Post #8 – Banana/Papaya Circle takes shape at Baan Thai

July 20-22, 2011 – Although these days were overcast and cloudy days in Northern Thailand, it certainly didn’t but a damper on our power to co-create our world and our home at Baan Thai. The first element to take shape and to be built is a “Banana/Papaya Circle”. What is a banana circle and what is it’s purpose or use?

What makes a Banana/Papaya Circle work so well

The design is basically a circular swale, and it works well because there’s only one place to mulch, feed and water, which serves many plants. It’s a good spot to put all your kitchen scraps, to use as a handy compost heap, and it can also take cardboard and paper. It can make use of excess water run-off, or if water is scarce, greywater can be directed to the circle so water is reused.

On top of that, bananas grow well in a circle, and bear bunches on the outside. Both bananas and papayas are gross feeders and thrive on nutrients from the decaying organic matter in the central hole.

So you get ample production of fruit, and root crops. You can also plant climbing plants like beans to grow up the banana stalks once they are tall. Volunteer plants like pumpkins and tomatoes are likely to spring up from vegetable scraps in the compost.
Curtsey of the “Permaculture Research Institute of Australia”

Steps to building our Banana/Papaya Circle:

STEP 1 – First was to decide on the best place for our banana/Papaya circle, then proceeded to draw out a 3 meter circle on the ground. Banana/Papaya circles make great overflows for rainwater tanks, washing machine output, or any other waste grey-water that doesn’t contain harsh chemicals.

STEP 2 – Then comes the hardest most labour intensive part of building a banana/papaya circle, digging the large hole 3 meters in diameter and approximately 1 meter deep. Placing the hole soil contents around the perimeter to form a mound. At the end, it all looks like a bit like a big donut.

I also ran a few bamboo poles through the dirt mound at ground level to collect rainwater runoff, alternatively you can dig a narrow inlet at ground level to collect the rainwater runoff. I then proceeded to place stones at the base of the outer rim of the circular dirt mound. Then I cover the whole earth circle with wet paper/cardboard, or banana leaves is good as well.

STEP 3 – Acquire some bananas! Chose small banana suckers that are easy to pull up and are about 1.5 feet in height. You will need 3-4 banana suckers. One doesn’t have to be worried about pulling them out without soil around them, they are very hardy and will take to their new surroundings easily. You will also need 3-4 papaya trees.

STEP 4 – Evenly distribute your banana suckers and papaya trees around the perimeter of the hole at approximately 60cm apart and plant them into the mound of soil you have created, and water them in well adding compost and organic fertilizers into and around the planting hole. You can also plant other things on the sides of the ridge, such as pineapple, herbs, ginger, tomatoes, beans, etc. In the inside of the circle you could plant water loving taro or ginger.

STEP 5 – Fill the centre hole with rough mulch material, including kitchen scraps, any vegetation you can find, such as course twigs, leaves, straw, decaying logs, rice husks, etc. Today I pruned the mango trees and filled the banana/papaya circle with the branches and leaves…two in one…what efficiency!

Add scatterings of manure, ash, lime, dolomite or other fertilisers. Overfill into a dome; it will sink down over time. Mulch really well around the bananas too, so that in the end you can’t see a difference between the raised mound where the bananas are planted, and the hole.  Keep plenty of mulch in the hole always.

STEP 6 – Empty as much water into the hole as you can. The bananas and papaya will suck it up and grow according to how much they get! Put all your kitchen scraps, garden vegetation, etc into the banana circle. They use it as fertilizer.

Each banana plant will give you one bunch of bananas. It will never fruit again afterwards, so cut it down at the base, mulch all of it up, and feed it back into the hole. Each banana will throw suckers as it is growing. Cut them all off until it has fruited. Once it has fruited, allow one sucker per plant to grow. Decide which direction around the perimeter you want your bananas to grow (it doesn’t matter which way you go, but be consistent with all the plants) and allow one sucker per tree to grow.

When your banana bears fruit, leave the bell on the plant and pick the bananas as you need them. Put the green bananas in a brown paper bag with an onion.  This will ripen them. If you take the bell off, they will all ripen at the same time and you may have more than you can handle.

As I was leaving Baan Thai, a beautiful butterfly crossed my path and landed next to motorbike, it was amazingly colourful, and had such a striking pattern of colours…take a look at this beauty!

Quote: You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you. ~ Sri Ram

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