Saving a young banana tree from a late freeze
So, I have a banana tree in my front yard. I can do this in North Carolina because the winters aren't cold enough to freeze the ground. Banana trees aren't very tolerant of freezing - in fact, they're not at all tolerant. The slightest frost will kill all the leaves, and a good freeze will kill the entire tree right down to the ground.
I wouldn't have thought about growing a banana tree here in North Carolina, except that there's a large grove of banana trees in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens up on campus. I asked my coworker George, who has what you might call a green thumb, and he has some in his yard, and kindly gave me a sproute last spring.
Anyway, last night's low was going to be in the mid 20s. A record by a long shot - the previous record was 28, and it was supposed to be 24 last night. My little banana tree had sprouted several leaves and was a good 18-24" tall already, as we've had lovely spring weather, and no frost for over a month I'd say.
Well, I don't want it to have to start over - from the ground up, so to speak - so here's what I did.
I have an unused halogen desk lamp in my garage. It gets quite hot when it's on, though the bulb is only like 10 watts or something. Anyway, I ran an extension cord out to the banana tree, and plugged in the halogen lamp and sit in right next to the banana. Then I mounded up some mulch around the base of the banana, as high as I could get it, and covered the tree and lamp with a 30 gallon plastic garbage can. Finally, I mounded more mulch around the base of the trash can to keep the warm air inside.
This morning - about a half hour ago actually - I went out to remove the garbage can. Success! Not only was the banana tree nice and warm, but the inside of the garbage can was wet. I think I created a miniature rain forest! Hah.
Tonight the low is supposed to be in the low 30s, but then after that I think we'll be safe from future frosts.
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