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Main Banana Discussion This is where we discuss our banana collections; tips on growing bananas, tips on harvesting bananas, sharing our banana photos and stories.


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Old 01-06-2009, 11:16 AM   #1 (permalink)
 
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Default Fertilizer Application Technique

I want to apply liquid fertilizer to banana plants that I've mulched with grass clippings to about 4 feet from the base. Do I apply liquid fertilizer directly on top of the mulch or do I have to remove then replace after fertilizing? The plants have new fruit stems or are about to fruit. Any advice appreciated.
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Old 01-06-2009, 11:49 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Fertilizer Application Technique

I had good results last year applying diluted fish emulsion through the mulch. This coming year I'll be applying a powdered organic ferilizer under the mulch with applications of the fish emulsion as an ADDITIONAL nitrogen source especially for the younger plants. Richard will probably have some good advice for you.
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Old 01-06-2009, 12:06 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Fertilizer Application Technique

You should be fine to simply fertilize on top of the mulch. Be aware, however, that you'll need to make sure that you fertilize enough that the solution soaks through the mulch. This would eventually happen due to rainfall anyhow, but if you give it a good soaking now it should go through the mulch and into the soil without any problem. How deep is your mulch?
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Old 01-06-2009, 12:17 PM   #4 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Fertilizer Application Technique

The fertilizer should help feed some of the microbes in the mulch as well (unless it kills them). Have you pulled the clippings back to see whats going on? I've found that my plants will send roots right into the mulch after it breaks down a bit and has worms working in it.
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Old 01-06-2009, 12:38 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Fertilizer Application Technique

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Originally Posted by Bananaman88 View Post
You should be fine to simply fertilize on top of the mulch. Be aware, however, that you'll need to make sure that you fertilize enough that the solution soaks through the mulch. This would eventually happen due to rainfall anyhow, but if you give it a good soaking now it should go through the mulch and into the soil without any problem.
I agree with Bananaman, especially since grass clippings are more of a compost than a mulch. Four inches thick of wood chips from healthy (non-infected) branches are a better choice. Try for a chip size of 1-inch width -- if you are buying them, then ask for fine-texture wood chip.

By the way, Fish Emulsion (typically 4-1-1) is a great product but one of the most expensive sources of Nitrogen for your plants you can buy (about $55 per net lb of Nitrogen). I would use it as a soil amendment and source of micronutrients about 2 or 3 times per year -- just as someone might use seaweed extract for the same purpose. For natural and "organic" sources of nitrogen and potassium, you should be able to get the cost below $10 per net lb of nutrient.
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Old 01-06-2009, 12:46 PM   #6 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Fertilizer Application Technique

I've been pushing the mulch off by hand every time I fertilize which is a lot of work. I do see the occasional root near the surface but they haven't grown up into the mulch which is about 2 inches deep with recent grass clippings on top of older rotted applications.

I have 4 plants about 7 mos. old from a commercial plantation here in Honduras plus a younger apple banana plant from a rhizome a friend gave me. The first plantation plant shot out the fruit stem from 5 ft. high with 7 hands. Another just unfurled a short leaf preparing to fruit at the same height. Not sure of the variety but obviously a dwarf.

So from what I can gather, I should first wet the mulch, spray the fertilizer, then soak. Is that about right? Sure will save my back.
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Old 01-06-2009, 01:00 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Fertilizer Application Technique

Once you have put down mulch or compost do not disturb it unless you are digging up the plants to move them somewhere else.

What you have is compost -- something that breaks down very quickly. I would just apply the fertilizer to all the plants, and then follow-up with a light watering to "push" it past the top layer of clippings.
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Old 01-06-2009, 01:13 PM   #8 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Fertilizer Application Technique

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Once you have put down mulch or compost do not disturb it unless you are digging up the plants to move them somewhere else.

What you have is compost -- something that breaks down very quickly. I would just apply the fertilizer to all the plants, and then follow-up with a light watering to "push" it past the top layer of clippings.
Yes, my thinking was that the clippings would be compost as well as keep the weeds away. I just wonder how the commercial plantations apply it with the area all covered with dead plant material.
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Old 01-06-2009, 01:50 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Fertilizer Application Technique

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Yes, my thinking was that the clippings would be compost as well as keep the weeds away. I just wonder how the commercial plantations apply it with the area all covered with dead plant material.
Grass clippings are so thin and break down so fast they are a poor deterrent to weeds in the summer time.

Notice that grass clippings are 2% Nitrogen and Fish Emulsion is only 4%. You could put down an extra pound of grass clippings per plant and skip the Fish Emulsion altogether. The grass clippings have a better nutrient profile anyway, and don't have the trace amounts of heavy metals and machine oils associated with Fish Emulsion.
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Old 01-06-2009, 01:53 PM   #10 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Fertilizer Application Technique

I also use grass clippings as mulch! I water right on top of the mulch / compost. I like to water in one gallon with Fert mixed in, then after the next day or two when I water the assume the ferts drip down to the root ball. I also figured that the grass will absorbed a small amount of the fert that it will release again as it starts to break down. Now that my yard worms have found the grass / mulch pile around the base of my banana tree's the grass clippings are starting to disappear pretty quick now. I also like to cut up leafs and parts of the steam and use them as mulch also. I would defiantly say do not move the grass clippings / mulch AT ALL! Unless digging up, Richard is correct! My Ice Cream has a large amount of roots in the mulch at this point. I know when to add more because I start to see exposed roots dieing back from the sun exposure.
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Old 01-06-2009, 01:59 PM   #11 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Fertilizer Application Technique

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Originally Posted by Richard View Post
Grass clippings are so thin and break down so fast they are a poor deterrent to weeds in the summer time.

Notice that grass clippings are 2% Nitrogen and Fish Emulsion is only 4%. You could put down an extra pound of grass clippings per plant and skip the Fish Emulsion altogether. The grass clippings have a better nutrient profile anyway, and don't have the trace amounts of heavy metals and machine oils associated with Fish Emulsion.
Great info! More then I even knew, I just knew that Grass was high in nitrogen and once it breaks down provides a good source of micro nurt's. Do you think if you water to much it will wash out all the micro nurt's into the ground making the grass break down slower? In my case I don't think I could slow the break down process even if I wanted to because of all the active worms I got going on.
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Old 01-06-2009, 03:59 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: Fertilizer Application Technique

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... Do you think if you water too much it will wash out all the micro nurt's into the ground ... ?
Overwatering will not case more nutrients to move into the ground, but rather the opposite: many of the nutrients will move from the soil where the water is being applied to other areas.
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