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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 06-24-2006, 09:39 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Question

In the wild Bananas only nutrition comes from old vegetation and a bit of animal and bird poop, so why do we feel the need to fertilize the crap out of our plants in our backyards? Is it just to make them grow faster with more
fruits? Do truly wild bananas have small harvests?
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Old 06-24-2006, 10:16 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Question

I would guess that non-cultured bananas have much smaller harvests. They are also in an area where they are generally not threatened by the coming winter frost. For us "out of area" growers, we need things to happen fast. In a bit more predictable manner.
I believe in the tropics things such as atmospheric nitrogen play a big part in how things growas well. Maybe someone with a more scientific background with post in.
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Old 06-24-2006, 11:18 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Question

Last year I had my first bunches of bananas, and up until that time I had never fertilized or composted. All were Orinocos, w/ from 4 - 8 hands of bananas. If I get more or better bananas now that I am pouring on the black cow, the question will be answered.
Anyone else who has changed their fertilizing/composting might have an answer.
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Old 06-24-2006, 12:50 PM   #4 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Question

Hmmmm... Now that I think about it, the year I had my largest harvest I hadn't fertilized, or even mulched for that matter.
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Old 06-24-2006, 05:46 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Maybe fertilizing bananas is like my elephant whistle? Every day I blow this whistle that is supposed to keep elephants away... and I NEVER have any trouble with elephants! I guess I could stop, but it is obviously working.
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Old 06-25-2006, 12:50 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Question

The native soils may have better inherent fertility. I have no idea where I read it, but there is data on how much fertilizer is used in commercial plantations, and I am sure they have done the math and science to know how much fertilizer input is required to produce a proper crop (they do count their pennies). I seem to remember 1# per month per stalk, but don't quote me. I also know from personal experience that stone fruits, citrus, etc to NOT produce well in my soil, even with heavy additions of compost, if I do not fertilize, and add micronutrients as well.
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Old 06-25-2006, 01:45 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Question

You must remember that edible bananas are not natural, they were made by man and thus do not need to conform to any standards of thier wild counterparts. In the wild, the plants produce what they need in order to reproduce, however, you will get larger bunches with wild plants if you fertilize more, not that its an advantage but they will be larger. Edibles will do the same thing, they will make a decent sized bunch without much extra fertilizer, but they will gladly accept more and put it to use if available.
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Old 06-25-2006, 04:26 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Question

Yes, edible bananas are mostly triploid, e. g. AAA, AAB, ABB, BBB

Triploid bananas are seedless and have thicker and larger fruits.

One triploid Musa basjoo or Musa sikkimensis might also have edible fruits, hardy fruit bananas. One friend, one biologist and scientist in Vienna/Austria, has now triploidizied Musa basjoo "Sakhalin", one pup from me. Now he regenerates plants by tissue culture.

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Old 06-25-2006, 02:59 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I'm looking forward to the discovery of new banana varieties in the future and the genetic work being done to develop more. It should prove interesting. I'd love to cross musa basjoo with ice cream for a great tasting cold hardy banana.
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Old 06-25-2006, 05:17 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Question

Hi,

this is a good idea. I will tell that my friend Juergen in Vienna. He is biologist and scientist. I also sent him one Dwarf Orinoco to let make one genetical cross between Musa basjoo "Sakhalin" and "Dwarf Orinoco" by DNA fusion.

I still wait for plants from triploid basjoos from him.

With the best wishes
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Old 06-25-2006, 05:46 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Question

There's another reason not mentioned yet: The sun! The difference in sun intensity between here (Tennessee) and Florida is pretty amazing. Bananas grow much faster in Florida as a result too! Then think about how far Florida is away from the true Tropics. When you get into the Tropics, temperatures below 65 (lowland tropics) are pretty rare too (unheard of in some areas). With basically the same temperatures year-round, plus all of the rain that the Tropics get (again, I am generalizing...I know all of the tropical areas of the world aren't the same), intensity of the sun, and natural fertilizers they receive...well, you get the idea .

We just fertilize the crap out of them for the reason Mike said. We need things to happen faster. It still amazes me that these plants can be forced into dormancy by moving them under my house, and start growing again almost immediately after planting 5-6 months later. What a great plant!
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Old 07-19-2006, 01:51 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: Question

Main reason why we fertilize a lot is because we remove a lot from banana plants. When we remove fruits, we remove a lot of potassium too. When we throw away the spent pseudostems after fruiting, that counts even bigger too. We also clean up and throw away leaves because some of us can't stand it being so untidy and all. So we pay back for all we take out and to keep up with our vanity. We should practice nutrient cycling via composting, but that's a lot of work and volume in our yard, pests and diseases would recycle too, a lot cleaner, quicker and cheaper to go head out in Home Depot to get the fertilizers.

I practice composting and put back the composted stuff into the base of the banana plants, but still not enough if you are trying to build up your clump or mat.
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Old 07-19-2006, 07:41 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: Question

I think I have heard somewhere that the general rule for lots of fruits is: If you fertilize alot, you get lots of foliage but less fruit.


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Old 07-19-2006, 08:50 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: Question

Really depends upon the TYPE of fertilizer blend.

With more nitrogen in the mix, it will usually have more vegetative growth, postponing fruit production, this is something that I try to do when I feel that blooming will happen in the fall, so a month before that I would bump up ammonium sulfate.

with more Phosphorous in the blend, pup production is encouraged.

with more K in the blend, blooming is encouraged.

And then there are these various roles of micronutrients.

I apply nitrogen the least. I use 6-27-27 XB with minors from BEST fertilizer brand, it achieves a nice balance of growth, pup and fruit production.
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Old 07-19-2006, 08:55 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: Question

Plus your soil pH should be slightly acid, your aeration, and water content should be matched properly with the season's demands.

If your bananas are planted in shaded areas, apply Epsom salts to provide magnesium. If your irrigation water or your soil is on the basic or alkaline side, apply soil sulfur for long term fix and or iron sulfate for the quick fix.
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Old 07-19-2006, 09:09 AM   #16 (permalink)
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The soil foodweb out in the wild is virgin and well established for supporting the jungles. The balance between plant and soil is fairly harmonious. Everything from the critters to the soil microbes to the circle of leaf-to-humus is a process that's been in place for as long as they've been growing there. The diversity in plants in the area also contributes to a diversity in soil as well. And, in most locations, vast colonies of mycorrhizal fungus act as a fulcrum to the health of life in the jungles. Generally speaking.

To contrast, many of us in residential areas are digging in bull-dozed soil that has not supported a diversity of life and isn't currently supporting a diversity of life. The soil foodweb is in poor shape. For the rest of us with good soil - that soil is often geared towards the plants growing in them - oaks, scrub, grasses that go thru seasonal changes and are less productive than what one would find in the tropics. Even in Florida you've got less biodiversity than you have in the tropics - tho it is vastly more diverse than other areas of the mainland, excepting the rainforest regions of Washington and Oregon perhaps.

In the wild, the banana trees grow where it's suitable for them to grow. Not every seed sprouts - which is why so many are produced. Here, they grow where we stick them.

And, as many have pointed out - the varieties we grow are production bananas - their purpose is to produce large bunches. The cultivated tomatoes are the same - they produce *huge* fruit compared to their wild cousins. Which means they require more from the soil. Nevertheless - even the wild bananas would have to have special treatment in most of our yards.

So, the goal is to sorta attempt to mimic the soil that they naturally grow in by providing lotsa organic matter and fertilizing massively. I'm organic and tend to rely more on compost than even organic ferts like molasses, fish emulsion and the like. I also try to apply Just Enough (tm) and let the plants work it out themselves. And would you believe, they're growing just fine? Even with the fact that our soils are less than ideal than their native home, integrate a biologically active compost into it and proper moisture and the nanners will largely be happy. Mix in some diverse planting - companions - and you get even healthier nanners.

For those wishing neat growing plots, specimen-plantings, less to no compost and mulch - which can look messy to some - and the plants grow by themselves largely and the food chain is broken so there is some requirement for that to be supplimented. Nanners like it messy and diverse.

And, within that and given that we work hard to provide a free draining soil, those using soluble ferts finds that most of what they apply washes away into the subsoil before their nanner has a chance to make use of it. In nature, the soil foodweb is like a sponge that holds onto nutrients. Even our best compost doesn't have that crumb structure - that's something that takes years to develop. Combine that with the lack of extensive mycorrhizal networks and you'll find that the roots are less efficient at nutrient take-up. So - when we feed with soluble ferts, only a fraction gets to the tree and the rest washes away.

And finally - everyone who grows bananas have no doubt heard that bananas are heavy feeders. What to do then but feed them a lot? I think many nanners are over-fed just for that warm fuzzy feeling of feeding your nanners.

Nevertheless - the nanners till seem to keep plugging away in spite of this - they're incredibly resiliant plants!

Be well,
Mike

Quote:
Originally Posted by momoese
In the wild Bananas only nutrition comes from old vegetation and a bit of animal and bird poop, so why do we feel the need to fertilize the crap out of our plants in our backyards? Is it just to make them grow faster with more
fruits? Do truly wild bananas have small harvests?
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Old 07-19-2006, 03:36 PM   #17 (permalink)
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"I'm organic and tend to rely more on compost than even organic ferts like molasses, fish emulsion and the like."

Me too!

I do also use loads of Steer and Chicken manure as well as worm castings from my own red wigglers that have taken over the garden
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Old 07-19-2006, 03:51 PM   #18 (permalink)
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That explains the size and health of those pups you sent me! They were huge!

I get composted manure by the dump-truck and I age it here on property mixed with leaves, hay and other debris. Makes for a pretty rich humus. Mix that with stuff like lava sand and crushed charcoal and a bit of clay for a final mix. My redworms also compost the likes of coffee grounds and kitchen scraps, producing castings that makes for a killer humus tea - great for foliar applications and soil drench! I think my plants grow fine in their organic compost without all the extras - but it sure is fun treating them to little snacks. When I get rabbits, I'll incorporate their droppings as well - they can be used sans composting! I also concentrate on building up a healthy soil ecosystem as well - the humus tea helps and I also ensure that my plants become hosts to mycorrhizal fungus and whatnot. ei - trying to copy the natural state of their native jungle to the best of my ability.

A hui hou,
Mike

Quote:
Originally Posted by momoese
"I'm organic and tend to rely more on compost than even organic ferts like molasses, fish emulsion and the like."

Me too!

I do also use loads of Steer and Chicken manure as well as worm castings from my own red wigglers that have taken over the garden
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Old 07-19-2006, 05:50 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikevan
That explains the size and health of those pups you sent me! They were huge! A hui hou,
Mike
You should see the trunks on the parents! I can't even imagine how big the corms on those bad boys are!
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Old 10-23-2006, 03:21 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Hi Mike.

Have you tried feeding your worms rabbit manure yet? I'm thinking of giving it to mine along with their horse manure and chick starter.
Worms are doing great now and about to split out 3 more beds in a week or so. I get quite abit of castings now but need to increase production before spring for my new and transplants.
Let me know if you did and the results.
I'd also like to add, your greenhouse is awesome and gave me the idea to make a lean-to for my plants. If I can get past codes, I'll post the pics.
Thanx for your help, guidance, and inspiration!
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