Thursday, 5 March 2015


It took 18 long months for our bananas to arrive.  They are certified disease free from a specialist banana nursery up in Tully that tissue cultures bananas for commercial and home growers.  Due to the significance of the banana industry in QLD, only bananas other than Cavendish can be grown at home and a permit must be sought from Biosecurity.  The recent case of Panama disease in a QLD plantation highlights the importance of obtaining healthy disease-free bananas.
Banana tubestock ready to hit the chook pen. 
To the left is Goldfinger and on the right is the Dwarf Ducasse

Having successfully tested them out at our previous place, we kept with Goldfinger (yes I sing it in my head each time) and Dwarf Ducasse.  The creaminess of home grown bananas beats anything you can buy from the shops.

The plants take 12 months or more to fruit for the first time so we're in for a bit more of a wait at our new property to see things through. Still, we'll have fruit off the bananas before the citrus so we can't complain too much.

Besides the fruit, bananas are an excellent plant to have in the garden.  They love a lot of water and nutrients so they're great in the chook pen where I dump our scraps and lawn clippings for the girls to have fun digging in and turning into compost.  The compost and the chook poop in turn feed the bananas which then grow to provide plenty of shade for the girls.  A win-win situation for the bananas and chooks.

The only drawback of having the bananas in the pen with the chooks has been protecting them while they're getting established.  For some reason the current batch of chooks seem to enjoy feasting on banana leaves.  I anticipated their desperate desire to dig up the bananas by planting them in boxes; however, the cheeky girls just hopped right in and scratched away before figuring out the leaves were rather tasty too.  The next counter-measure was to put old barbeque grills over the boxes which was successful in stopping the scratching but as soon as the plants recovered enough to produce leaves that poked though the grates, the chickens discovered their new buffet.  After a fair amount of procrastination and utterance of many a proverbial, we constructed these somewhat flimsy but effective covers that allow enough light and rain through to keep the bananas happy and shielded from belligerent beaks.  An added bonus is that we can leave them in place over winter to protect from any chance of frost damage too.

One of the cheeky culprits

Banana slowly starting to recover its leaves

Aside from the obvious benefit of a nice big bunch once a year and excited chickens, bananas have a few other useful attributes.  As the stem grows, some of the outer leaves die off to make room for the new ones.  These can be chopped up and used as mulch around the chook pen or in garden beds.  They can be a little waxy though so mix it up with something else for mulch.  Once fully grown the plant will produce the long-awaited fruit.  Before the bunch matures the flowers provide a great source of food for birds and native bees.  The petals from the bell can be dried, re-soaked and stitched together to make bags and water carriers.

The fruit then slowly form, gradually curling their fingers up, and if you forget to bag the bunch on time it provides a great source of food for local possums, bats and other night munchers.  If you remember to bag them and abundance of yummy fruit ensues and you can even play a certain secret agent with the fruit of the Goldfinger for extra fun before eating.

Once you or some other hairy mammal has consumed the fruit, the main stem can be cut down.  The outer parts of each section of stem can be cut in long strips, dried, soaked again, then made into string (a process which is also useful as depilation if you haven't used that old contraption known as a razor on your thighs in a while).  Meanwhile the rest can be chopped up and used as mulch in the garden or as more compost for happy chickens.

Lifecycle complete!  If you have any other interesting uses for various parts of the banana feel free to leave them in the comments.