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A Bit About Bananas

In his fantastic book Complete Book Of Fruit Growing in Australia Louis Glowinski wrote that "the banana is the most important fruit crop of the wet tropics, and may have been the first fruit cultivated by man".

That first caught my eye when I first read through the book, but living in Melbourne, Australia, a warm temperate climate, bananas weren’t the highest priority for me to grow. Having recently moved to the subtropics I see them everywhere!

Bananas grow well from the tropics down to the subtropics and can even be grown in warm temperate climates as long as they are protected from frost and wind. Adam and Annie have managed to cultivate a few different varieties in their Melbourne backyard, with decent yields.

Bananas are both hungry and thirsty plants, so give them plenty of compost, keep them mulched and watered well. It’s a common approach to integrate waste water systems with banana circles. Here’s an excellent article on building banana circles in Tanzania with ideas on integrating waste water systems with food production as well as the ‘how to’ of banana circle implementation.

Many of the banana varieties that we know and love are sterile — meaning they can’t be propagated from seed. The most common form of propagation is by transplanting the suckers that sprout around the base of the banana stem. Interestingly, each banana stem only produces one crop of bananas. An important management practice is to keep each plant family down to a few stems. The largest stem is this year’s crop, and when it has been harvested it’s chopped at ground level and the next stem, roughly half the size, takes place as the next crop in line. Near the base of the main stem numerous small suckers will appear. The common practice is to thin them down to just one sucker and use the others as propagation material.

Thanks to Sharon, a permaculture trainer with Byron College who was kind enough to let me film a bit on the banana plant!

8 Comments

    1. No problem! There are a handful of bananas that you can grow in Melbourne (in a warm microclimate) I know that CERES nursery stocks a handful of varieties certain times of the year. The pic with Adams harvest is a variety called Ducasse (their fav)

  1. Thank you! Great info. I have left the dying leaves hanging on the bushes, this time, hoping they will help protect them from the summer heat. Is this a good idea?

  2. Hi Todd – I thought there was only 1 type of banana species allowed in Australia? I surely must be wrong. I’ve been looking for new & interesting species to grow but only found seeds available from America – who will not ship to Australia due to import restrictions.. do you know anything about this?

  3. James,

    There are definitely multiple varieties grown here. I know a farmer down the Gold Coast who grows Goldfinger, Cavendish, Ladyfinger and another (can’t remember the name) and they have been grown commercially on his land for years.

    There are restrictions with moving plants around and across regions / borders…

    Rohan

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