To give your bananas the best possible start in life; choose a wind-protected, full-sun position.
Prepare well in advance. Soil should be fertile, rich in organic matter, well-drained and not compacted. pH should be approximately 6.5. Incorporate 200g Dolomite and 150g fertilizer (Nitrophoska or Rustica) thoroughly into the soil. Organic matter is great, to increase the level of beneficial micro-organisms in the soil. Irrigate thoroughly for a few days prior to planting. Banana plants love water but they hate wet feet. Mound the soil up and then dig a hole so the plant will be higher than the surrounding ground, to minimize water pooling around the base and drowning the roots.
Bury the plant almost halfway up the stem. This will discourage suckers from emerging too early, and ensures the mother plant is secure, so that the suckers don’t pull the plant up out of the ground.
Immediately after planting, tissue culture plantlets are at their most vulnerable. The potting medium is light and the root system is very concentrated. Plants become more stable after a month or two, once the roots have spread into the surrounding wet soil. Do not over-irrigate, but the soil should remain moist. Leaf wetting is critical at this stage. It has nothing to do with irrigation, but with alleviating stress if you can keep the leaves wet for as long as possible. Evaporating water cools the leaves, enabling them to photosynthesize at maximum efficiency. These tender leaves will wilt and fold very easily during the heat of the day and they may even burn and die back if conditions are severe. They have come from tropical North Queensland with average daily temperatures in the low 30s and humidity in the high 80s. The entire leaf area should be gently wetted by the irrigation system for about 5 minutes, three times a day, between 10am and 5pm. This should continue for about 3 weeks until the root system takes over, the leaves harden off and normal transpiration begins.
If you are planting several, space them about 3m apart. This allows for plenty of sunshine, whilst still enabling you to tie them together for support if required. If you have a large bunch hanging off the plant, they tend to lean over, and may actually fall over, so you may have to tie the tree to a fence or other sturdy structure, or prop the tree and the bunch with a sturdy piece of timber.
Commercial growers use Nitrophoska or Rustica, or a Nitrogen(N), Phosphorus(P) and Potassium(K) blend as close a possible to 10N:3P:6K. During warmer growing months apply every 4 to 6 weeks. Reduce during cold months. Take care not to allow any to come into contact with the plant stem. Water in well. Within two months of planting, roots can extend more than a metre away from the stem, so apply the fertilizer thinly over the whole area, NOT in a concentrated dollop around the stem.
Maintain soil in a moist but not sodden condition.
Remove any diseased or down leaves. Try to maintain as many healthy leaves as possible to ensure efficient photosynthesis.
At bell emergence
Apply a good handful of Potash around the tree.
Tissue cultured plants tend to produce lots of very determined little suckers! The first ones may emerge very soon after planting. You can either cut them off at ground level, or they can be carefully dug out and once they are big enough, planted elsewhere, to grow independently. (But they must not be moved off your property, remember!) We do not advise using kerosene to kill them, as you can easily kill the mother plant. Concentrate all your attention on the mother plant until she is well-established, at least until about 2m tall, before you allow any suckers to remain. The most suitable one or two followers (at the base of the mother plant) can be chosen about 5 months after planting. Commercial growers look for the “sword suckers” with very narrow sword-like leaves. They will usually be a sturdier plant, and therefore they will produce a bigger bunch. The big broad-leafed suckers are “water suckers” and they generally produce a smaller bunch.
Weeds will compete with your banana plants. Tiny tissue culture plants have very little reserves. Competition from weeds will weaken the plant. Use only hand-hoeing to remove weeds, until the banana plants are about 2m tall. Avoid ALL systemic, contact, or hormone weed-killers around them.
Remove the bottom couple of hands to increase the overall size and length of the remaining fruit. These lower hands are noticeably smaller than the ones above, and you can just snap them off with your fingers.
When the fingers start to turn upwards, put a banana bunch cover over the bunch to (hopefully) discourage hungry birds and flying foxes. Tie the top end of the bag around the bunch stem and leave the bottom end hanging open for air flow to reduce humidity.
There’s no hard and fast rule about removing the bell. Some commercial growers remove it because they believe it drains nutrients from the bunch. Others leave it on because they believe the weight helps the bunch to hang straighter.
Watch the developing fruit for signs of almost-ripeness. The corners will round off, and the fruit will fill out. Don’t leave them on the tree to ripen to yellow, otherwise the whole bunch will ripen all at once. Take a finger off the top hand and bring it inside. Once it looks ripe enough, taste it. If the flavour is good, then you can remove the whole hand. If not, then leave it for another day, and try again.
If you want to remove the whole bunch
Work with a mate if possible – the bunch could weigh as much as 40 kg. Cut a notch in the tree at your shoulder height and slowly pull the bunch down onto your shoulder. Have someone else cut the bunch stalk from the tree. Cut the remaining crown (leaves) off the tree as high as possible and leave these as compost. Leave the remaining stem as tall as possible as the retained water and nutrients will continue to feed the suckers. When it has completely browned off you can drop it and chop it up and remove it.Print Page