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Can we grow tropical fruit on the Island?

Anthony Joyce’s the ripening bananas.

Anthony Joyce’s the ripening bananas.

Richard Wright

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017 - 13:30

ANTHONY Joyce is going bananas for the tropical fruit — but I suspect he will be a tad disappointed.
He went to a certain increasingly popular German supermarket and bought a small pot plant.
He kept it in his conservatory for a year, before planting it out this summer and was delighted when it flowered and fruited even during this summer which has not been of the best.
Fruiting is not that unusual here, but it still brings an exotic look to any garden.
“Fingers crossed I get to eat this rarest of fruit — an IW banana,” he said.
Sadly, the news is not especially good for Anthony’s aspirations. I fear the bananas will be unpalatable. Most types of banana on sale in this country produce only decorative fruit.
The dwarf Cavendish, or Chinese, banana is the smallest and hardiest variety and is highly rated for the taste, and if it’s one of those, Anthony, I’ll take you up on your offer of a free sucker — otherwise probably not.
It is probably a dwarf variety of the hardier species, Musa basjoo, which can be left outside over winter.
It’s for that reason it is the variety of choice for most plant sales in the UK.
It is generally recommended to wrap plants to protect them from cold weather, although recent winters have been mild.
Smaller banana species make ideal container plants, which can be placed outdoors for the summer and brought indoors when it gets chilly.
They should be grown in a loam-based compost, such as John Innes No. 3, mixed with an extra one-third by volume of grit.
Containers should be watered daily in summer and fed weekly, if you have not mixed in bonemeal or blood, fish and bone at planting time.
In autumn, reduce watering and feeding, watering only when on the dry side in winter.
Tender plants should be brought in when temperatures fall below 14C (57F) and overwintered in a frost-free greenhouse or conservatory.
RHS advice is to pot on in spring once a year, or every other year.
You can propagate by sowing seed or dividing plants.
Seed is the only method for Ensete species as they do not produce suckers for dividing. File one side of the seeds lightly and soak in warm water for 24 hours.
Sow individually, 1cm deep, in pots of seed compost.
Place in a warm location, at a temperature of 21 to 24C (70 to 75F). Germination of fresh seed is quick, but older seed can take up to six months
Gradually move seedlings into more light and increase watering and feeding to encourage growth
Most Musa species produce offsets or suckers, which may develop into fruiting stems under suitable conditions.
They may also have to be thinned every few years to prevent crowding in the clump.
In spring, dig down to the rhizome and detach the sucker carefully, with as many roots as possible.
Remove some of the lower leaves and pot in a container just large enough to take them.

 


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