Thursday, November 17, 2011

I've got a lovely bunch of...

...bananas!! Actually, I lied - I don't have a lovely bunch of bananas to call my very own. Not yet. That's why I went out to buy a banana plant (or two). Of course, if you live in some parts of Queensland, you cannot simply pop into your local nursery and ask for a banana plant. As I discovered, myself - I knew about requiring a permit before obtaining a plant, but I wasn't sure if we fell into the zone of restriction.

I received quite a few looks of surprise however, as I asked the Queensland nurseryman's most ta bu question: do you sell banana plants? Of course, they know what banana plants are, they're just not allowed to sell them.

If you live in a restricted zone, there's only one place in Queensland to buy your banana tissue plant culture, and they are Blue Sky Backyard Banana's. I dealt with Sue through emails, and she was very patient and helpful during the process, as there were a few formalities we had to attend before plants could be supplied.

Here enters the Queensland Government's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. What a mouthful! Okay so they handle biosecurity issues in Queensland. Because the commercial banana industry is heavily based on a single variety of banana (the Cavendish) the Queensland government seeks to protect them from backyard growers. The culprit is the Bunchy Top disease, which is why a permit is now required to grow a banana in your backyard. If you need a permit then you cannot grow the popular Cavendish variety either - some areas cannot even grow the Ladyfinger variety. It all depends on your location to commercial crops.

Bunchy Top infected banana plant

If knowing this hasn't put you off, then please do take the necessary steps to obtain a permit. There are still some lovely banana varieties you can grow. I'll introduce you to mine very shortly. To start the ball rolling though, you'll have to call the Queensland Biosecurity department on: 132 523 and answer a few questions. They don't bight, in fact they were really nice. Based on the information you give them however, they will let you know what you can and cannot grow in your backyard.

Here is where it gets a little tricky though. Firstly, they have to issue you with some paperwork. This is to register the property you hold the permit with, so you can plant the bananas on that property alone. Secondly, they will give you the contact information of Blue Sky Tissue Culture, who you're supposed to contact before filling in the paperwork. This is just to ensure they have the stock you wish to register. Once that's done, send the paperwork off in the envelop supplied, or you can fax it directly. Once Biosecurity Queensland approves your permit, they'll fax a copy to Blue Sky, while posting the original back to you.

Confused much? I swear, from that point onwards it shouldn't be a drama to receive your plants. So let me introduce you to my two varieties: Ducca and Charlie. Okay, that's not their official names, just the ones I gave them!

Ducca, mulched with lemon grass

The first cab off the rank is Ducca, or otherwise known as Dwarf Ducasse. It shouldn't grow more than 4 metres high, and the fruit isn't particularly large. Not that I know that yet, as he's still such a baby. A fast grower can see him virtually growing through the day. New leaves unfurl and he shoots up a little higher.

Compare that to another variety: or as we like to say, "Charlie", and there's a marked difference.

Ladyfinger variety, also mulched with lemon grass

Would you believe Charlie went into the ground a month before Ducca? He's not a very happy plant. We may have to relocate him if he doesn't start unfurling quicker. We suspect his position isn't ideal, lots of little things really - moisture loss, heat deflected from the metal shed nearby and despite the addition of compost material, we think he's not getting the right amount of nutrients.

Fingers crossed for Charlie, we may try to relocate him on the weekend. Other happening news on the garden front is more pineappley propagation. Can I say that: pineappley? Okay, grammar aside, I finally got around to propagating the sucker from Bluey. Here's a comparison photo of the difference between a sucker and a crown:

Bluey's babies

These both came from Bluey our pineapple: on the left is the sucker (taken from the side of the original plant) and on the right is the crown from the pineapple top we ate. Big size difference! It's no wonder they say pineapples grown from suckers, fruit much quicker. I pretty much treated the sucker how I plant the crowns. Peel the lower leaves off until you have a stub you can immerse in soil. Leave a few days to dry off first, to avoid disease when you plant into the pot.

It doesn't look like much, but the economy of nature can be quite generous. We only planted one pineapple crown, to receive two more plants and a delicious fruit! The compounding interest over time will be a glut of pineapples. I think I can live with that kind of stress in my life.


  1. Good grief what a palaver - hope you get some excellent bananas!

    I inherited some when we bought the beach house but so far the bugs have got most of the fruit as we are not there to look after it. Must remember to buy a banana bag as soon as I get off here. Mine are very small so I think they must be ladyfingers.

  2. How lucky to have inherited a banana plant. :)

    I'm guessing they could be Ladyfingers as well - as they tend to be the smallest ones available. It could also be a larger variety, only perhaps a little hungry so producing minimal fruit.

    If you go to the Blue Sky Backyard Banana's link I supplied, you'll find a section on growing tips. I found this very useful myself.

    I hope you get a lovely bunch of bananas this growing season too. :)

  3. This post makes me want to pull up stakes and move to Queensland after all:)
    I'm happy to hear that you actually got your banana plants. I know you mentioned wanting to do this before.
    Where did you get so much lemongrass from?

  4. Hi Linda, if you ever moved to Queensland we'd build you a mud hut right here!! ;)

    The original lemon grass clump was given to us by my mum (I think) and we've already managed to break it up into 4 separate clumps. We plan to keep dividing every year so we can increase our mulch material.

    So much easier to spend an hour cutting your own mulch, than driving in the car to go buy it. :)

    The beauty is, lemon grass actually loves having it's annual haircut. The ones we cut back a week ago, are already covered in new green shoots!

  5. Ooh, I always wondered what it was like to live in a mud hut! LOL!
    I know what you mean about mulch. We use maple leaves which we shred for mulch. Usually we have enough left over for spring too. We have never bought mulch-people have given to us or we used what we have on hand.
    I have never seen lemongrass used as mulch though so I think its marvelous. We can grow lemongrass here but we have to pull it out and bring it indoors for winter then replant it the next year.

  6. Oh thank you Chris for answering many of my banana questions. I knew we had alot of 'paperwork' to get through with bananas, but really...
    They are certainly a fruit that can wait until we have more room.

    The lemon grass for a mulch is a brillant idea. I have a sad looking clump growing in a terracotta pot. It is due to be divided and moved - its now at the top of my list.

  7. In the ground, lemon grass is another creature entirely. It will grow nice and big, with thick leaves.

    When you plant it out, make sure you have it in an area the kids won't brush against it. While it's not exactly razor sharp, they will get itchy if they brush pass.

    I don't think you'll be disappointed when you buy a banana plant. Although I'm still yet to learn what's involved with the fruiting part.


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