Who said food forests can’t be magically fantastic? Irrestibly tropical? Gorgeous and mind-blowing? I’m sure somebody said that but it wasn’t me!

Banana plants are excellent choices for the edible landscape not only because of their ability to produce fruit, but because of the sheer amount of compostable, chop and drop materials they can grow to improve soil fertility organically and build soil.

Banana plants come in many sizes both TRULY TINY and absolutely giant, meaning that they are a wonderful, food-producing plant that you can fit anywhere in your food forest to increase your annual food harvests while building up the soil.

1. Truly Tiny Banana

The Truly Tiny Banana produces a very small, edible banana on a banana plant that is 3 to 4 feet in height at maturity. Like all banana plants, it still has very large leaves and a lot of roots, which is why I am growing my own in the microclimate provided by the side of a brick house, on the wetland edge of the duck pond. It will help to prevent erosion on that side of the pond, provide shade from the sun and cover from overhead predators for the Indian Runner Ducks and for the ducklings I’ll be adding to the edible landscape system. This helps to create a safer, healthier environment for the ducks who also like to nibble on the banana leaves and enjoy eating the trunks of bananas.

So if you are not a fan of bananas, they still make an excellent option for growing your own mulch, feeding to your poultry and waterfowl, or can be grown as basket weaving fiber. Banana leaves are also used in tropical areas to wrap food for grilling or baking in the same way that aluminum foil is used.

2. Dwarf Red Banana

In my food forest, I have squeezed this medium-sized banana plant behind the inedible and very ornamental Japanese Coral Bark Maple Tree. At least it seems to be inedible to humans though my Indian Runner Ducks enjoy nibbling at the buds and leaves.

As the Coral Bark Maple Tree grows in, it will provide some shade and additional humidity for the Dwarf Red Banana plant. The robust root system of the banana plant should help to crack up the clay to increase the growth rate of the Coral Bark Maple, which provides shade for the Indian Runner Ducks and for the Beijing grass carpet growing beneath it.

3. Thai Black Banana

Though getting the Thai Black Banana to fruit apparently takes quite an effort, in the edible landscape, I planted this lovely banana plant to reinforce the berm that helps to gather water from the roof of the house and direct it into the duck pond. The root system of the banana plant will also help to prevent erosion of the pond and provide some shade of the pond to reduce the growth of algae. Growing between 15 and 20 feet tall, it will also be a lovely canopy to keep the ducks out of sight of hateful overhead predators who think ducks are a tasty, organic snack.

4. Mekong Giant Banana

A truly large banana plant. For an area that is boggy or gets a lot of rain, the Mekong Giant Banana plant will help to crack open the soil and soak up that water to create a lovely grove of these tropical beasts. As with other banana plants, they also make excellent mulch and the trunks can also be used for animal fodder or to get your compost pile going as they will retain a lot of moisture needed to support he growth of the bacteria that break down materials into compost.

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