Sugar cane doesn’t like the cold. How you prepare it for winter will make the difference between having cane next year and having to pretend you have cane because you DON’T.
Fortunately, sugar cane isn’t that hard to care for, provided you know how.
For the last three years, I’ve kept my sugar cane coming back every spring. It’s dead simple, but you have to time it out well or you risk exposing plants to rot-inducing frosts.
Here’s how to do it in two steps.
Step 1: Harvest Your Cane Before Frost
Well, you want your sugar canes to be as big as possible when you harvest them, so you can make as much delicious syrup (or rum) as you can. Cutting early means you’re short-circuiting your potential gains. You also run the risk of having new canes re-grow, which then get nailed by the cold. If you wait too long to harvest, however, you run the risk of having the sugar cane crop killed by frost. Here in North Florida, I cut it in mid-November. If I knew a frost was coming, I’d chop them the day before it came through.
Cut close to the ground when you harvest, too – it’ll make the next step easier.
Step 2: Strip the Canes and Mulch
Rip off all the sugar cane leaves as you harvest and use them to cover your cane bed. It’s also a good idea to gather extra leaves or straw to make sure the roots will not see freezing temperatures.
This is no time for aesthetics! Make sure you have a good solid few inches of cover over your sugar cane crop’s roots and you’ll be set. It’s hard to do, but make sure that all new growth is chopped and added to the mulch. As temperatures fall, the cane will simply quit growing and will likely not reappear until March or April.
Do this and you should be able to reap cane from the same bed for as long as a decade.