A revolution is upon us in many ways. From what I can see, more and more people are waking up and getting invested in the environment or growing their own food. I have just returned to Australia from six months volunteering on permaculture farms and eco-retreat centres in Costa Rica. The trip was absolutely incredible, I had the pleasure of living in community with about 40 uniquely inspirational beings over three equally different locations. The first place i stayed was an eco-retreat centre called Cascada Elysiana. A beautiful slice of jungle just outside of the tiny town of Platanillo, with a stunning 70 foot waterfall on the property, just a 10 minute walk through the jungle. Cascada Elysiana is where I saw my very first Banana Circle, and I loved it!
The concept of a banana circle was new to me when i arrived but when I laid eyes on the monstrous bunches of bananas hanging from each of the 6 thick banana trees encircling a giant hole in the ground filled with organic kitchen scraps and leaf matter from pathway cleanups, I knew it was a stroke of genius! And to top it all off , the pipes from the kitchen sinks were run right into the centre of the circle.
The grey water that runs from the sinks to the circle (an eco friendly dishwashing detergent is used) helps to speed up decomposition process and waters the trees. The decomposing leaf matter and organic kitchen scraps feed the trees all their nutrients and the banana trees grow extra fast with delicious bunches of bananas hanging from their trunks. This is one of those epic multi-faceted permaculture gardening processes i spoke about in my last post “What Permaculture Means”.
How to Make A Banana Circle
- Dig a large hole around 1-1.5 metres (around 4 feet) in diameter and 300mm deep (1 foot). Place all of the excess dirt into mounds around the outside of the circular hole.
- Plant Banana trees in the mound around the perimeter of the hole.
- Start using the hole as your compost pile (add organic waste, leaf matter, livestock manure and grass clippings).
- (Optional step) Make adaptions to your pipes from the kitchen sink or the washing machine. Make sure you are using an eco friendly soap if you choose to take this step. Utilising grey water, waters the plants and is a great use of recycling and utilising renewable resources. If re-working your pipes isn’t an option, then you will have to water the trees and compost manually.
- Feel free to interplant pineapples or other shrubby plants in between the banana trees.
How to get Banana Trees
If you live in a tropical or subtropical region, you will be able to grow bananas all year round. You can buy young trees at most nurseries or on Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji or Craigslist, depending on your location. Or if you know someone with banana trees you can ask them for either a pup that is growing next to a mother tree, (dig out around the pup being careful not to damage the roots and the gently untangle the roots from the mother tree, refill the hole and pot up the pup for safe keeping until you return to your own circle) or from a root stock of a recently harvested tree, (Dig the root stock out and replant it in your circle). About 6 trees is perfect for aesthetics but you can start with one and use the propagation methods i just explained over the next few years to get more.
How to Harvest Bananas
Harvesting bananas is best done in the early morning before it gets too hot. You will need a sharp saw or preferably a machete. Cut down the banana tree at the base when the bunch is still green (the bunch will be too heavy to cut off the tree whilst it is still standing and banana trees will only fruit once per growth. But don’t feel bad for cutting the tree down because a new one will sprout from the existing root stock and grow another fruiting tree. Once the tree is felled, cut the bunch off the tree and hang it somewhere shady to ripen. To hang the bananas we used a screw on the underside of a staircase and some bailing tie. Make a large loop with the bailing tie and thread it underneath the third or fourth layer of bananas and around the stem, this will be strong enough to hold the weight of the bunch without damaging the goods.
Fun Facts About Bananas
- There are over 100 different varieties of banana but we only mass produce two of them. Ladyfinger and Cavendish.
- Banana trees are actually classed as a type of grass.
- You can use banana leaves as plates, fans, shades for seedlings, and to steam cook tamales.
- You can use banana peels as a potassium boost directly in your garden or house pots, Or leave them to leech in a bucket of water for a day and then water your garden with it.
- You can hold a banana on both ends and pull outwards and it will break perfectly in half without damage (almost every time). Great for splitting with a friend.
- If you harvest a bunch of bananas in the morning they will ripen from the bottom up, but if you do it in the heat of the day they will all ripen at once.
At the end of my trip in Costa Rica I met a girl from the states at a pizza night and we chatted for hours about how amazing Banana circles are and we vowed to start the Banana Revolution to get everyone involved. This post is dedicated to Hannah. The Banana Revolution has Begun!!! I would also like to give a special mention to https://www.cascadaelysiana.com/ and MAK for letting me stay with you for 6 weeks and play in your gardens 🙂 Thank you to everyone who reads this and I hope it gets you as excited about Bananas and growing food as i am! Please check out my other posts for more information on other topics.