Banana Circles in Palomino - Permaculture Project I

It's my birthday in the sunny paradise of Palomino, Colombia.  Waves roar in the distance; cocktails and coconuts await.  So why am I digging holes in 100-degree heat?

Because today we're planting a tropical fruit garden, a celebration that's easy on both wallet and liver.  It's also a bit more fulfilling; papaya, banana, pineapple and fertile soil will thrive for years.  The joy of drinking turns to misery by morning.   And most of all because there are skills and knowledge to gain--banana circles, swales and tree cuttings--and to share.  So here`s what we learned of tropical gardening. of what to plant and how to plant it.

Papaya suppored by gliricidia sepium stake, now regrowing. 

Where to plant..
Where there is space.  The hostal, Ocelote, reserves prime real estate for campsites and public spaces, so somewhere out of the way.   A low point along the back fence offers more moisture and fertililty than the rest of the barren, sandy grounds.  And the two cabanas flanking the site offers shelter from ocean winds and equatorial sun so young plants can establish.

After digging
After planting and mulching

How to Plant..
Ocelote has sandy soil that drains well.  It has plenty of mulch, as workers regularly rake leaves from throughout the hostal grounds and pile them out back.  And most of all it has banana clusters with excess young pups.   Seems like a perfect site for banana circles.  Large pits full of mulch, they hold moisture and generate nutrients for the plants growing around the edges.  [10]
  • Dig circles 6' (2 m) wide and 2' (60 cm) deep.  
  • With excavated soil, pile in mounds around outside of cirlce.
  • Fill pit with mulch.  Keep moist.
  • Plant mounds.  Mulch.
Photo Credit: P.D.C. Handbook

-Preserve original top layer of vegetation to reuse around base or bare spots.

-Loosen soil at bottom of pit for extra root and moisture penetration.

Shaving moringa cuttings for transplant.
Tea anyone?
What to Plant..
Whatever is around.  We propagated a dozen tropical fruits and trees; seedlings from beside the local fruit vendor, cuttings from nearby live fences, shoots from the neighbors' platano and aloe.  Planting the circles only took a little exploration and online research.  [External links below.]
  1. Bananas - From suckers (pups).  From a mature banana cluster, dig up a young sucker 2-3' (60-90 cm), preserving as much corm as possible.  Transplant in well-draining soil 2-3' (60-90 cm) apart.  
  2. Pineapple - From tops.  Twist-off top of fruit, remove lower leaves to expose 3 cm (1'') of stalk, stick in ground.   
  3. Papaya - From seedlings or seed.  Remove pulp from fresh seeds and sow thoroughly on mounds, later thin out smaller sprouts.  Transplant carefully, minimizing root disturbance, ideally on a rainy day. 
  4. Watermelon - From seedlings or seed.  Transplant or direct sow 2' (60 cm) apart on mounds of mulch circle.  Heavy feeders, requiring rich and well-draining soil.  
  5. Aloe vera - From suckers (pups).  From mature aloe plant, dig up a young sucker and transplant.  
  6. Tomato - From seed. Squeeze seeds out of a fresh tomato directly into beds.  Cover lightly with soil and water regularly.  
  7. Moringa - From cuttings - Cut branches at least 1'' (2.5 cm) wide and 3-6' (1-2 m); use opportunity to shape tree.  Plant in hole 3' (1 m) wide and deep with well-draining bottom (fill bottom with sand if not).  
  8. Neem - From cuttings.  Cut 4'' (10 cm) of new growth from branch tips.  Remove lower leaves and stick in humid soil.  
  9. Gliricidia sepium - From cuttings. Cut branches 1-3'' (2-6 cm) wide and 1-3' (30-100 cm) long.  Remove lower leaves and ''wound'' planted end to promote root sprouts.  
Cuttings left to right: morgina, mata raton, neem.
See Trees of the Andes
Thanks to everyone who came out to plant.  Best birthday ever.
Stay updated at Next Succession Facebook.

See long list of legume trees, arboles leguminoso, in the area.

External Links
[1] Dividing Banana PupsGardening Knowhow.
[2] How to Propagate PineappleEdible Tropicals.
[3] How to Propagate PineappleSFGate.
[4] WatermelonOld Farmer's Almanac.
[5] Aloe Vera Plant PropagationGardening Knowhow.
[6] Growing TomatoesGardener's Supply Company.
[7] How to Grow the Moringa TreeTrees for Life.
[8] Neem PropagationSF Gate.
[9] Growing Gliricidia, NFTA.
[10] Banana

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