Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The passalong banana

(Originally posted here.)

"Do you want a banana tree?" my neighbor Virginia asked.

Virginia is a very generous neighbor who enjoys sharing her extra plants with me and I enjoy receiving her extras. Thus, we have the perfect symbiotic relationship.

I admit I was given pause by the idea of the banana tree. I hadn't really planned on a banana tree and on the spur of the moment, I couldn't think where I would plant it. But my standard motto is "Never say no to a free plant" so the issue was never really in doubt. Yes, I wanted the banana tree.

For a couple of weeks now, I have been working on putting in a long-planned new bed along the ugly chain link fence that separates our backyard from our neighbor on the north. The fence is perhaps fifty feet long and I have completed work on the bed for about half that distance. I have been moving plants from all over the yard to fill the bed.

It is a good site for a planting bed because most of it is in sun for much of the day. Only the section near the old apple tree gets some shade. I'm hoping to move an azalea from the front yard to that particular section.

Giving thought to the problem of what to do with the banana tree, I soon decided that a section of that bed that gets sun eight to ten - or more in summer - hours a day would be the best place for it.

Virginia told me I would have to bring a cart to her house to pick up the tree. (She lives a couple of houses down from me.) It was too big and heavy to carry. Since the garden cart was otherwise engaged at the moment, I opted for my husband's pickup and drove over to receive my new passalong plant.

The tree, along with its brothers and sisters that had sprouted from the mother tree, had been pruned back and dug from the ground. It had two pups attached to it. Virginia's husband and I wrestled it onto their wheelbarrow. It was full of water and weighed a ton. (Well, maybe not a ton, but it was heavy.) He pushed the wheelbarrow out to the pickup and we offloaded it into the back of the truck.

While we were doing this, they told me that they harvest bananas from their trees every year. They weren't sure what variety the tree is, but, obviously, it is acclimated to this area and it is productive, so what more do I need to know?

I did do a little research on the needs of banana plants before I got around to putting it into the ground. The first thing that I learned was that a banana tree is not a tree at all but a large perennial herb. And yes, they do like lots of sun, 12 hours a day being optimal, and they like good drainage. It sounded like I would be able to provide exactly what my new tree - er, herb - liked.

Happy with the site I had chosen for the plant, I slid it off the truck and into my wheelbarrow and carried it to the bed where I had dug a large hole to receive it. There, I reversed the process by sliding it off the wheelbarrow and into the hole. Holding the trunk upright, I firmly tamped the soil around it and stood back to admire my handiwork. Then I turned the hose on just a trickle and left it on the bed to slowly water the plant in over several hours.

Did you know that the banana is America's favorite fruit and that the average American eats 30 pounds of bananas a year? Just another interesting fact that my research turned up. I like bananas, too, and I always thought it would be fun to grow my own, but I've never tried before. Now I am excited to have my very own tree (herb) and I look forward to harvesting some luscious fruit from it.

It will taste even better because it was a passalong from a sweet neighbor.

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