Ridgeway goes bananas

RIDGEWAY – Visitors arriving at the Ridgeway home of Melvin and Shirley Jones this time of year might feel like they’ve just arrived in Florida or another tropical paradise. The Jones’ meticulously landscaped yard showcases several mature banana trees across the front of the home. But these aren’t just banana trees. They are producing banana trees with tiered clusters of bananas hanging from the limbs.

Jones, 65, who admittedly has a green thumb, said he has been planting banana trees in his yard since a friend gave him one about five years ago.

Melvin Jones stands next to one of his several fruit-bearing banana trees. Photo/Barbara Ball

Last summer, Jones decided to research how to get the trees to grow fruit. Now he has about 100 bananas almost ready to pluck and more on the way.

“Like everyone else in this area, I used to cut these trees to the ground before the frost came and mulch them so they wouldn’t freeze. Then they would grow back in the spring,” he said. “They were pretty, but they never produced fruit.”

So last year, in early November, with a little research under his belt, Jones cut the trunks off about four to six feet above the ground, wrapped the trunks in insulated bubble wrap, sealed them securely and piled about three inches of mulch around the base of the trunk.

“When I removed the wrap the first part of April, the trees sprouted up again as they have done for years,” Jones said. “But this time, it was different. They started growing from where the limbs were cut back.”

As summer came on, Jones said, little bananas began popping out in clusters.

Encouraged by his success as a banana grower, Jones is moving forward in his venture, digging up sprouts that shoot up from the base of the trees and putting them in aged cow manure that he purchases at Lowes. He currently has about 30 potted sprouts of varying heights with more sprouting up every week.

Asked if he is planning to start a banana plantation in Ridgeway, Jones laughed.

Photo/Barbara Ball

“No, but I do plan to start a little banana tree business,” he said.

Jones hopes to start selling the potted banana trees, with prices ranging from $5 to $40, depending on the size of the plant.

“All it takes to grow them,” he explained, sitting on his porch in the cool shade of a banana tree, “is a lot of water, a lot of fertilizer and plenty of sunshine. You do that and you’ll have a tree full of bananas.”

Those interested in purchasing one of Jones’s banana plants can contact him at 803-718-0003.