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Overwintering Banana Trees, Compost

Over-wintering banana trees here in Canada’s la-la land; males pissing outdoors stimulates compost-making; and more on Genetically Modified food!
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

November 15, 2009


Above, Banana tree winter protection as practiced at Portland, Oregon’s Chinese Garden; my friend’s banana trees wrapped in burlap and a plastic tarpaulin; and the new commercial banana tree wrapper which I think might need some additional drawing board work! Author photos. Below, Britain’s Wimpole Hall staff doing what nature intended.
Photo by National Trust.

This week I’ll start off with a question that certainly won’t be applicable to most gardeners in the country--in fact only those with simply the most hospitable climates available in Canada. That would be here on Vancouver Island, and some small areas of the lower mainland B.C.

A friend noted that a local garden centre here in Parksville was selling “Banana blankets” specifically for the wrap-ping of the trunks of banana (usually Musa) trees. There is a question as to whether these trees actually need protection in our climate, but many people, quite wisely, prefer to be safe from damage rather than lose their exotic tree. My friend last year wrapped her banana tree’s trunk with burlap and then some plastic, and all was fine when this spring rolled around. And, keep in mind, last winter was a bad one here, with many common plants (Ceanothus, Escallonia, etc.) ordinarily going through our winters untouched, actually being killed to the ground at least.

I mentioned to her that protection for a banana tree is carried out on a regular basis in climates such as Portland Oregon, which is not quite as mild as ours. In Portland they do wrap the trunks of their banana trees, and I have included a shot of such wrapping at Portland’s Chinese Garden.

The Banana Blanket recommends cutting the leaves off the tree, and then slipping the open-ended (at both ends) blanket over the trunk. My friend bought one of these at a cost of over $25 and I am thinking it may be just as easy to use several wrappings of ordinary bubble wrap, or a product such as Arbotex (from the Texel Company just south of Québec City). You may read more about it at the end of my November 9, 2003 article on this site. They also recommend covering the top of the tree with a plastic bag, but that is not done in Portland, and I suspect it likewise is not necessary here.

* * *

According to Gavin McEwan, writing in the November 12 on-line edition of HortWeek magazine, the U.K.’s National Trust “is urging gardeners to boost composting and save water by urinating outdoors.

“In the ‘composting zone’ at the Trust's Wimpole Hall property in Cambridgeshire, which demonstrates composting techniques to the public, male staff relieve themselves on a ‘pee bale’ which is then incorporated into compost heaps.

“According to head gardener Philip Whaites: ‘The bale is excellent matter to stimulate the composting process. But male pee is preferable to women's, as it is less acidic.’

“With a conventional flush using 4.5 to nine litres of water, heeding nature's call outdoors also cut water use at the property by up to 30 per cent, the National Trust reckons.

“The estate also showcases a "dagging tank" into which the rear end fleece trimmings from estate's sheep are stirred up to produce a liquid feed that is then used to nourish vegetables and roses.”

Who knew!

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Also, in the United Kingdom, according to a report two weeks ago in the on-line edition of HortWeek, “The Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) has welcomed a constructive debate on the potential use of GM [Genetically Modified] technology following the publication of a report by the Royal Society on the future of agriculture. The report, entitled Reaping the Benefits: Towards a Sustainable Intensification of Global Agriculture, suggests that GM crops will be necessary to feed the world's growing population. It follows warnings made [earlier] by the Government's chief scientist, Professor John Beddington, at the CABI Global Summit in London.

“There, he warned that there will be a 50% global increase in demand for food by 2030 and that ‘we have to recognise that there's a serious need to adapt’.

“FPC chief executive Nigel Jenney said: ‘...the Fresh Produce Consortium will continue to press the UK government and others to ensure that the industry has the necessary tools to provide a sustainable supply of fresh produce. Within this context we believe that it is important that new technologies, including genetically modified products, should be considered based on sound science, case by case, and that informed decisions are taken after full consultation between government, the industry and consumers.’

“Nigel Jenney's comments also follow the news that the Food Standards Agency is conducting a new 12-month public consultation on GM food on behalf of the government to find out if the public mood has changed towards GM produce. Chairman Dr Julian Little of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), which supports the use of GM technology, said: ‘We welcome the recent announcement by the FSA that it will be launching a public engagement programme on GM foods, as it recognises the need to explore the tools that will be necessary to increase food production in a sustainable way.’”

The report brought the expected amount of criticism from the anti-GM food critics. Interestingly, in North America generally, there is not nearly the same amount of opposition to GM crops and produce as there is in the UK and Europe.

One critic of the news item said: “Let’s face it the GM technology companies haven't told the world how they have covered up a lot of the evidence that proves that GM technology is dangerous by preventing any external organisations from testing the crops for compatibility and safety. Any attempts are thwarted immediately with court orders and complete cover-ups to protect the companies concerned. Ask them about the article ‘Agrobacterium & Morgellons Disease, A GM Connection?’ ( ).

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