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Cheating Winter with My Tender Bananas: Obsession to the Extremes!

by Cliff Sharples (chief cultivator)

banana plants reached up to 15 feet high this year!
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OK, even I have to admit it - I've gone off the deep end this year in my quest for larger banana plants for my tropical Seattle garden!

Bananas for Bananas


If you've read my blog, you know that I am pretty obsessed with banana trees in my garden. They set the whole tropical vibe for me, partnering with Bamboo to transport my family and I to places South and Asian. To  get the correct mood working, however, scale becomes critical... and therin lies the problem in a Seattle area garden where winter temps often dip below freezing, thus melting my banana plants down to the ground.


Homeless No More


In past years, I have wrapped each trunk of the banana plant in a tube of hay-stuffed landscape fabric. This worked farily well when the plants were smaller... but only on my bananas protected by the house. Other plants got too wet in our unending winter rain, rotted and keeled over.

This year, I decided to take it up a notch and build a quasi coldframe / greenhouse around each clump of banana plants, in hopes that the water would be minimized throughout the winter and the double-walled plastic panels would provide enough of a temperature difference to keep the plants from freezing.

Construction of the Banana Houses

With the help of my trusted landscape contractor, Ned and his crew, we created what we hope will be winter shelters that can be assembled, broken down and then re-assembled each year. We ended up constructing 4 of them in different parts of the garden.

The most challenging and awe-inspiring is in our courtyard, sheltering our primary grove of banana trees, that this year reached over 15' high and produced fruit! [Check that out here!]

This banana house reaches over 16' high, features a sloped roof, and has two sets of doors to regulate temperature and ventilation. Here are some pictures of the construction:



You start by building a box or bed around the plants you want to encapsulate in the green house. This base serves as a foundation for the greenhosue, as well as a box to fill with hay which serves as an insulator.



Panels were assembled to come on and off, so the structure can be broken down in Spring, and reassemled the following year.



We added an outside and inside (the banana house) temperature gauge in order to monitor how the greenhouse is doing.



The doors provide ventilation and cooling when it isn't freezing out - which is most of our winter. They also let me keep track of how things are holding up as the winter progresses.



Since this grove of banana plants is next to the house's dryer vent, we decided to connect the vent to the greenhouse...  I have 5 kids, so nice warm air is almost always being pumped into the greenhouse!


Just in Time



We didn't have to wait long to see if our new shelters would work... The day after we completed the project, it snowed, accompanied by temperatures in the teens... a record for November in Seattle! So far, it looks like they are doing their job! I'll post an update in the Spring and see how it all worked out!



winterizing plants, tender tropical, greenhouses, diy greenhouse, cold frames


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marcydiané commented on 06/01/12
you are &quot;bananas&quot;!
FigTree commented on 12/09/10
Cliff - about &quot;pushing the envelope&quot;, how cool is that? I love the dryer pipe idea. How do you think your monkey puzzle tree will fare in the cold and snow?
cajunbarry commented on 12/09/10
We've had the monkey puzzle tree for 3 years, and it's doing great... it actually has grown over 4 feet since we planted it!
chief cultivator replied: on 12/12/10
Holy Bananas!!! You definitely went to extremes, but I cannot blame you...the proof is in the pudding...look at what you saved your cherished plants from!! You&#x27;d have been so sad if you had not completed your project before such harsh weather. I&#x27;m excited to hear of your results in the spring!
Lily commented on 12/09/10