Maintaining a Banana Grove

Banana-grove

I let everything get away from me in the banana grove but I’m now starting to catch up.

We got a lot done this last Saturday and I filmed more so you can see how I’m cleaning and thinning out the many banana “stools” on our property.

Bananas are usually a heavily sprayed and fertilized crop but I’m managing them organically. I need to gather a lot more cow manure, plus maybe some seaweed and other materials. There are so many banana clumps to care for that it’s hard to get enough fertilizer to them.

Banana-grove2

Buying 10-10-10 and throwing a few handfuls to each stool would be easy.

Getting piles of manure isn’t.

There is a goat research facility up in the mountains – maybe I should go over there and see if I can get a few loads of manure.

There’s a thought!

David-the-good-books-revised

Giving Thanks, Bat Attractant, Green Bananas and More

UFBathouse

It’s been quite a week.

Hurricane Otto gave us a bunch of rain but no real trouble, my wife left for the states for a week, I wrote thousands of words for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), my paintings are getting better and I managed to post multiple new videos despite the rain.

Here’s the break-down on what’s happening, plus some good news.

The Sad Case of the Busted Car

Our new vehicle is dead at the moment and getting a mechanic to work on it proved to be more difficult than expected.

New-car

It looks great… but looks can be deceiving!

One fellow told me he’d come by and check it out and that we could tow it to his place, then was too tied up to help… so it sat for more than a week… and then my pastor called on Friday and said “Has that guy gotten to your car yet? If not, I have a mechanic and a tow truck guy that will get it done quickly!”

That sounded good to me, so I let the first guy go and it will be taken to the shop sometime today. We are praying it isn’t the whole engine that’s messed up, as that would be expensive.

We shall see.

My Missing Wife

Rachel had to go back to the states unexpectedly for the funeral of her grandmother. Her grandmother was quite a woman and Rachel was close to her, so this wasn’t easy for her or her family.

I am quite glad she got to go, and that we had lots of green bananas on the homestead we could eat. There are about seven stalks in the house right now – it’s ridiculous. The heavy rain has cause multiple trees to fall over before the fruit was fully ripe.

So far I’ve fried them, boiled them and put them into soup.

I even painted some of them.

Day-22-bananas-and-artifacts

When life gives you green bananas, paint their portraits.

Bat Attractant

I was written by Charles, the representative of a company that has developed a bat attractant to get bats moving into bat houses. He writes:

“Have you also checked out our new, field-tested bat house attractant, Hello Bat? We collaborated with bat experts and designed it to promote bat conservation efforts. In particular, we’re hoping it competitively displaces the toxic ammonia lures and guano lures that spread bat diseases, such as white-nose syndrome. Unlike other attractants, Hello Bat is research-based and utilizes the primary roost odors (including 2′-Aminoacetophenone) of major North American bat species. It is field-tested and effective.

You should check it out. I think your readers would love it. If you like it, please feel free to link to it.  It’s available on our website, Blue Moon Bell, which is located at https://bluemoonbell.com/products/bathouse-lure, and also sold on Amazon at this link.

So far, we’ve received positive feedback, including from Amazon, which labeled it the #1 new release in bat supplies with 5-star ratings across the board.”

If this works as advertised, it’s a great idea and much needed.

Last week, incidentally, I painted a picture of the abandoned building turned bat house a short walk from our house.

Day-23-old-building

That’s the place where I filmed this:

Giving Thanks

We have a lot to be thankful for this year.

We made the move overseas and have been learning the culture, the children are healthy, my Dad had successful knee surgery and is back on his feet after a long stretch of difficulty walking, my gardening books keep selling, and though some of you may disagree, I’m also glad there will not be a Bush or a Clinton taking control of the US in 2017.

Another cool thing – my YouTube channel blew through 11,000 subscribers last week. That’s pretty cool. I’m hoping we’ll hit 15k by year-end but I don’t know. It’s close!

Your Christmas Shopping Can Help Fund This Site

I got a really nice email from a reader who read in my newsletter that the car was dead. She asked if she could send a donation our way – I was quite touched. Though I turned down the offer, as there are many other people with needs much greater than my own, there is a way you can help us out.

Just shop by clicking through any one of my Amazon links when you do your Christmas shopping and a percentage of all your purchases will head our way.

Amazon-logoThe Amazon Associates program pays my electric bill most months and I’m quite glad for it.

And Last But Not Least

PermacultureChickens

Don’t miss signing up for Justin Rhodes’ free two-day online viewing of his film Permaculture Chickens. Click that link to get in on seeing it for free. It’s a an excellent film with great ideas.

Thank you all for reading – I’ll be back soon with more gardening inspiration.

-David The Good

David-the-good-books-revised

Updates from The Great South Florida Food Forest Project: Fall 2016

SouthFLFoodForest2015-4

Updates-south-florida-food-forest

It’s been too long since the last update on The Great South Florida Food Forest Project.

Mom sent me photos from just before Hurricane Matthew limped past the coast. There was no damage after the storm but the clouds in the pictures look amazing.

First, take a look at the tropical almond (background) and the black sapote (foreground, right):

Black-sapote-tropical-almond-florida-food-forest

See that little Senna alata (AKA candlestick cassia) growing to the left of the chocolate pudding fruit tree? We planted some of those when establishing the food forest and they seem to have naturalized… all over the place.

Now take a look at the avocado seedling:

avocado-coconut-palm-florida-food-forest

It’s over 6′ tall now and is a Thai type which makes huge avocados the size of honeydew melons. It just needs to get big so it can start bearing!

Here’s another look at the chocolate pudding fruit tree:

black-sapote-south-florida-food-forest

Definitely getting taller and it looks very happy. Those are passionfruit and yam vines growing in the fence behind it.

Now check out the starfruit tree:cassava-starfruit-florida-food-forest

Mom reports that this tree produces gallons and gallons of fruit twice a year with long harvest seasons. The fruit are very good and sweet. Quite refreshing. Note the cassava on the right side of the image. The fallen sticks all over the ground are chopped-and-dropped Tithonia diversifolia stems. Great food for the soil.

Here’s a good looking chaya growing in front of the neighbor’s fence:

chaya-south-florida-food-forest

That’s the deeply lobed variety as opposed to the maple leaf type. I have both growing in The Great South Florida Food Forest.

Out in the front yard, Dad prepared for Hurricane Matthew by cutting back the acerola cherry:dad-cutting-back-acerola-cherry-florida-food-forest

That tree bears year-round and has sweet fruit. It’s been a huge blessing to my nieces and nephews, not to mention the children of the many friends who visit my parents’ place. They all love fresh-picked cherries!

Another big blessing has been the mango tree. It bears large crops of fine-fleshed wonderfully sweet orange-fleshed mangoes.

mango-chaya-southfloridafoodforest

The ferns on the ground beneath it planted themselves. I love those “accidents” of nature.

Here you can see the mango to the left, coconut palms in foreground left, moringa tree in center and the Thai avocado to the right. Yam vines (Dioscorea alata) are draping across the trees through the center.moringa-avocado-yam-mango-florida-food-forest

Now here’s a nice tree to see: the 6th Street Mulberry is flying!mulberry-south-florida-food-forest

That is going to be a lovely, multi-branched tree. It’s already been bearing fruit. Hard to believe it looked like this not long ago:

MulberryJune8-2013

Here’s a view of the profusion from the other side. Isn’t this MUCH more interesting than a lawn?south-florida-food-forest-2016-fall

Moringa, cassava, mango, yams, sunflowers, mother-in-law tongues, ferns, orchids, starfruit, bananas… it’s a lovely mess of great plants!

Here’s another view of the starfruit with the moringa on its right:starfruit-moringa-florida-food-forest

And back around to the front yard again, on the other side, to see the tamarind and the canistel:tamarind-canistel-south-florida-food-forest

That canistel is now my height (tree in foreground) and the tamarind is almost 4 times my height. I love to see them both growing happily.

If you’re interested in starting your own Florida food forest, you’ll find inspiration and lots of ideas for plant species in my little book Create Your Own Florida Food Forest.

FloridaFoodForestsCoverNewBLweb

It’s also available in audiobook form, read by me.

This is a great way to use your property. As the trees mature, you get more and more fruit… for less and less work. My parents aren’t even “plant people” and they greatly enjoy seeing the trees grow and having all the extra fruit to share with friends and family.

Go for it – you have nothing to lose but your boring grass!

David-the-good-books-revised

A few pictures from the new homestead

DavidAndBreadfruit

Last week I posted this picture of some tropical fruits we harvested from the farm and asked for guesses:

Tropical_Fruits

Some of you did quite well.

Here are the answers:

Tropical_Fruits_Labeled_yep

Thus far I’ve found the following edibles growing on our property:

Acerola cherry, Avocado, Banana (many), Breadfruit, Breadnut, Cacao (many), Cashew, Cecropia, Cinnamon, Citrus (many various trees), Coconut, Coffee, Grapes, Guava, Hog plum, Jackfruit, June plum, Katuk, Lychee, Malay apple, Mango (many), Moringa, Nutmeg, Papaya, Passionfruit, Plantain (many), Purple mombin, Rambutan, Soursop, Star apple, Sugar apple, Tamarind, Wax apple

Interestingly, many of these fruit trees (cacao excepted) were planted around the same time I was planting my now-sold property up in North Florida. We’ve actually managed to acquire a piece of land at a similar level of development to our old homestead; however, trees produce faster and in greater quantity down here. Not a day goes by that we aren’t harvesting fruit of some sort.

I haven’t been able to find out if macadamia nuts are growing on any farms here, but I’ll bet they are somewhere I haven’t seen yet. That would be a great tree to add.

Here are some more photos from around the property. First, a look at part of the banana grove:

Banana_Grove Backyard_Bananas

There are quite a few more bananas planted further down the mountain but I didn’t feel like walking all the way down the slope with my camera.

Here are some shots of the cocoa orchard:

Cocoa_Orchard Cocoa_Pods_On_Cocoa_Trees Cocoa_Growing_On_Tree

We’ve already had some hot chocolate from the cocoa growing on the farm and I’m drying out more right now:

Drying_Cocoa

It’s not really cocoa season at the moment, but there are ripe pods scattered here and there through the orchard.

There’s also a massive breadfruit tree behind the house with plenty of almost-ripe fruit on it:

Giant_Breadfruit_Tree

Soon, soon!

By the back of the house is a jackfruit tree. I’ll post more on jackfruit later this week, but for now let me just say it’s a really delicious fruit as well as being a relative of the mulberry… just a lot, lot bigger!

Jackfruit

The children cannot wait for those fruit to ripen!

Anyhow, that’s enough writing for today. I’ve got to get outside and starting planting pigeon peas.

David-the-good-books-revised

An Orlando Food Forest

Orlando_Food_Forest_15

Orlando Food Forest

A few years ago I helped some friends start a food forest near Orlando.

Last week the owner sent me some photos from this project and said I could share them here. Things are really starting to grow up – it’s amazing what a bit of time can do, particularly when you start a food forest on decent soil with lots of mulch.

The area where this food forest is located is surrounded by citrus groves and swamp. The soil has a good organic matter content with black muck mixed into the sand wherever you dig.

It’s hot and the air is still, however, so despite the decent (though sandy) soil, it’s not the easiest place to grow a food forest. The area is in between tropical and temperate, with at least a few freezes each winter that keep the owners from growing great tropical fruit like sapotes and mango… but not enough chill hours for good temperate fruit trees like apple and pear.

That said, the few freezes in winter haven’t hurt their banana crops too much:

Orlando_Food_Forest_12

Those are “Dwarf Cavendish” banana trees. They also have some of my previous collection of bananas, including “Raja Puri,” “1,000 Fingers,” “Ice Cream”, “Orinoco” and even Cheeseman’s Banana, which is a wild type that’s more of an ornamental than edible.

Another difficulty when growing a food forest near Orlando is the brutal summer heat. To head off the weeds and the hot sand, the homeowners dumped tons of mulch from a local tree company.

Orlando_Food_Forest_6

The mulch adds organic matter, keeps roots cool and conserves moisture. It just took a lot of work to acquire and then spread around, particularly considering the half-acre size of this food forest project.

Orlando_Food_Forest_4

Right now the food forest is at what I call the “bad haircut” phase, where it’s in between being perfect little trees surrounded by an ocean of mulch… and a full-on, cool forest with a close-to-closed canopy.

If you’ve ever decided to grow your hair long from a short haircut, you know what I mean. Nothing quite looks how you want it to until it reaches the right length.

By next spring, this system is going to really look amazing. Check out the fruit that’s coming in now:

Orlando_Food_Forest_2 Orlando_Food_Forest_3 Orlando_Food_Forest_14

Peaches, nectarines and mulberries in abundance.

When I plan out a food forest for a client, I always like to include some fast-producing trees as encouragement. Mulberries, figs, nectarines, peaches… these will start paying their rent quickly. At the same time, I try not to overlook producers that take their time, like pears (6 years) and pecans (8-10 years). When new fruit come in every year, it builds enthusiasm. I really can’t wait to see where the progress will take a food forest next.

This Orlando food forest is one of seven food forest projects I’ve provided assistance or plants for, not counting the many others I’ve helped indirectly through my books and this site.

There’s a reason I named my business “Florida Food Forests!”

I hope to expand my food forest consultation into some new climates, too. I think it would be amazing to create one in the arid Southwest… or one in Quebec! The possibilities for species… my goodness…

More Pictures from the Orlando Food Forest Project

I wish more yards looked like this:

Orlando_Food_Forest_8

Mulberries, bananas, native weeds…

And here – check out this malanga growing along with Bidens alba and Caesarweed:

Orlando_Food_Forest_9

Here’s a patch of beautiful variegated ginger:Orlando_Food_Forest_10

That ginger makes a very nice herbal tea – great flavor – though the roots aren’t big enough to use for anything.

Here’s another “bad haircut” shot:

Orlando_Food_Forest_11

I like this lush patch of green with gingers and blooms:

Orlando_Food_Forest_13

Having lots of species growing together helps fight pests. You can bet there are good insects, amphibians and reptiles all over the place in these un-mown places, just waiting to come in and gobble up evil aphids and caterpillars!

Here’s another shot of some producing bananas:

Orlando_Food_Forest_15

Check out this kale and ginger growing in the shade – it almost looks like a watercolor with the splashes of light dancing through the canopy:Orlando_Food_Forest_16

Here’s another good mix of plants next to the greenhouse:

Orlando_Food_Forest_17

In the photo above I see guava, nopale cactus, rootbeer plant, Surinam cherry, papaya and mango. Looks like a pleasant little microclimate to me.

Here’s another shot of the thriving root beer plant colony:

Orlando_Food_Forest_18

And more crazy growth:Orlando_Food_Forest_19

Now check out this sugarcane, with a cassava in the foreground:Orlando_Food_Forest_20

And a beautiful loquat, encircled by wild blackberries:Orlando Food Forest

With some jealously, I note that their moringa trees are setting pods:Orlando_Food_Forest_22 Orlando_Food_Forest_23

Truly beautiful. This area was just hot, empty pasture a few years ago and now it’s rapidly being transformed into a cool, moist forest of beautiful and useful species.

I can’t wait to see what happens next!

If you live in Florida and want to plant your own food forest, I have helpful species lists and encouragement in my short book Create Your Own Florida Food Forest – you’ll enjoy it.

This level of crazy gardening may not appeal to everyone, but I salute those of you who are creating food forests across the state. Florida wants to be forest – grow with nature, instead of against it, and you will have more food than you know what to deal with. That’s a great place to be.

(All photos by the homeowner)

David-the-good-books-revised

Bananas Growing in Standing Water

FrostproofBananas

Bananas love as much water as you can give them.

When I was younger, I remember seeing bananas growing right at the end of a canal in South Florida, the water reaching a foot above their root ball during high tide, then receding again during low tide.

They were flooded half the day, every day. Probably longer than that during times of heavy rainfall – yet they were happy, healthy and bore heavily.

That is, until one of the neighbors decided to “clean up” the canal by ripping out the entire clump.

Typical.

I took a picture of a banana right on a canal in Eustis just this last month.

BananaOnCanal

There was a larger clump as well but I couldn’t get a good picture.

Bananas. Love. Water.

Water is the top limiting factor for bananas. After water, they love nitrogen.

Give them a wet spot with tons of fertility and they’ll go crazy. Plant bananas in the middle of a dry sandy yard and you’ll be lucky if they live.

I cover creating a banana circle as one part Compost Everything: The Movie that’s soon to be released during the Home Grown Food Summit (GO SIGN UP HERE RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW!!!) in just a couple of weeks. The combination of high fertility and lots of water makes them go nuts… or should I say, bananas.

I was at a friend’s house recently and had to film this particular patch of bananas growing in a year-round swamp.

Check it out:

For more on growing bananas, check out my plant profile on them here.

wdf87122-b19cd302-3b35-4d51-b0e9-37148349c27f-v2

David-the-good-books-revised

Harvesting Before Frost

Harvesting_Before_Frost_2

Though I’d rather wait until the bananas and papaya ripen to bring them in, they will not live through frosts so we had to get harvesting before frost wrecked all we had.

Before it got down into the 20s on Tuesday night, it was time to grab what I could and get it into the house.

harvesting before frost saves chayoteThe chayotes have continued to put out fruit from fall until now. I think we got about 30-40 this year from just one plant. Quite impressive. Unfortunately, my children don’t really like them all that much so the huge harvests aren’t all that helpful. Oh well – at least they love eating yams.

Green papaya aren’t my favorite by themselves, but they are decent cooked and they’re quite good in Thai green papaya salad.

I’ve also posted some green papaya recipes here. The enzymes are also great for your digestion, and I’ve posted on green papaya as a survival food over at The Prepper Project.

It’s just… compared to a ripe papaya… green papayas are sad. We don’t get very many ripe papaya around here, sadly, since just about the time the trees are loaded with fruit, the weather gets cold. If you live further south in the state, your papaya will produce like crazy and give you plenty of fruit in a tiny footprint. It’s a perfect backyard fruit “tree” in that it’s easy to grow from seed and usually produces in a year or less. When I get a more tropical homestead, they’re at the top of my planting list.

The bananas I pulled in aren’t quite ready for harvest but we had no choice. They weren’t going to ripen up before the frost destroyed them, plus the tree fell over. Harvest ’em or lose ’em!

When I went harvesting on Tuesday, my wife filmed me. Check out how BIG that papaya tree got – from seed, in less than a year!

At the end of the day we pulled in probably 40-50lbs of produce… and it’s a good thing, too. Wednesday morning broke at a frosty 28 degrees and when I looked outside at around 11AM, I saw burned and wilted leaves everywhere.

I hope you all came through the frost okay. It’s hard to believe that in just two months everything will be blooming and bursting into new life again here in North Florida.

David-the-good-books-revised

Orinoco Bananas Rapidly Ripening

Beautiful_Orinoco_Bananas

The stalk of Orinoco bananas that fell the other day have ripened rapidly in my kitchen window.

We’ve been watching them turn yellow from green at a ridiculous pace. We literally saw bananas turn bright yellow between morning and evening.

I find that fresh fruit, roots and produce in the kitchen are better than any ornamentation.

OrinocoBananas

Ever since I bought my first house, I’ve been hanging up baskets of edibles.

In the case of these Orinoco bananas, I pierced the stalk and strung them up with a hook onto the rack I use for my cast iron pans.

As they ripen (mostly from the top down), we’ve been eating them.

Though I find Orinoco bananas to be best for frying like plantains, my children like to eat them raw.

These are some of the fattest bananas we’ve grown yet. A few years of being fed by greywater and compost have given my banana trees a huge root mass.

I describe the best way to compost and raise bananas at the same time in my bestselling book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting, which you can buy at Amazon for $2.99 in Kindle format, or get the awesome paperback version for $9.99.

(By the way, Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening is still on top in its category. Just wait until 2016… I’ve got more amazing things to share, Lord willing.)

Back to bananas. These Orinoco bananas are the same ones I featured in a video some while back. If you want to grow bananas where it occasionally freezes, this video is for you:

Something interesting on the big stalk we harvested: two of the bananas were joined together like Siamese twins.

Check this out:

Double-banana

Strange, eh? Reminds me of the “praying hands” banana, though not nearly as extreme.

It’s been a great fall and winter for bananas thus far. No freezes!

If I’m lucky, I’ll have another stalk of bananas to harvest in January.

David-the-good-books-revised

Self-delivering bananas

Bananas

I was going to go out and do a video on how I cut down a banana tree in order to harvest bananas… but then nature did it for me:


Generally, you can simply harvest a stalk of bananas by partially cutting the tree trunk itself and letting the bananas ease their way down to you.

This is safer than standing on a ladder, leaning off the roof, or jumping in the air with a machete.

BananasA stalk of bananas can easily weigh 100lbs.

This stalk of Orinoco bananas is likely 50lbs.

Instead of getting a chance to easy them down, the tree decided to fall all on its own.

With bananas, you don’t have to worry that cutting down the main trunk is keeping you from future fruit.

Every banana tree only fruits once.

It will count leaves until it reaches a certain count, then it sends out its bloom. First the female banana blooms appear (which develop into the fruit), followed by many more male blooms that simply create pollen and are no longer necessary to we, the growers of the modern seedless, cloned banana trees.

Calling them “trees” isn’t really right, either.

Banana tree trunks are actually pseudostems that emerge from a central root mass.

 

Think of the root as the main part of the banana “tree” – not the individual stems that emerge.

They’re like big lilies, really. Once a stalk produces bananas, that one won’t produce again so you can cut it down, then let the next smallest tree take over.

Or, just let the tree self-deliver as in my case.

Good thing the neighboring pomegranate tree caught the falling trunk or else I might had had some seriously smashed-up banana fruit.

David-the-good-books-revised

Thai Black Banana Fruit!

Thai_Black_Banana_Fruit_Bloom

Looks like I may get some Thai Black banana fruit this year:

Thai_Black_Banana_Fruit_Bloom2It’s a little late in the year so I hope these mature quickly.

The Thai Black banana is considered an ornamental variety of banana, so these may or may not be palatable fruit. Chances are they’ll be lousy. If anyone knows if the Thai Black banana is edible, let me know. Otherwise I hope to be tasting these fruit in the fall.

Here’s a close up of the Thai Black banana fruit developing as the bloom descends:

Thai_Black_Banana_Fruit_Bloom

Little Thai Black banana fruit developing rapidly.

See the hands of bananas? The little yellow blooms inside the unfolding inflorescence to the left are male blooms. The little bananas to the right behind the red inflorescence are the female blooms. You can still see the wilted petals at their tips. Banana trees make a series of female blooms followed later by the male flowers. Each “petal” of the inflorescence unfolds and drops off revealing another row of blooms as it descends.

These Thai Black banana fruit are likely to be seedy since this is supposedly a wilder form of banana. Banana seeds are hard little things that have been bred out of the cultivated varieties. It’s not fun to break a tooth while eating a tasty banana.

The Thai Black trees have proven themselves remarkably cold hardy. I planted one little (maybe 14″) tree there last spring… and there’s now a 14′ clump of bananas towering over the food forest and above my driveway.

Come on, fruit! Fruit! And let us have a nice, warm fall so these babies develop!

At the very least, even if they’re not edible, I suppose I could plant the seeds (if they have any) from these fruit and grow some more banana trees that way. The Thai Black banana is very tropical and attractive and has done excellently in my North Florida yard. The black trunks look really cool.

If it’s edible, I’ll be really happy.

 

UPDATE: Curtiss shared a link in the comments to bananas.org and I was able to find a good thread on Thai Black banana trees. Tons of info.

David-the-good-books-revised
1 2