How to Create a Microclimate to Protect Banana Plants over Winter
The New Exotic Garden just Planted to Create a Microclimate
How I created a Microclimate for my Banana Plants to Survive the Winter Months
In early 2017 I had to rebuild a terrace and because of the groundwork involved all the existing plants had to be removed and it gave me the opportunity to experiment in creating a Microclimate for my banana garden to survive the winter months.
Here are the steps I took to create the Microclimate.
1. I started with a south facing wall that was protected on each side by terraces from either cottage.
2. I built a stone wall at the front of the new garden to create a raised bed above ground level from the rest of the garden.
I now had a six by three meter enclosed south facing garden for my banana plants.
3. I filled the plot with plenty of bags of quality compost and combined this with bags of horse manure compost.
4. I bought 5 species of Banana plants and planted these within the new garden.
5. I then covered the whole garden with 10-12 cms of wood bark chips to maintain moisture in the summer but to provide winter protection for the base of the bananas.
6. I then planted ground covering plants all around the banana plants that I knew survived our winters and stayed in leaf to provide additional protection in the winter.
7. When the cold weather did arrive the leaves on the banana died back and were left on the plants to provide additional protection for the main stems at the center.
8. In the past as a means to safeguard my existing stock of plants, I would always dig up several pups of new banana shoots and repot - I refrained from doing that this year to allow the pups to grow strong and create an outer circle from the mother plant.
The Bananas in the Hight of Summer
What Went Wrong in the Past
I moved to Northern France in 2006 and decided straight away that I wished to create an exotic garden - coming from the UK I knew some gardeners were successful with Banana plants in the UK, the majority either taking their plants indoors for the winter months or covering them in straw and bubble wrap to survive the English winters.
There were a few however that talked about creating a Microclimate within their gardens that allowed their plants to survive! ( these gardens were always situated in the southern regions of the UK where the winters were somewhat warmer).
As Southern Brittany was over a hundred miles further south I was convinced my plants would be fine.
So in the first year, I went out buying all kinds of exotics plants only to lose the majority in the first winter.
Although Brittany in the main is a lot warmer than the UK and rarely gets snow I discovered to the detriment of my exotic plants that every winter we would get a week or two of temperatures down to minus 10 degrees Celsius during the night.
After my initial loses I chose different plants sticking with different varieties of Bananas and Bird of Paradise.
Each autumn the Birds of Paradise plants would be taken inside while I wrapped the banana plants in bubble wrap after cutting off the leaves and wrapping the stalk.
This resulted in better results for the Bird of Paradise in that all survived and flowered but the Banana plants still had a 50% loss rate.
I would find that when a very cold spell arrived the water lying within the bubble wrap after a wet spell would freeze and cancel out any warming properties and the banana would die.
I had planted Banana plants all around the garden and noticed the worst hit were those situated in exposed positions.
Birds of Paradise in Flower After Spending the Winter Indoors
What does an Effective Microclimate Do?
The entire process is to create barriers from the elements either through other plants or hard landscaping and positioning the plants in the most suitable location within your garden.
The aim to create an environment a few degrees warmer than the rest of the garden and away from wind chill.
A few degrees warmer and definitely out of the wind are the biggest factors that will mean the difference between your plants surviving or not
How the Banana Plants Survived there First Winter
Why Did I Ignore the Garden Centre Advice
I bought my plants in three different garden centers and all gave the same advice which was to wrap my plants but often as is the case with gardening it is a matter of observing other successes and in particular two houses in town that had banana plants surviving the winters without being wrapped.
I noted in both cases the bananas were large plants with plenty of pups growing around the main stem and both were located in sheltered spots out of the wind.
This gave me the confidence to try creating my microclimate and put all my plants to the test.
The Garden in the Height of Summer
How I Care for my Banana Plants During the Summer
From April through to October I water the plants every day and feed twice per week with a general liquid feed.
The only other element needed is plenty of sunshine hence why a south facing aspect is preferable.