We have some very exciting news. One of our bananas has produced a flower, our first ever banana flower!
Every day I visit the garden there’s something new and exciting waiting to be discovered and you can image the excitement when Chris spotted the first banana flower hanging from the dense leafy cover of our banana circle.
The bell is the first bit of the flower to show, it’s the male part and as it matures, the outer leaves peel back revealing the female flowers where the bananas grow from. I have no idea how long this process takes or what it entails but we’ll be watching carefully to see what unfolds.
We’re growing two different dwarf banana cultivars in our Permaculture garden, Cavendish and Red Dacca and we have a total of five adult plants. As dwarf species the trunks only grow to around two metres tall which makes them much easier to harvest and ideal for small backyards.
At the start we planted all five at around the same time but then we decided to sacrifice a couple of plants earlier on by cutting down the main trunk and allowing the baby suckers to grow instead. We did this to stagger the maturing times and hopefully not end up with too many bananas to deal with at once. As it turns out the bell has sprouted from one of the oldest and largest plants which is growing on the northern sunny side of the banana circle.
In their native tropical environment, wild bananas grow very quickly and develop a large spreading canopy and in an uncontrolled natural system bananas play an important role in forest succession as pioneer species. Their dense leaf coverage helps keep soil temperatures cool and retain moisture which aids in the breaking down of carbon material. It also provides a protected environment where opportunistic shade tolerant species can develop from the local seed bank.
Being a warm temperate zone Sydney’s climate is marginal for banana growing but if grown in a warm sheltered position and fed regularly, some banana cultivars can produce a substantial crop of fruit within a couple of years.
As the first of our bananas were approaching the two year mark and with no sign of flowering, Chris decided to put some time in looking after them which included more regular watering, mulching and cutting back the dead and shredded leaves. He also put quite a bit of time into feeding the central compost heap, an integral part of the banana circle system and it wasn’t long before we could see an increase in leaf and sucker growth and the development of opportunistic shade tolerate plants popping up under the canopy, things like tomatoes, pepino and warrigal greens.
As I mentioned earlier, in a natural system you’d expect to see local native species taking advantage of the shaded niche but as we continue to develop our permaculture garden most of the seeds available to grow are those that are part of our own localised system which is almost entirely made up of food plants.
It’s only been a week or so since we caught a glimpse of our first banana bell and I’m very happy to announce that the flower has already opened and produced quite a few bananas, with new hands forming by the day. Within a couple of weeks about seventy bananas have formed so now all we have to do is think of a simple way of keeping the possums and flying foxes at bay so we can be the first to sample our very first homegrown bananas.
Down the track I’ll tell you more about banana paw paw circles but in the meantime if you’d like to check out one of my earlier related stories click here.