax about...damn Bermuda grass...) and to water during the day when a heavy freeze is expected. The daytime sun warms the soil and it gives off the warmth during the night. I do not think this is a viable option for bananas though, as wet, cold soil is counter-productive.

I also string Christmas lights in my trees (looks pretty, but I don't think it works too well). Maybe if I put in more light strings of the larger type bulbs...

I did use a catalytic propane heater under the canopy one year, but it led to rotting and black fungus of the fruits and wet leaves, so I abandoned that method.

I am now in the process of going back to the bare dirt/watering method and trying to kill all the Bermuda grass/Dallis grass/Yellow Nutsedge/Morning Glory infesting my yard.

I do use black plastic mulch (got it with my home so trying to use it up) for weed control in the veggie garden during the summer and it is very effective on most weeds, but the Bermuda just runs like crazy under it.

It is also effective for raising soil temps in March facilitating earlier planting and I may have some sucess with it around the Bananas in the winter to keep the soil dryer to reduce the possibility of rot, and elevating soil temps for added cold protection during the winter. I do not know if it will mess with the banana's dormancy though causing the corm to think it's Springtime.

For those of you shocked by my non-eco friendly use of the plastic...when the plastic is gone I will switch to a tillable dark paper mulch instead, reducing my contribution to the landfill. The problem with that is all the unwanted seeds and rotten peppers/tomatoes that are collected on top during the growing season that I was wrapping up and throwing away. Maybe pulling it up and hot composting it will be better than just tilling it in. I have not been a sucessful hot composter though. I always did want to start a worm farm...

Since our coldest nights are also wind free, I also think Christmas lights wrapped around the banana Pstem 'may' help some, but it won't do much for the leaves on top.

All this of course is just a guess. For this year, my bananas will sit in their containers, in my garage, until the winter has passed, and the warming sun of Spring once again shines on my gardens...
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Originally Posted by pitangadiego View Post
There is no excuse for still having grass. I haven't mowed in 20 years. With all that space, I could plant another 100 bananas.
My new hero...
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Old 12-21-2006, 04:01 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Sunscreen cover for winter protection

There was that incident when a gentle breeze blew the sunscreen cover off and it fired their leaves. I have reanchored it much more securely now but then it was too late. The leaves are starting to turn black and brown. I will surely do it better next year.

As to the gentleman, his name is Jeff Earl. I have California Gold, but it seems that my Dwarf Brazilian are cold hardier than the CaGold after my clump was established. For one, the CaGold were hit by the frost first, simply because it has the tallest leaves well above all my other dwarf bananas, and so was hit severely. Now that the Dwarf Brazilian has bigger clump, I think it becomes cold hardier, and will observe that in spring.

As to your catalytic propane, I would try to focus the radiant beam on the soil base. It is true that it is the combined wet and cold that encourages rotting of bananas corm. If you keep them dry, they become dormant. All I needed is to keep them dormant. Yes, putting a black plastic around the base during late winter will also give a headstart for the ground warming up. I do that all the time for most tropicals, and I reuse the dark plastics. If you keep the potted bananas in the garage, water them only once but provide flourescent lighting during the hottest time, as this will help preserve the leaves and remain green and ready for spring planting.

Here's a nice tip to get rid of bermuda grasses. What you can do now is to layout cardboard boxes over them. Continue to do so so that there is no gap where light can go through. Let the cardboard boxes rot over them and those grasses will slowly die off and be gone, but would require almost a year of vigilance with these cardboard boxes.
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Old 12-21-2006, 04:36 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Sunscreen cover for winter protection

It sounds like we have a wide variety of wintering plans in action, and it may be interesting to compare the results in a few months. In zone 9, w/ a few frosts per winter, I've set up 8 posts and covered a 12' x 8' area with 3 mil clear plastic sheeting. It is fairly well nailed down, but we will have to see if it makes it through the winds expected this weekend. No sun protection, though the light is fairly diffuse through the plastic. Yeah, a sort of transparent tent. The posts are buried 2 feet in the ground, seem solid, and leave 6 feet of head room. We shall see...
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Old 12-22-2006, 04:46 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Sunscreen cover for winter protection

JoeReal, sorry to hear 'the damage is done'. Hope next year is better for you. Jeff is a very nice guy and he gave me a lot of good tips and a private tour of his gardens. He has done a lot of work and it looks awesome!

I looked thru your pics and liked the grafting 'articles'. It made it seem much less trouble than I thought and I might just give it a try. It beats the heck outta buying a separate tree for each variety I want.

Thanks also for the bermuda tip. I am first going to rake, rip, tear, pull, burn, dig, and otherwise mechanically remove as much Bermuda as possible. I was then going to nuke whatever showed it's head with Weed Hoe or Roundup. Cardboard is cheaper and more eco-friendly. I'll have to look into it for the easier to get to areas. Maybe I'll use it under my plastic, also to stop the Bermuda runners.

Pre-emergents will handle the MG and weed seed germination, and the Nutsedge will require mechanical and chemical removal, as they are very tenacious!


Paul Odin, good luck with your makeshift green house. This year is out as my plants are still in containers, in my dark garage, waiting for the spring...

I am considering something like you are doing for next year, but, it'll be more substantial as i'll be using UV coated, corrugated, polyvinyl panels attached from my garage to the fenceline and making a 'roof' over my walkway/planter box, keeping the rains out, and the light/heat in. I will use the catalytic propane heaters on only the coldest nights, and hopefully, I can keep them growing throughout the winter.

It will only cover 2-3 plants though, and not the ones scattered around my yard. I will have 4 different banana growing areas, and covering all of them will be a stretch, thus my alternative 'heating' applications (bare soil+Christmas light combos).

I am also planning to use large rocks (small boulders) around my citrus and bananas, adding thermal mass right where it's needed most. It'll also be good in the heat of summer keeping soils cool and 'mulched' to prevent evaporation.

If anyone has ideas on how to 'heat' your winter garden (even if it raises the temps just a couple degrees) I'd be interested in trying it. If each tip I try adds 2-3 degrees to my 'plantation', then I just might be able to raise the temp to 32 degrees on a 20 degree night. That may be the difference between losing leaves, and losing the Pstem.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, a Happy new Year, a mild winter and an early Spring!
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There is no excuse for still having grass. I haven't mowed in 20 years. With all that space, I could plant another 100 bananas.
My new hero...
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Old 12-22-2006, 06:42 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: Sunscreen cover for winter protection

Paul Odin, good luck with your makeshift green house.

If makeshift works, I'd prefer not to build a more substantial greenhouse. The plan is to turn this area into an arbor next spring. If all goes as hoped I'll put up another set of posts for a green house next fall, and extend the arbor the following spring. That corner of my yard has become a jungle since the hurricanes knocked down some oak trees and 2 sheds a few years ago, and this may turn it into a 'controlled jungle'. Each additional 8' x 12' greenhouse should add 12' x 16' to the arbor, but at the moment the question is whether or not I'll need a more substantial roof.

Paul
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