Q: I recently saw a viral video recommending that gardeners make banana water for plants. Is plantain water an effective natural fertilizer that can help my garden flourish? What are its benefits and how can I make my own at home?
A: If you want your garden to grow, then you know you need some kind of fertilizer. While commercial chemical or synthetic fertilizers can be convenient, they are often expensive, harmful to plants, and bad for the environment. Many gardeners turn to home recipes to create natural fertilizers from everyday products.
Looking for uses for banana peels after you’ve finished eating the fruit? Instead of throwing them in the trash, consider turning them into plant food. In theory, making plantain water could add some potassium and other nutrients to your garden soil. But regardless of how popular it is on the internet, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of banana water as a fertilizer. Read on to learn what banana water is, how to prepare it, and a better option for using banana peels in your garden.
What is banana water?
Just like compost tea, banana water or banana peel tea can potentially be used as a homemade fertilizer for your garden. Banana peels are packed with nutrients, including potassium, calcium, magnesium, and manganese, to help your plants thrive. There are a couple of different DIY recipes for making banana water rounds on social media platforms like TikTok. Please note, however, that the efficacy of these recipes is not supported by scientific research.
The first option is to soak the banana peels so that the nutrients leach into the water over time. Keep a pitcher or glass container almost full of water. As you eat bananas, add the peels to the water until the container is full or you run out of bananas. Some variations require chopping or pulverizing the shells in a blender with the intention of releasing as many nutrients into the water as possible. Cover the container to prevent mold from forming. After a few weeks, the shells will turn black and the water will darken. Once you notice this, strain the water out of the peels and apply the banana water to your plants.
Another option is to boil the banana water to create a banana peel tea. Start with the same process of soaking the shells in water. As with the soaking method, some recommend chopping or pulverizing the banana peels in a blender before boiling them. After a few days, boil the water for 30 to 45 minutes to further break down the fibers. Strain the liquid and let it cool. To apply banana peel tea, dilute the liquid in five parts regular water to one part tea.
You can also find recipes to make fermented plantain water for plants. Most call for equal parts very ripe bananas and dark brown sugar. Cut up the bananas, add a bit of brown sugar, and then store in an airtight container at room temperature for two weeks. Use regular water to dilute the fermented banana water before applying it to your garden.
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Banana peels are high in potassium, a macronutrient that supports plant growth.
The three most important macronutrients for plants are nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. They form the basis of store-bought fertilizers. Banana peels cannot provide all the potassium plants need, but harvesting all the nutrients you can from discarded peels is unlikely to harm the soil or plants. An important caveat: Since many bananas are grown with pesticides, you should always use organic bananas to prevent harmful chemicals from leaching into your garden.
Potassium helps plants efficiently move water and nutrients between their cells, establish healthy roots, create flowers, produce fruit, fight disease and survive periods of drought. Banana peels especially benefit flowering and fruit-bearing plants.
When plants don’t get enough potassium, they become less resistant to drought, pests, diseases, and other threats. If your plants are deficient in potassium, they will have certain symptoms. Look for curled leaf tips, yellowing between leaf veins and on the underside of the plant, brown spots or veins that form on older leaves, and purple spots that appear on the underside of the leaves. You may also notice that plant growth slows or stops altogether.
Traditional composting is still the best method of using banana peels to fertilize plants.
While the use of banana water and banana peel tea for plants is all the rage, it’s not clear whether steeping banana peels in water draws out enough potassium to make a difference. Since plants can only absorb nutrients that have been broken down by microbes and fungi, it is more beneficial to add the banana peels to the compost bin. While composting banana peels can take up to a year to break down into a usable, nutrient-rich plant food, it’s the best option to ensure your garden gets the most out of your efforts.
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