Grow the banana plant
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The banana, scientific names Sharp muzzle is Musa balbisiana, is commonly mistaken for a tree, but it is actually one plant belonging to the family of Musaceae, order of Zingiberales.
The banana plant is typical of the sub-tropical areas of the planet. Its fruits, bananas, are known and consumed all over the world and Italy is one of the major importers.
Not many know that banana trees can also be grown in Italy, especially in the South, where winters are less severe. For many years, in fact, these plants have been successfully cultivated in Sicily and on the coasts of Calabria
The ongoing climate changes are inevitably changing the course of the seasons and the plants that we once considered exotic are now adaptable to the Mediterranean climate. So let's see what are the cultural needs of this much loved fruit.
History and diffusion of the banana tree
Banana is a botanical species originally from Africa, exported to different continents after the colonial conquests.
Currently, as well as in Africa, it is intensively cultivated in three other continents: America, Asia and Oceania.
The major world producers are: Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Brazil.
In Europe, crops of some importance are found in Portugal and the Canary Islands. In any case, even if they are not among the largest producers, the European countries are the largest consumers.
Worldwide, bananas are divided into fruits intended for fresh consumption (desserts) and fruits used in cooking (cooking).
The dessert ones are in turn divided into two subgroups.
The first is the subgroup Cavendish, the most important in world trade. It includes most of the exported varieties, such as Williams and the Grand Nain. These are the bananas that can be found in most supermarkets in European countries.
The second is the subgroup Silk, which has greater relevance for the local markets of producing countries. This subgroup includes varieties such as: Apple, Silk Fig is Silver.
In Italy, precisely in Sicily, the cultivar has spread Municipality of Sicily. It is a very rustic variety with smaller fruits, which easily reach maturity.
The banana plant
The banana plant is a perennial herbaceous type. Its appearance is very similar to a tree, as it is majestic and reaches a considerable size. Some specimens can even exceed 5 m. However, it is a herbaceous plant, because it has no woody tissues. In addition, the aerial parts of the mother plant fall to the ground after the growing season.
The fact that this fruit plant is a perennial is due to the fact that it emits suckers at the base of the mother plant. These then take over and replace the mother herself.
The banana cycle
Let's explain it better, the natural cycle of the banana tree begins when the sprout (the sucker), which grows next to the main plant (mother), appears at ground level. The sucker grows, emitting leaves until flowering, then develops the inflorescence and fruits, forming the famous bunch of bananas. After the banana harvest, the leaves dry up and the plant dies.
The next sucker (son), which always appears next to the “new” mother plant, will replace the dead plant in the previous season. This keeps the process on an ongoing basis. The entire cycle, from the appearance of the sucker to the collection of the helmet, lasts about a year.
This extraordinary process is due to the presence of a powerful rhizomatous root system, capable of generating the new suckers.
The mother plant emits many, but the farmer keeps only two to renew the life cycle in a balanced way.
The stem and leaves
The trunk of the banana plant in reality it has no woody consistency, and in fact it takes the name of pseudo-stem. It is a compact mass of overlapping and spirally arranged sheaths of leaves.
The pseudo-stem of the banana plant is very fleshy, and consists mainly of water. Despite this, it is sturdy enough and can hold a bunch of bananas weighing 50kg or more.
Inside the pseudo-stem there is a stem. The pseudostem continues to elongate until the stem, which has developed inside, emerges in the upper part of the plant.
At this point, the leaves begin to differentiate from the pseudostem and grow into their typical shape.
The leaf is the main photo-synthetic organ of the banana tree. Each emerges from the center of the pseudo-stem like a rolled cylinder. The distal end of the elongated leaf sheath contracts into a petiole, more or less open depending on the cultivar. The petiole becomes the central part, which ideally divides the leaf in two.
The inflorescence of the banana plant is a complex structure, which botanically takes the name of thyrse.
In the banana tree, female, male and hermaphrodite flowers develop. Therefore, the plants are self-fertile and do not need cross-pollination with other plants.
Female (pistillate) flowers appear from a bract (modified leaf, associated with a reproductive structure, such as a flower). They come out first and show themselves as a bunch of flowers, usually arranged in two rows. These flowers will eventually develop into fruit and are named after hands.
The number of hands (which will eventually form the helmet) in the female bunch is variable. It depends on the number of female clusters in the inflorescence, on the genotype and on the environmental conditions.
The distal portion of the inflorescence elongates and produces clusters of male flowers (staminates), each subtended by a bract. In cultivated bananas, the male flowers produce fertile pollen.
As it ripens, the fruit grows. The peel of the banana, over time, begins to turn from dark green to light, up to yellow.
They are usually harvested when they are still green and the single fruit is called "fingers".
The banana pulp is yellowish, sweet and soft. One weighs an average of 125 g, of which 75% is made up of water and the rest of dry matter.
Under the protective skin run numerous and long filaments.
The bananas of the dessert varieties are easily divided along their length into three distinct parts. These correspond to the internal parts of the three carpels of the female flower.
In the middle of the fruit you can see tiny black grains, these are the non-viable seeds (ie without the ability to germinate).
The flavor of bananas is greatly influenced by temperatures and the degree of ripeness.
Fruits ripened at high temperatures and harvested when they are almost yellow, will be sweeter.
Bananas harvested still very unripe and ripened in more difficult environmental conditions, will have a less pleasant taste and a more turgid consistency.
In our latitudes, bananas are ready for harvesting between late summer and early autumn.
How to grow banana
The banana plant is typical of sub-tropical countries. These are characterized by a warm and humid climate, without too many excesses of cold or heat.
The optimal temperature range for vegetative growth is between 26 and 30 ° C. Growth stops when the temperature exceeds 38 * C, or drops below 14 ° C.
The banana can therefore be grown outdoors only in the very mild areas of our country, namely the coastal areas of the Center and the South.
If in winter temperatures drop below freezing for too long, the plant risks being irreparably damaged.
However, an excellent solution is that of greenhouse cultivation, choosing the most rustic varieties. In this way the plant will be safeguarded in the coldest periods of the year.
Exposure and protection from the winds
The banana plant benefits from excellent exposure to light, so you can decide to place it in full sun.
But be careful in summer, if temperatures exceed 40 ° C there is a risk of burns. So, let's equip ourselves for emergency protection with the shading net.
Another precaution to take is to protect the plant from the winds. The large leaves, in fact, can easily break under the action of the movement of air. It is therefore not recommended to grow banana trees in windy areas or areas not protected by adequate windbreaks.
The soil is very important in banana cultivation. The plant needs a soil type rich in organic substance, loose, medium-textured, well drained.
The plant shuns soils that are too sandy, asphyxiated and do not drain well.
Soaked soils with water risk rotting the roots.
The ideal pH is that between 6 and 7.5. THE acid soils cause stunted growth.
Important for the banana is the presence of organic matter in the soil, therefore of good fertility.
This can be improved before planting by amending the soil of mature manure.
Every year it is possible to intervene with lighter organic fertilizers such as compost or theearthworm humus.
The banana plant reproduces vegetatively, not from seed. There are basically two methods of starting cultivation.
The first is the purchase of small plants that nurseries grow and sell in phytocells. The problem lies in finding a specialized nursery that treats this crop.
The second method is that of taking a sucker which will subsequently be buried.
If we have a friend who grows banana it won't be difficult to get a sucker. Once separated from the mother plant, it is very easy to take root.
Planting and planting
The ideal period for planting banana trees in our latitudes is spring, after the last colds.
If you decide to grow more than one plant, don't worry too much about planting distances. Just keep 2 m between one plant and the other, in fact the crop does not suffer too much from proximity.
Natural mulching is an agronomic technique widely used in the cultivation of the banana plant, even in tropical countries of origin.
Simple can be used as mulching material straw, but also of sheep's wool.
Mulching is important for mitigating the effects of climatic changes. The mulch layer allows, in fact, to keep the ground temperature more stable, avoiding both cold and excessive heat. It also has the function of limiting the evaporation of water from the soil, keeping the soil naturally more humid.
Of course, it also has the job of keeping the plant free from weeds.
Be careful not to place the mulch too close to the pseudo-stem, you must leave at least a distance of 30 cm.
The use of this natural technique is especially important at the beginning of cultivation. Subsequently, the banana plant, losing its foliage and degrading the stem of the mother plant, mulches itself.
In the subtropical areas where banana trees are grown intensively, rainfall is frequent, even in the summer. Where they are missing, the farmer is forced to intervene with irrigation.
These plants need water to grow well and produce lots of fruit, cultivation in dry soils does not work.
In our southern regions it is easy to have hot and dry summers.
Water should be given to the plant regularly, possibly keeping the soil at constant humidity. Be careful not to overdo it, causing water stagnation ourselves.
Therefore, the principle of giving water little and often applies.
Pruning and choice of suckers
Pruning is not actually done in the banana plant, but rather a choice of suckers.
The principle is this: a mother plant and two daughters. The other suckers must be periodically removed.
To remove unwanted suckers well, it is advisable to make a cut a few cm deep.
Another cultivation operation is that of periodic cutting of old or damaged leaves. This keeps the plantation tidy and avoids the risk of fungal diseases. Furthermore, thanks to this operation, new mulching material will be available.
As is the case with our municipalities winter vegetables, a cultivation operation that is done on the banana plant is the tamping. Basically, some earth is brought back to the base of the plant.
This simple operation will reinforce the base of the pseudostem, which will tend to enlarge.
As mentioned, banana plants are sensitive to the action of the wind. This problem is aggravated when the helmet is in the ripening phase, as it can be very heavy and can shift the center of gravity of the plant.
To overcome this problem, supports can be prepared with some simple bamboo canes like these.
Usually two are used, positioned one against the top that supports the helmet and the other on the opposite side.
Defense against diseases and parasites
There are several in the original cultivation areas pests and diseases that put banana cultivation at risk. Some are a lot difficult to eradicate.
With us the problems are minor.
As for parasites, attention should be paid especially to the presence of aphids. These can be effectively controlled by resorting to soft potassium soap.
At the level of fungal diseases, however, the most dangerous for the banana plant is the Furarium oxysporium. This pathogen is common in our latitudes as it is able to attack tomato crops.
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Cultivate the Banana ornamental is a way to bring a bit of Tropics to our garden! Plants of Banana, with their large leaves, they are in fact a tropical plant and perhaps it may seem strange to us to see them in our gardens. In fact, the most cold-resistant varieties decorated the flower beds and gardens of Italian villas and parks as early as the nineteenth century.
Cultivate the Banana in the garden is not an undertaking reserved for gardening beginners. Create the favorable environment for the Banana it is a first difficulty to overcome: to grow they need direct sun and a particularly hot and humid climate and they hate winds and intense cold. Cultivate Bananas in the garden, as perennials, it is therefore only possible in areas with a mild climate, such as Calabria and Sicily.
They tend not to like temperatures below 10/15 ° C: in the central areas of Italy we can help the Banana in winter with a good mulch of bark at the base of the plant. But you must also pay attention to the cold winter winds.
There are also species of Banana suitable for northern climates: they resist up to -15 ° C and bear fruit at 7 ° C. Again, these are not very easy plants to grow and bear fruit.
However, we have the possibility to grow the plants of Banana in the garden as seasonal plants: perhaps avoiding fruit species and preferring ornamental ones such as Heavenly muse or the Muse Basjoo (also called Japanese banana). Very showy plants, with their large leaves that immediately recall the Tropics, but which will not resist less than 10 ° C.
But where to plant the banana tree and how to grow this tropical-looking plant? Many also choose to place the banana plant indoors. This is a trend that has become popular in recent years, where houses are always filled with tropical plants placed in pretty wicker baskets. If the temperature in the home is rather mild, the banana tree will not have too much trouble to grow luxuriantly. Just be careful: this plant needs a sufficient number of hours of sun. Depriving it of this natural fertilizer will give the plant an excuse not to grow and, sometimes, to die.
Characteristics of the banana tree
The banana plant (Muse, Musella ed Ensete) looks like a tree but is actually only a grandes perennial herbaceous plant. The "trunk" of the banana tree is called pseudostem because it neither lignifies nor undergoes secondary growth as do woody plants. The color of the pseudostem it can be green, red or purple tending to black and also determines the ornamental qualities of the plant. Musella's pseudostem is swollen at the base, while Ensete and Musa's pseudostems tend to be the same width over their entire length.
Banana trees grow through underground rhizomes. Musa and Musella, they form new plants from the rhizome but theEnsete it almost never forms any. Banana plants tend to expand in the garden by a few meters over time, so much so as to form more or less large groups of plants.
The leaves they are the main ornamental feature of the banana plant and give a tropical touch to the gardens or environments in which they are planted. The leaves are smooth, waxy and quite large. They are normally dark green in color but find some varied it's not that unusual. The variegation can show up as white, red or purple / brown spots or sectors on the leaf blade. New leaves may open in one color but gradually turn into another.
The amount of leaves a banana tree will keep on the plant is due to both the type of plant and its growing conditions. In moist, rich soils, the plant will keep more leaves than in dry, poor soil. Older leaves eventually die and dry out but remain attached to the stem. It is preferable to eliminate them, to keep the plant beautiful and tidy.
Growing bananas in pots
Do not despair the fans of the North who would like grow bananas but they do not have the right climate because, as I have already mentioned, among the exotic fruits, the banana plant lives well even in pots.
The pot must be large with fertile and loose soil and above all with good drainage.
A useful precaution is to equip the saucer with convenient wheels to facilitate movement.
In fact, this trick becomes very convenient not only when you have to move the pot to shelter it during the bad season but also in case of strong wind to protect the banana leaves that break easily.
Naturally it will be placed in a place as bright as possible in the sun so that it can take advantage of more heat and light.
Watch out for temperatures, even at night, as soon as they drop below 16 ° C. It is necessary to withdraw the plant even if the bunch of bananas has not yet reached maturity.
You will withdraw it in a bright and heated veranda or better still in a greenhouse.
If you want grow bananas to taste the fruits it is necessary, for the bunch of bananas to reach maturity, that the temperature is about 20 ° C. and good brightness.
It is possible to remove the bunch of bananas already fully formed but still green from the plant and let them ripen in a warmer place.
In fact, this fruit can complete ripening even if it is detached from the plant.
When temperatures stabilize in the following spring, the banana plant will once again make a fine show of itself outdoors.
If the stem that brought the bunch of bananas dries up, you can cut it off and raise one or more suckers that will sprout at its foot.
And if you want to multiply your banana, all you have to do is remove, with a piece of rhizome, a sucker and replant it in a new pot.
In this way you will be able to have banana plants for a long time without spending and if you are aware you will be able to taste sweet and fragrant bananas that have little to do as taste, aroma and quality with those that the large distribution offers us.
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How to plant the orange
First, you need to know that not all the orange trees exist in nature. Apart from the bitter one, most of the other 40 varieties that are grown in Italy are the result of grafts. All kinds of sweet oranges you put on the table in December certainly are.
Grafting means you have to take a sprig from a plant that already produces the oranges you prefer and then fit it, practicing the correct cuts, up another tree. Bitter orange is often used, because it is very resistant to cold and disease.
But grafting is not at all easy to practice and if you are not already an expert in gardening I recommend starting with the method of cutting. You will need to take a sprig where the fruits are not present, remove the leaves at the base, dip it in a rooting hormone and plant it in the ground. You can buy the rooting hormone in a specialty store or on the internet and it will help protect the seedling and stimulate its growth.
Be sure to prepare a soil consisting of sand and peat in equal parts and to water the sprig just planted often.
And i seeds what do you find in the oranges you eat? If you want, you can safely plant them. If well cared for, they will give life to a plant that probably won't bear any fruit. It's a bit like giving him nourishment wasn't enough, but he also needed it support from which to start, that is, another tree.
Obviously a lot will also depend on the specific variety of origin, as the banana tree is a large family. The banana is also an evergreen plant that will not dirty at all, therefore excellent for those who do not have much time to devote to the garden. We always recommend keeping the plant away from snow and freezing wind. Larger, more adult plants usually produce a beautiful white, yellow and sometimes pink flower. We also suggest placing a thin layer of sand in the pot, to facilitate the drainage of liquids during irrigation.