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Old 06-26-2017, 10:24 PM   #1 (permalink)
 
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Default The North Carolina Banana Experiment

I have been a Philadelphia area resident ever since I went to college in 2004.

Thanks to early indoctrination by my father and grandfather, and 7 years working on a farm as a kid, I've been gardening for quite awhile. There isn't much land here in the concrete jungle I live in, so I've used all sorts of buckets and bags to make ends meet over the years (usually Home Depot buckets jammed in the corner of a parking lot). I've been growing my own makeshift gardens since I was probably 23 (I'm 30 now) and have gotten quite good at it. The place I live now has the best microclimate I've been in to date.

I'm in a temperamental 7a currently, but I have a big advantage - I live in a row home with a south-facing roof deck. Due to the elevated deck, the perfect view of the southern sky and the entire block being row homes that completely block the north wind, using frost blankets, I had tomatoes til December last year and was able to plant my seedlings the 2nd weekend of April this year - almost unheard of for this area.





My fiance and I have been traveling to the coast of North Carolina for almost half a decade and it has always been our dream to spend our later years on the Carolina coast - we just love everything about the area. Well, we finally decided that there is no point in waiting, and we have worked very hard over the past year to make a big move. She has found new employment down there already, and I am transferring down October 1st.

The prospect of being in a Zone 8a - occasionally an 8b - is very exciting to me. Aside from a much longer growing season, my world opens up as to what I can grow down there. I'm not the world's biggest fan of bananas, but I'm a huge fan of challenges and the idea of growing bananas and citrus in coastal North Carolina excites me.

Through a lot of research - many thanks to the posters on this site - I've narrowed down a few varieties I'd like to attempt to grow. I decided to start by ordering a Dwarf Orinoco - it seems to be the ideal combination of size, cold hardiness and fruiting cycle for the climate I'll be moving to. I purchased a small plant from Wellspring Gardens on Amazon, which arrived today. My plan is to age the rhizome now to give my best chance for fruiting next year. Why waste time?

My little naner showed up today and it's a real looker. I've heard lots of reports of people not getting what they paid for, so if anyone that's experienced with Dwarf Orinoco could verify it would put my mind at ease.

The plant was packaged very well and arrived in the exact condition below with a free little packet of fertilizer.


The roots look strong.


I placed mine in a 3 gallon pot. Some may say that's too large, but in my experience the #1 enemy is transplant shock. I'm minimizing the damage.


Happily potted next to my Canary Island Date Palm, which I potted several months ago in preparation of the NC move (I've been planning this for some time, and almost positive a CIDP will be quickly killed down there).



I plan on periodically updating this thread with progress as time passes. I'm a bit obsessive when it comes to my hobbies and tend to go overboard, and I have big plans for this move. I know there are a lot of people in the south interested in growing hardy bananas in areas that experience routine frosts, and coastal NC is pretty much the northern Zone 8a border to even have a shot - meaning if I can do it, you can do it, too.
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Old 06-27-2017, 09:26 AM   #2 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

Welcome to the forum. You should post an introduction in the Member Introduction section.

Now your tc looks nice, but as a note: from the 2nd pic compared to the 3rd, it looks like you may have buried the plant a little deep. The first & second leaf stems were buried in the new pot. This could induce some pstem rot/problems at a later date. You might raise the plant up to the soil level of the 2" pot.

The TC will benefit from a daily misting with water especially if kept inside and humidity is low; and a forlar spray of weak fertilizer once a week. Keep the plant in bright light with little direct sunlight. The leaves can sunburn.
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Old 06-27-2017, 09:58 AM   #3 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

Welcome to this forum and the very best of luck with your plans!
I've subscribed to this thread and look forward to your future posts and pictures.
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Old 06-27-2017, 12:16 PM   #4 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

Try a pindo palm, it has significantly more cold tolerance.
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Old 06-27-2017, 12:46 PM   #5 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

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Originally Posted by CountryBoy1981 View Post
Try a pindo palm, it has significantly more cold tolerance.
Butia's are a dime a dozen down there. I'm not a big fan of the look and prefer the native sabal palmetto's for a reliable palm.

The CIDP is my favorite palm, and it is borderline down there. They are ticking time bombs because they can't take back-to-back defoliated seasons. There is one on the way to Southport on 87 that has been surviving for years, but was totally defoliated last year in Feb when I was down there. I'm not sure if it came back. Rule of thumb is the CIDP northern border is Charleston, SC.

I know I'll eventually lose the fight but I just want to try. I am looking to special order in a Cretan Date Palm because they are very similar to a CIDP but much tougher. They are very hard to find because they only grow in Greece and Turkey and are highly undesirable for landscaping due to being covered in spiny barbs. I just love the look.
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Old 06-27-2017, 07:50 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

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I am looking to special order in a Cretan Date Palm because they are very similar to a CIDP but much tougher. They are very hard to find because they only grow in Greece and Turkey and are highly undesirable for landscaping due to being covered in spiny barbs. I just love the look.
I looked that one up...what are you wanting to do...a maximum security barrier?

That thing looks positively NASTY.
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Old 06-27-2017, 09:48 PM   #7 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

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I looked that one up...what are you wanting to do...a maximum security barrier?

That thing looks positively NASTY.
The CIDP is pretty spiny and sharp as well, though. Just less...prickly?

The Canary Island Date Palm I find to be stunningly beautiful, but North Carolina is just too inhospitable of a climate for the long run unless you can find a perfect microclimate somewhere (or make your own).

It is just so majestic.


Phoenix Canariensis


The Cretan Island Date Palm is thought to be the wild type of all date palms - possibly the original. It's considerably hardier - I've heard stories of people's CIDP getting completely defoliated while their Cretan Date Palm planted right next to it didn't even get frond burn. Because of the thorny barbs, its limited habitat and customs laws, they're not found much in the US. They're mostly sold in the UK from nurseries.

I think they're the closest thing to getting the look of the CIDP with the cold hardiness I'd need - and I'd probably be the only guy in North Carolina with one.


Phoenix Theophrasti (Cretan Date Palm)

Should be tons of fun trying to give that a pineapple cut, huh? I found a place in Texas that apparently sells them, but I'd have to get a 5 gallon and wait a long time.
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Old 06-27-2017, 09:58 PM   #8 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

Quote:
Originally Posted by edwmax View Post
Now your tc looks nice, but as a note: from the 2nd pic compared to the 3rd, it looks like you may have buried the plant a little deep. The first & second leaf stems were buried in the new pot. This could induce some pstem rot/problems at a later date. You might raise the plant up to the soil level of the 2" pot.
Thank you. As a vegetable farmer with a special love for tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, I'm used to burying roots deep. I've raised the plant as per your suggestion.





Quote:
Originally Posted by edwmax View Post
The TC will benefit from a daily misting with water especially if kept inside and humidity is low; and a forlar spray of weak fertilizer once a week. Keep the plant in bright light with little direct sunlight. The leaves can sunburn.
The instructions for the plant said not to expose it to full sun just yet until it begins to show growth. I have it outside on my roof deck in the spotty shadows of the tomatoes so it gets partial sun next to my herbs. If I see growth I'll introduce it to more and more sunshine.

Unfortunately, we don't get low humidity in the Philadelphia area. I'd go as far to say it is more humid here than it is in the south on average. It just never dries out; the south at least gets dry spells. The Northeast doesn't get the credit it deserves because the average temperatures are lower - it is an armpit here.
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Old 06-27-2017, 10:30 PM   #9 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

As long as you bring it in or cover that Orinoco it should do well. It'll probably never fruit if you plant it in the ground. CIDP - not to be negative, but that'll never make it in ground in NC with the chilly wet winters. They do much better here on the west coast with a dry chilly winter.
Best of luck, I'll follow your progress.
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Old 06-29-2017, 10:36 PM   #10 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

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As long as you bring it in or cover that Orinoco it should do well. It'll probably never fruit if you plant it in the ground.
I am debating whether or not to cut the pseudostem down to 4 feet and build an enclosure for the 6-8 cold weeks a year, or simply dig up the corm and hide it in the (eventual) garage. My goal is to spread the eventual pups and try multiple techniques to see what performs best.


Quote:
Originally Posted by 37.667910 View Post
CIDP - not to be negative, but that'll never make it in ground in NC with the chilly wet winters. They do much better here on the west coast with a dry chilly winter.
Best of luck, I'll follow your progress.
There has been a CIDP living in Southport for awhile now in front of an old abandoned garden center. It was planted fully mature so it is as hardy as it gets. If you play with the date slider on the top left you can see it in various stages of defoliation/regrowth.

https://www.google.com/maps/@33.9601...7i13312!8i6656

It looked pretty terrible when I drove by it last February. I haven't been back to see if it has recovered. I won't be too far from Southport, and I would like to see if I can build my own special microclimate somehow. I know it'll probably get nuked but I want to try. They are closer to desert palms - they grow in semi-arid regions of the Canary Islands.
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Old 06-30-2017, 03:36 PM   #11 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

Welcome!
My grandfather fruited bananas in charlotte, NC in the 1950s. I was told he would dig the plants up and store them under the house for the winter and replant in spring.
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Old 07-02-2017, 07:23 PM   #12 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

It has been oddly sunny and hot here in PA for the past couple weeks. Usually you have to go to the Great Lakes to match our level of persistent overcast, but lately we have been getting cooked. My tomatoes and peppers are pushing out fruits like their lives depend on it, and my cucumbers are trellising several inches a day.

Today we hit 93*F with humidity ranging as high as 88% in the AM and bottoming out at 44%. Most of the day was spent around 90*F with humidity in the 50%'s. Not comfortable by any means, but not quite a soupy mess. The banana has responded tremendously and for being potted for not even 5 full days has already pushed out a new leaf.




Even more impressive is the way the CIDP has responded. CIDP's grow in much cooler, drier climates, but it has been eating up this heat and humidity. It pushed out an entire new frond from the spear this week.




Perhaps the most impressive of all is my Brandy Boy tomato is leading the charge for earliest producer, kicking the pants off of the Early Slicer and 4 other mostly heirloom varieties.




For those who are unaware, the Brandy Boy is a hybridized version of the classic Pink Brandywine tomato by Burpee. It is a potato leaf hybrid that very closely resembles the Pink Brandywine but corrects the all-time favorite heirloom tomato's notoriously poor yield, slow maturity and terrible disease resistance. So far (knock on wood), it is proving to do all three as advertised. It is loaded with gigantic fruits (the biggest of all), looks incredible and is the closest to maturity. I can't wait to see how it tastes. If that holds up, I'll be growing these every year.
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Old 07-09-2017, 12:55 PM   #13 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

12 day progress update: the 3rd leaf grew yesterday and opened up fully overnight. It's starting to look like a real plant. It's truly amazing how quickly bananas can grow.

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Old 07-22-2017, 10:12 PM   #14 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

Just a little update. I am happy to say the banana has broken the 1 foot mark in height. It's also developing nice shades of red around some of the leaves - hopefully that is typical for a Dwarf Orinoco and I did, in fact, get what I paid for.



The garden is in full swing. It pays huge dividends to get an early start with your seedlings and blanket everything as necessary at night. It's a pain while you're doing it, but I've been producing heirloom tomatoes for three weeks now and peppers for a month. Most people in my area are just beginning peppers and have only green tomatoes.

Every day I get half a strainer full of things. Not bad for a little roof deck. This is truly the most wonderful time of the year.






I would also strongly recommend vertical trellising of cucumbers. This little rig I built out of stakes and chicken wire is outstanding. It would have been impossible to grow on a deck any other way, and cucumbers that sprawl on the ground love to rot - not to mention the diseases the plants get. It makes finding fruit super easy.


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Old 09-29-2017, 08:39 AM   #15 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

Today is the day the movers come! Tomorrow I will be making the drive down to North Carolina.

The banana has grown quite a bit since my first post. However, I think it either has a disease or a nutrient deficiency. I ran out of fertilizer awhile ago and I haven't been buying any due to the move. I have been giving it soluble MiracleGro tomato fertilizer. I wonder if that could have anything to do with it? The leaves are covered in a brown film and are developing brown/black edges. When it forms a new leaf it is pristine and green, but it quickly develops the ugly spots. Any idea what this could be?





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Old 09-29-2017, 10:01 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

I did the same thing to my bananas last year. what the miracle grow didn't kill it knocked back a couple of months. talked to a forum member who said the bananas don't like nitrogen fed to em that fast. said he had done the same thing.
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Old 09-29-2017, 07:07 PM   #17 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

WELCOME TO THE FORUM
CNT SAY FOR SURE BUT LOOKS LIKE SOMETHING CALLED POWDERY MILDEW
HAD PROBLEMS WITH IT WITH BANANAS KEPT IN MY HOUSE BEFORE i BUILT MY GREEN HOUSE ALSO LOST 2 ACRES OF PUMPKINS TO IT SEVERAL YEARS AGO
IN JUST A MATTER OF DAYS EASY TO CONTROL THOUGH YOU CAB GET A SPRAY FROM LOWES OR HOME DEPOT
ALSO WHAT PART OF NC ARE YOU MOVING TO ? i FRUIT BANANAS IN THE GROUND IN ZONE 7 NORTH WEST OF CHARLOTTE WITH SOME CARE HAVE A RAJAH PURI AND BLUE JAVA AND BASJOO WITH FRUIT HANGING NOT SURE IF THE BLUE JAVA WILL MATURE BEFORE FROST
THE BASJOO DOSENT MATER AS THERE RELAY AREN'T EDIBLE THE RAJAH PURI IS GONA MAKE IT

blue java flaging in zone 7!!!

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Old 11-14-2017, 12:28 PM   #18 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

I haven't updated this in quite awhile. I have been in North Carolina for 6 weeks now. What a tremendously better climate than PA!

I cut my banana down to two leaves so I could fit in in my car for the 530 mile trip, which got rid of most of the funky leaves that burnt. I'm pretty convinced it was the soluble MiracleGro that burnt the leaves and turned them black. I have since transplanted the banana into a 20 gallon felt pot, gave it all new soil, sprayed it down with a mixture of organic fungicide and neem oil several times and hit it heavily with 5-5-5 several times. Despite the much colder temps and short days, it has put out a bunch of new leaves since I've gotten here.



We haven't hit freezing yet, but we have hit 34. The 10 day forecast is borderline a few days, so I am going to have to haul this thing in and out on occasion.

In addition to the banana, the very first week I was there, I built a garden from scratch. By the way, you can fit 6 foot long sections of lumber in a Camaro, and it takes 3 Home Depot trips to bring home 35 1 cu. ft. bags of topsoil.

Here, you can find oregano, basil, kale, a second (successive) crop of radishes and beets.


My first crop of radishes planted the first week of October are mostly ready for harvest.


Heirloom multi-colored carrots are coming along.


Broccoli and brussels sprouts.


I also ripped out the healthiest pepper plant I had growing in PA, stuck it on a pot and drove it down with me. It's still kicking butt, putting out tons of extremely hot, delicious fruits.


And my Canary Island Date Palm is still growing like a weed. I can't believe in March it was a little blade of glorified grass.


Because I am a zone-pusher, I took a handful of cuttings from my tomato plants before I dumped and mulched them in PA, seeing if I could get them to root and grow here. Even they are growing like weeds and are flowering. This plant below was a 6 inch long sucker I stuck in a pint glass full of water two weeks before I left Pennsylvania.


I know they don't have much of a chance here, but I am enjoying the attempt and will try to protect them as long as I can.

The Cretan date palm pits I ordered from Europe also sprouted and are growing.



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Old 11-14-2017, 12:59 PM   #19 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

to me those browned leaves looked like they were infested with spider mites.
i could be wrong though... looks like mine when they had mites

one thing i noticed... when people on here refer to the bananas height...
they mean from the corm to where the leafs leave the pstem
not the total height up to the tips of the leaf

anyhow not trying to be a downer... you have a nice big yard now to work youre magic
patio at the old place was great!
nice plants!
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Old 08-22-2018, 10:28 PM   #20 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The North Carolina Banana Experiment

I haven't updated this thread in a long time. I am closing out on my first year here in North Carolina, and I've decided to stay and I'm currently finishing up building a house here.

My banana is practically unrecognizable. I can't believe this thing is a dwarf, it is so large. I have separated 3 pups off of it, which I think was a mistake because it stunted its growth for 2-3 weeks while it recovered from the corm damage.

I have still not gotten any fruit. However, does this look like a pre-flag leaf? It appears to be a little shorter, and it took 2 weeks to push out this leaf instead of just 1 week like normal.





I am running out of a warm season, and I am afraid that if I don't get a flower in August, I simply won't have enough time to make a ripe bunch and this will all be for nothing. I'm hoping the next leaf comes with a flower. I can't believe how long this is taking, this plant is gigantic.
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