Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Day 22 - Banana Circle

After my long post about my graduation from vegetarianism this will be a short(ish) narrative about a small project we completed on Thursday.

This module in agroecology has been so packed with information and active learning projects, it's hard to narrow it down to what I should include here. We planted a garden with the full moon (very good time to plant), built a compost pile, cultivated land for planting, and harvested goods to take to the market. This is week four and we are finally learning some of the real basics of organic farming, but I will get further into why that is tomorrow when I talk about Ag Fair.

The most unique technique that I learned this week is the banana circle. Banana circles are a way of creating a healthy garden in a dry season or possibly in less-than-ideal soil. Banana is an interesting plant because of its high water content. I knew that you can cut the banana shoots and limbs and use them to fertilize plants, but I was not aware of its ability to bring water to the surface for use by other plants. Creating a banana circle is pretty easy and with basic tending it can nurture a larger fruit tree without much maintenance.

Here is a nice resource for building a banana circle. We started with a very dry, flat piece of the area outside the community center. The exhausting part of the project was pulling all the woody weeds. It was hard work on a hot day, but that is part of what I’m doing here, appreciating the value of hard work. After pulling the weeds we went to work digging a hole to plant the banana and small fruit tree in the center. Around the outside of the circle and in the berm (pile of soil we dug out of the hole) we planted some nitrogen-fixing plants such as pigeon peas, crotalaria, and daikon. These plants should grow quickly and hold the soil from erosion.

The final product is a wide circular, lowered bed with a high berm around the outside. The plants radiate from the central banana arranged for maximum cooperation. The soil is layered with compost and mulch to slowly break down and at fertility.

I’m planning on employing this technique in Wendy’s yard project, but modified into a horseshoe shape with the berm on the lower side of the slope to catch run-off and the ends attached to a swale for increasing the water absorption in the rest of the garden design.

I can’t wait to get to work this weekend! Hard work and satisfying work.

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