Denise and Lindsay's Iris

Denise and Lindsay's Iris
Photo by J Hulse

Sunday, November 27, 2011

COMPARING APPLES TO BANANAS (A Southern California Dilemma)

My friend Betty is a bee keeper from Burbank.  She told me that I need two different varieties of Apple tree in order to produce fruit, and that I wouldn’t get any fruit for three years!  Is that true? And, if so, wouldn’t it be a better idea to grow a banana plant?  I’ve read that they produce fruit a whole lot sooner.  And, I’ve noticed a few banana trees planted around the town where I live.
Frieda Fruitfinder, San Diego, CA
Dear Frieda,
Congratulations! You are on the right path by observing your environment and researching cultural requirements for your garden wish list.  Having a plan is a big part of a successful garden.  Let’s start with your first question, is it true that apples don’t self-pollinate?
The simple answer is “sometimes.” There are varieties of apples that are self-fertile (self-pollinating), though they will yield a lot more fruit if cross pollination occurs. These are good options for small space gardening and include Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Granny Smith and Scrumptious, among others. A word about cross pollinating: even a bouquet of flowering crab branches set on a table near your apple tree will enable cross-pollination, without requiring an additional, permanent tree.
Like most fruit, apples require patience and long-range planning for abundant yields. Typically, you should plan on three years before the first, small crop and then another three years with the proper pruning to yield a full crop.  Remember when you shop to research the number of cold hours each variety requires to bear fruit in your climate. 
“Wouldn’t it be a better idea to grow a banana plant?”
The presence of banana plants in your area is a good sign. An even better indicator would be if they are flowering as that is required for the plant to bear fruit. They will also bloom without rhyme or reason; you could see a flower in as little as 8 or 9 months or as long as 18 months. Notice I said flower, not fruit.  The process of maturation can take another 2 months, read more about bananas here:  Bananas do have some specific needs in order to thrive and produce fruit:
·        Watering
o   In the heat of summer, it’s nearly impossible to overwater. In the winter you only need to maintain dampness. Overwatering will lead to rotting of the roots, stressing the plant, and ultimately reducing size and quantity of fruit. 
·        Weather
o   Plentiful sun and low wind are best. Temperatures up to about 95 degrees are ideal. Consider dwarf varieties, such as Cavendish, if you plan on potting it and bringing it indoors during cold spells.
·        Fertilization
o   When the weather is warm and plants are actively growing, you almost can’t over-fertilize. Any organic 16-16-16 fertilizer will work.
·        Soil
o   Soil type is almost irrelevant as the plants are shallow rooted, 12-18" deep at most. I’ve seen them in heavy clay, cobble and even in pure compost. The important issue is matching water application with soil or drainage type.
·        Mulch
o   A good, heavy layer of compost or other similar organics on the surface of the soil is important.
Happy Gardening,
Dr. Joe

Keywords for links: Apples, Bananas, Self-pollinating, Patience, Planning

About This Site

Hi, everyone,

I'm Gardenbear.  And this is my blog.  I hope to entertain you, and inform you, and stimulate you to take an active role in living a healthy and sustainable life.  It's incumbent upon each of us to try, just a little, to clean this place (earth) up.  A good place to start is right outside your back door.

The background picture on this page is Heironymous Bosch's Gardens of Earthly Delight (You know, Eden before the Apple).  We all want our own little garden of earthly delight.  Maybe it should even contain a couple of apple trees.  Who knows?!   And some greens, and carrots, and kale and green beans, and TOMATOES!

I can help you with that.  I'm still figuring out where to start and I need your help to do it.  I will write an occasional article about a topic I've been thinking about.  Give me some topics!.   I'll send you to sites I've found interesting.  I'll try to answer any questions you may have about IPM (Integrated Pest Management), plant pathology, culture, characteristics, etc.  I may throw in a heady article or two about Eco-ethics.

I encourage you to be as green as possible.  Grow some of your own food.  Reduce your carbon footprint. 

Send me those questions.  Any kind of gardening questions.  I may know the answer.  If I don't I'll research it and post it here.

So you have a sick plant.  Take a picture, a close-up of a leaf, and a full shot of the plant, including the surrounding soil.  We'll see where this path leads us.

So, until I get the ball rolling here, eat organic.  Be green.  Save the Earth!!


ps.  I'm working on my bio now.