I frequently come up with some pretty crazy ideas for our house and our garden (just ask my wife. . . and expect eye-rolling to accompany the answer). Growing sugar cane was one of them. Yes, we live in San Diego. . . . not really known for it’s sugar cane. No, none of our neighbors grow it, unless you count “Mexico” as a neighbor. This uniqueness makes it all the more fun to grow! Naturally, if I lived in Hawaii, I’d try to grow cacti, or maybe papyrus. The good news is if you live in a tropical or subtropical area (or anyplace that’s warm and has lots of water), you’re in luck!
Sugarcane has lots of positives:
1) Very easy to grow and propagate . . . great for plant killers
2) It looks cool, kinda like bamboo with longer leaves
3) If you grow it outside a tropical zone, your neighbors will refer to you as “eccentric”
4) You can eat it (or make juice from it). Yummy
5) Slicing the stalks into segments lengthwise makes them into great skewers for bbq’ing shrimp. Also yummy
6) Makes a good privacy screen to shield your crazy activities from the neighbors. Not yummy, but useful
It also has a couple negatives:
1) The leaves are sharp. Don’t plant a field of sugarcane and then run through it lightly clothed . . . you’ll die
2) Occasional dry leaf removal is required (see note above, use gloves and long sleeves)
3) Ants like it too
4) Starting your own residential sugar plantation and becoming a sugar baron may make neighbors jealous
Now that you’ve decided growing sugar cane is a brilliant idea, here’s how to grow it: First, you’ll need to find a stalk of sugarcane. Ethnic markets sometimes have them. You can also find it for sale with some online tropical plant nurseries. Make sure the stalk has at least one bud (you can identify the bud by a ring that goes around the stalk, similar to the rings on bamboo). This is where the new stalk will grow from. Take your prized cutting and lay it horizontally in your soil. If you’re planting in a container, plant it low enough in the pot that you can add a few inches of soil above it. For planting directly in the soil, just dig a trench a few inches deep and plant your cutting there. Cover with soil and keep things moist. Within a few weeks, you should see a new stalk called a ratoon sprout up. If you’re in a warm area and the plant gets water regularly, the sugarcane will grow fast. Within a year or two you might have a half dozen or more stalks growing in a clump. You can then do multiple harvests. If you harvest enough times, you may need to replant due to diminishing returns.
Next on my list of crazy sugarcane ideas. . . .I’d like to make some of our own Garapa! Ooh, and I just realized I could make rum from sugarcane juice. Anyone know where I can get a small sugarcane hand-press?