My Friends, today was the day!
Today, I up and decided that it was time to take Senor Sergio Amigo, the community banana plant, out of the ground and put him to bed for the winter.
I had planned to go another week or two, but the newest leaf, the only leaf that was not going to be cut off for this endeavor, had emerged almost a week ago and was still emerging, still tightly rolled. The plant was telling me that it was slowing down…time to go to bed.
My neighbor, Lola, and I got together this afternoon, with small spades and a pitchfork, landscape fabric and yarn, scissors and a knife, and set about the task of removing all but the emerging leaves from not only the parent plant, but also those of the two little puppies growing from the base.
Didn’t it look happy! It was a gorgeous day here, the plant and the pups soaking up every bit of the last rays of the season.
The larger of the two pups was also sporting a brand new leaf roll. I don’t know what those squiggles at the ends of the leaves are, but I think they’re just adorable.
The little guy’s newest leaf was mostly unfurled, soaking up the rays.
I went very carefully around the plant with a scissor, a sharp knife…whatever it took to neatly and carefully cut the leaves off the stem. Nice and clean! The season came round full circle then, back to the stick that I had planted in the spring.
Of course, the stick was now double its original height, and had children. I’m a Nanna Gramma!
We got our hand spades, and started very carefully digging around the plant, from the outside edge of its bed toward the pups. My eye caught something, and I pointed it out to Lola, who whooped, “We got us a banana farm!”
Yes! We had found another pup! It was hiding behind the plant, under the overhang of one of Lola’s ornamental grasses. Three puppies!!!! How COOL is this!
That’s the little shy guy in the back there, the pink one. It was sticking up above ground by about three inches in height, and had sprouted its very first true leaf.
Isn’t this the sweetest thing?
How exciting! We were chattering like magpies by then, having a ball speculating on how many puppies we were going to dig up this time next year. Quick banana Math had it at anywhere from six to nine. The parent was a yearling, and had three puppies. Each of these puppies would be considered a yearling at the end of next season, and could easily sprout two or three pups each…so yeah, we were all giggles at the thought of bringing up an entire banana grove next September.
We were still working slowly, carefully, not wanting to damage any of the root ball of the plant, even though I had Mike in my head telling me, “Wendy, these plants are like roaches. They’re pretty hard to kill.”
Maybe he was referring to their reproduction rate.
We scooped out more soil, going around, got to a depth of a couple of inches, and…..wait for it….
I spotted another pup.
Blah, blah! FOUR PUPPIES! HA HA HAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!
This tiny baby had not even broken ground yet, was sitting an inch or so below the surface. It’s just a little stub at this point.
Now, of course, Lola and I slowed down even more, wondering if there were going to be any more surprises. Thankfully, there were not. We were able to get the plant cleared and find the bottom of the root ball without further incident…or visits from Sesame Street characters.
We were having a hard time finding the outside edge of the largest pup, but finally did. We got under the plant with the pitchfork, rocked and lifted, rocked and dug, until the whole plant was loose. Now I know how a dentist feels!
When we got the plant nice and loose, we grabbed the main stem and lifted it straight into the air…and the largest pup broke free from the base.
Over protective banana mommy that I am, I started to feel a little panic, thinking I broke the damn thing, until Mike showed up in my head again to remind me that the plant is the botanical equivalent of a roach, very tough to kill. I calmed down, reminded myself that divisions were a part of banana growing, and that this pup separating from the base was just saving me the work of dividing it further down the road.
You know…with Mentor Mike popping in and out of my head with these gardening lessons, I’m really, really glad that he has such a smooth, deep, comforting voice. If he had a Gilbert Gottfried voice, you would find me spinning around in circles in the garden, smacking myself in the head. A lot.
Senor Amigo and the pups having been removed from their summer digs, we laid them out on the lawn for an hour to dry a little bit.
I find it amazing, with the size of the overall root ball on these plants, that they don’t blow right over in even a slight breeze! They have a small root ball, with plenty of running roots to take up water. That pup in front is the tiniest one, the one that hadn’t broken ground yet. You can see, however, that it is firmly attached to its parent.
The largest of the pups broke free with plenty of root to keep going on its own!
The parent’s new leaf started to unfurl during the process of getting it out of the ground, but that’s just fine. It gets left alone. TALL, eh? From ground level, to the very tip of that new leaf roll, this plant shot up about ten feet. Given that the new leaf would have unfurled and dropped down like the others, the actual height of the main plant is about six feet. The largest pup, from the ground to the actual top of the plant, is about two feet tall…almost as tall as the parent was when I planted it.
Now, to wrap the root ball. First, I cut off all of those runner roots. No need to have them there any longer, and they would just stick out all over the place, or worse..rot.
I got the large pup wrapped first, going with landscape fabric instead of black plastic bags. With all those puppies, I was afraid the black plastic would cut off too much air, and how was I supposed to bag the root ball and leave the pups out to the air, with plastic? Duct tape?
I went with landscape fabric and my obnoxiously pink, albeit very soft, garden yarn.
I have no other way to describe it…I diapered the plant like a three-legged baby.
It worked out well! I was able to slit the landscape fabric in a couple of places, and bring the fabric up around each pup, and around the main root ball. The stems are all free to breathe, and the roots are protected.
Finally, we put them to bed. They’re laying down on a skid in the basement, supported, off the ground, out of the elements that are sure to come…and soon, I think. To maintain them down there, I’ve been instructed to go downstairs every two months with a couple of cups of good warm water, and drizzle it into the root bags. In the spring, the plants will come back out, looking decidedly dead. But they won’t be dead…just sleeping! I’ll plant four sticks, and watch them take root.
And, once that warm sun wakes them up, we’ll all get to watch them take off!