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Plant pots and food serving dishes made from banana leaves.

 
Posts: 9002
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I absolutely hate the plastic pots that I see littering many gardens. I thought, there must be some sort of leaf or bark that could be made into a suitable pot. So I looked up banana leaf pots on Google Images and sure enough, there are a few others just as smart as me.

I was searching specifically for quite deep pots that could be used for young tree starts, so that the taproot could develop normally. I didn't find any of those, but it's pretty simple. A banana leaf that is 2 feet across , has a section of material that radiates one foot from the central rib. It is really easy to cut along that rib to get a fairly flat piece of material a foot wide and up to 8 feet long. The leaf can then either be sliced or torn to make one foot segments of any desired width. They tear quite easily from the side of the leaf toward the central rib. Many will already be torn in that dimension because of the wind. Then it's just a matter of rolling it in the shape of a paper towel roll, and pinning the edge together. This can be done with a toothpick size piece of bamboo or elastic bands could be used.

I envision pots that stand a foot tall with a diameter of about 3 in. So we would want to tear the leaf into segments that are 1 foot square, so there's room for overlap at the joint.

Tall skinny pots would not be self-supporting. Instead they would be packed tightly together inside large baskets or on starter tables that have a raised edge. The young starts could be kept in this sort of pot until their taproots begin to reach the bottom or until the banana leaf begins to decay. Then it's time to plant them out. There's no need to remove the pot, since it will disintegrate and become part of the compost that we're planting into.

Pots can also be made for vegetable starts. Something 3 inches tall is enough , so you get 3 pots out of every 1 foot segment. Banana leaves are often shredded in the wind, so pieces as narrow as 4 in could be used for small pots. But there is absolutely no shortage in areas where bananas grow , so no need to try to use every little bit of that resource. Most leaves will yield 10 or more of the 1 foot pots and 30 or more 3 inch pots.
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Food serving dishes

It is common throughout the tropics for some types of food to be served on a leaf or in a leaf bowl.

In the Philippines, I bought some spicy peanuts from a lady who had made her own leaf bowls from the bananas that grew in her yard. She told me that she does not like all of the plastic litter that plagues her city. I also bought a sticky rice dessert dish, that had been cooked in a banana leaf bowl. The perfect container for street food. Biodegradable, and not in the way that those biodegradable plastics work. I attended a private get together at someone's home and she served things in banana bowls. It wasn't so much about avoiding washing dishes as it was about making sure that her dishes didn't end up spread all over the yard or taken home with somebody. There was a thick stew and a sticky rice dish. Relatives were sent home with the excess, and there was no need to tell them that they must bring the Tupperware back. :-)
.......
We don't all have access to banana leaves. But there are many other types of large leaf that could be made into some sort of planting pot , probably not the big ones that I need. I will make mine in the Philippines, since that's where these young trees are needed. Where I live in Canada, we have several trees that have a nice big leaf. Unfortunately they aren't available in the spring when they are needed. So you might have to dry, press and rehydrate in the spring. A bit tedious. We do have birch bark and I have rolled it into that exact shape. Paper or cardboard could work. Not quite as elegant or as green , but not bad.

If you have any other pictures of leaf bowls and how they are constructed, drop them here. I'm still shopping for land, so you won't see my pots anytime soon. I will be there within two months, so I may mess with some of the material, as a test.
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Dale Hodgins
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Loofah. There are some very long loofah gourds that grow nice and straight if you grow them on a trellis. They could be stuffed with soil and used as pots.

Bamboo. The Big Timber bamboos can be anywhere between 4 and 6 in in diameter. High quality stuff has thick walls. But if it's harvested in the green state, right after it shoots for the sky, the walls are quite thin and it really rots fast. Good enough for pots and useless for almost anything else. There are also inferior grades of bamboo that are treated as a weed. These things can be had for the labor of cutting them.
 
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Location: Southeast Brazil
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Dale Hodgins wrote: There are also inferior grades of bamboo that are treated as a weed. These things can be had for the labor of cutting them.



Bambusa vulgaris. The yellow ones with thin green strips.  My grandparents used to grow coffee seedlinds in them. It will get rot in a few months on tropical climate.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Sergio Cunha wrote:

Dale Hodgins wrote: There are also inferior grades of bamboo that are treated as a weed. These things can be had for the labor of cutting them.



Bambusa vulgaris. The yellow ones with thin green strips.  My grandparents used to grow coffee seedlinds in them. It will get rot in a few months on tropical climate.



Thank you Sergio. I'm assuming that they cut them so the nodes were missing in the bamboo. That way there would be no bottom of the pot. It would just be a cylinder. Is that correct? I will cut mine with a miter saw. I imagine your grandfather used a slightly more labor-intensive method.

Wikipedia says it rots fast --- Because of high carbohydrate content, stems are susceptible to attacks from fungi and insects such as powderpost beetles.

Bamboo is also one of those things you want to harvest at the right time when the sap is low, or there's too much nutrient in it and the bugs will like it. If you cut it wet, the anti feeding properties drip out of it. So basically I would want to do everything against what is normally done with bamboo to make it last. I might even soak my cylinders in manure tea, prior to filling them with potting soil. It takes about three months for many tree seedlings to be ready to plant out.

With the young trees contained in a cylinder, I could see planning things so that the edge sits above grade. That way any critters that like to lop off young plants would find a barrier.
 
gardener
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Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7A
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Great post. Appled.

I grow musa basjoo (Japanese fiber banana) here in zone 7A-7B.  This is an extremely hardy banana plant that doesn't produce edible fruit, but it does produce lots of psuedostems and leaves.  
I started to grow them years ago for the tropical appearance, but discovered they are great for producing mulch material every fall.  Also the traditional uses for making cloth and such are yet another use (I've made short ropes)

So, now you've given me a third use- pots for young plants.  Though admittedly, in this zone they don't really start producing leaves in quantity till mid June or so.  Still good for starting some fall crops.  
 
Dale Hodgins
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Thanks Cris. I had never heard of fiber banana. This got me thinking about what else they might make from the fibers. Turns out they can be used for making rope, baskets,  mats and lots of other things. And the waste from eating bananas can also be used.

In this video, they are making those things, but also making dishes and cutlery. This stuff is going to be very lightweight and it would be great to see it used for those airline meals where they throw away so much plastic. Completely compostable airline food.

 
Sergio Cunha
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Location: Southeast Brazil
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I'm assuming that they cut them so the nodes were missing in the bamboo. That way there would be no bottom of the pot. It would just be a cylinder. Is that correct?



They didn't completily break the bottom. They cut the culm in pieces  about 2 meters long and then used an iron rod to break up all the internodes at once. Then cut it in smaller pieces forming pots. Then they enlarged the hole at the bottom with a small hammer. I guess the hole made with the iron rod make the internode weaker, avoidind splitting when they used the hammer.
 
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Cris , your fibre banana planting has set off an idea for me , seen this pic and its now looking possible to copy this here in ireland ---as well as rolling out plates from a cut down stem ---as novilty braai plates during our brief bbq season
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