Bananas will grow in any large garden as long as there is no sign of frost or freezing temperatures at any time of the year. They are truly a sub-topical plant needing warm soil, and air temperatures all year round.
The plant grows from a rhizome that sends up shoots to make the tuburous stems and large flat green leaves. The plants need space as they can reach heights of between 2 to 6 metres.
These plants need warmth, sunshine and shelter from strong winds and are best planted near fences or sun trapped corners of the garden. The soil needs to be enriched with rotted compost and be slightly on the acidic side, so no need for liming.
Plant new plants in the spring or summer and water well while the plant is forming. It will take three years for a new young stem to produce a flower, and then a whole year of development from the time the first purple, tubular flower appears until fruit is ready to pick.
Keep it flowing
This plant needs a tonne of water. Any sign of drought conditions and the bananas will droop. They will not appreciate standing in water-logged soil, so ensure drainage is adequate. A good mulch of grass clippings, and the ash from a fire place will give the banana plants extra nutrition as well as protection from dry conditions.
To create the biggest and best bananas they need fertiliser. Feed regularly with a nitrogen enriched fertiliser with plenty of micronutrients added. Trim away excess shoots at the bottom of the plant to concentrate one or two stems producing fruit and once the fruit has set, remove any other flowering stalks to help bring the first one along. The bananas don’t need insects to pollinate, but plenty of bees and wasps will hang around the nectar rich flower. Snails, earwigs and slugs can damage the leaves, but pose little threat to the fruit.
Time to pick
The banana fruit will ripen in summer after plenty of sun. As ‘hands’ of the fruit become ripe they can be picked. If some bananas don’t appear to be ripening quickly, place a plastic bag over them and secure. Otherwise plump green fruit can be picked to ripen off the tree.
After the large stalk has produced a bunch of bananas it won’t fruit again and is best to be chopped down to allow new shoots to come through.
Keep it fresh
The fruit can be stored green in a cool dark place, or can be frozen or chilled. Any cold temperatures will bring on browning of the skin, even though the flesh remains tasty and intact.