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Oakwood couple has bountiful harvest of banana trees
Oakwood residents Jim and Ella Arnold planted seven banana trees in their yard. - photo by Emily Perry

Banana lovers in Oakwood must be green with envy over Jim and Ella Arnold's banana trees.

"We put out about seven trees this year," said Jim Arnold. "And, every winter you have to dig them up and bring them in."

This year, the Arnold's have two trees that have produced bananas. However, when a tree blooms, its life as a producer of fruit is over.

"Once a banana tree produces, it's through; you cut it down," Arnold said. "Then sprouts come up around it and they'll produce."

According to Georgia gardening guru Walter Reeves' website, banana trees can be grown easily in this climate. But some care and careful planning is needed.

"Bananas prefer deep, well-drained soil but they can tolerate clay as long as the roots are not constantly wet," said Reeves on growing the tropical plant.

"Frost kills plants to the ground, although the corm usually survives if mulched heavily."

The type of banana tree will determine how much room is needed and where the plant must be positioned.

"Some varieties grow quite large so plant them in full sun, at least 10 feet from other plants or buildings," Reeves said.

Reeves said the "top of the plant will produce a bloom stem approximately nine months after a sucker begins to grow. Fruit is ready to harvest three months later."

But Reeves advises harvesting fruit is only possible, in most cases, in coastal areas.

Technically, the trunk is not a true stem but only a cluster of leaf stalk bases, according to Reeves.

A few other tips suggest that pollination is not necessary to set fruit.

"Bananas require heavy fertilization, at least a pint of 10-10-10 per month per mature plant, and regular watering," Reeves said.

"Dwarf types may be grown in tubs exclusively and moved indoors to sit before a sunny window, dreaming of their tropical heritage."

Arnold's advice for a healthy banana tree?

"Water and fertilizer. I put out several handfuls of 10-10-10 once a month. Unless we get rain, after I plant them, I water them every day."

When asked what Arnold might do with the bountiful fruit, he said he wouldn't mind sharing them.

"I don't eat bananas. I like banana-flavored pudding. I can eat a banana sandwich, with lots of mayonnaise," he said.

"The wife and I, we just enjoy the trees. They are pretty."