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Erich Sysak
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Hi, hoping for banana advice. I'm in wet dry tropics on lowland that floods, so dug swales to plant bananas, fruit trees, etc....I'm busy and do tend to neglect the swales a bit, but they have irrigation and are weeded every 3 to 5 weeks. About 20 percent grass around them.

They get chicken manure compost about every 30 days. Mulch decomposes extremely fast here.

Some have suggested the swales are too narrow? Not enough fertilizer? I can get 100 percent organic fertilizer, but have avoided it.

These bananas are 1 year old! There was a drought when they were first planted and just survived without any growth. They produce lots of pups, though....

Thank you.

Erich


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Casie Becker
gardener
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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What kind of advice are you looking for? Are you looking for advice on water management, soil fertility, banana varieties, improving fruiting, propagation...

 
Maureen Atsali
Posts: 294
Location: Western Kenya
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If you look at your "pups" (we call them suckers) do they have round, fat leaves, or sharp, narrow leaves?  These are a good indicator of corm health.  The narrow leaf, called a "sword sucker", indicates a good, strong, healthy corm.  It is getting all it needs from the corm and doesn't need big fleshy leaves.  These are the best kind to dig up and transplant, as they will give good fruit yeilds.  The sucker with fat round leaves is a water sucker.  These indicate a weaker corm, as the sucker needs big leaves to get more sun to support themselves.  These are not good for planting.  They grow slowly and produce substandard fruits. 

So some questions... Where did your bananas come from?  Tissue culture, water suckers or sword suckers? If you started with water suckers, you will get a slow start.

If your " pups" are water suckers, I would slash them down, they are taking energy from the corm which could be used for fruits.  They make good animal fodder and mulch.

Any time I get more than 4 sword  suckers, I remove a couple to plant elsewhere.  Leave a couple to replace the mature one, remove the rest to save that energy.

I would also say, be patient.  Our first bananas took about 16 to 18 months to mature and fruit.  Our soil is pretty crappy, so I figured that's why it took so long.  We also throw manure and mulch around ours.
 
Erich Sysak
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Maureen Atsali wrote:If you look at your "pups" (we call them suckers) do they have round, fat leaves, or sharp, narrow leaves?  These are a good indicator of corm health.  The narrow leaf, called a "sword sucker", indicates a good, strong, healthy corm.  It is getting all it needs from the corm and doesn't need big fleshy leaves.  These are the best kind to dig up and transplant, as they will give good fruit yeilds.  The sucker with fat round leaves is a water sucker.  These indicate a weaker corm, as the sucker needs big leaves to get more sun to support themselves.  These are not good for planting.  They grow slowly and produce substandard fruits. 

So some questions... Where did your bananas come from?  Tissue culture, water suckers or sword suckers? If you started with water suckers, you will get a slow start.

If your " pups" are water suckers, I would slash them down, they are taking energy from the corm which could be used for fruits.  They make good animal fodder and mulch.

Any time I get more than 4 sword  suckers, I remove a couple to plant elsewhere.  Leave a couple to replace the mature one, remove the rest to save that energy.

I would also say, be patient.  Our first bananas took about 16 to 18 months to mature and fruit.  Our soil is pretty crappy, so I figured that's why it took so long.  We also throw manure and mulch around ours.


Hi Maureen,

Thank you for your reply. My main question is about the width of the swale. I wonder if the banana needs a specific amount of space in 360 degrees bc all of the other health indications are very good. Lots of spear suckers. They all came from spears from a friend's farm. The soil is full of mycorizzhae, mulch, etc...

Patience, yes. Bananas take a long time. I must remind myself. They are lovely, though. And they make a little shade for the fruit trees which are just now poking up from beneath the banana leaves.

I have noticed they are about half as large as the bananas they originally came from at my friend's farm. He has them in pits dug out by a backhoe, so they have about equal space all around. I have mine on swales dug by hand so they are not as wide as they are long.

Just considering digging more and widening the areas, but this is a massive amount of work so I wonder if it is meaningful work!

Erich
 
Maureen Atsali
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Location: Western Kenya
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Hi Erich, I can't really advise about the swales, since we go the opposite route and plant ours in pits.  I am guessing you planted yours on berms because it is too wet to plant them down?

Are the nutrients getting a chance to get down to the corm, or might they be washing into the swales?  I have seen Indian banana farmers who dig a little ring around the banana, and fill it with whatever goodness they want to feed the banana.  Or if you have stones, you could build little stone circles. 

Another consideration - you mentioned a drought.  Bananas will go dormant during extreme weather.  They stop growing.  Thus it could set them back a couple months.  

Best of luck!
 
Erich Sysak
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Maureen Atsali wrote:Hi Erich, I can't really advise about the swales, since we go the opposite route and plant ours in pits.  I am guessing you planted yours on berms because it is too wet to plant them down?

Are the nutrients getting a chance to get down to the corm, or might they be washing into the swales?  I have seen Indian banana farmers who dig a little ring around the banana, and fill it with whatever goodness they want to feed the banana.  Or if you have stones, you could build little stone circles. 

Another consideration - you mentioned a drought.  Bananas will go dormant during extreme weather.  They stop growing.  Thus it could set them back a couple months.  

Best of luck!


Thanks, Maureen. Yes, it floods 4  or 5 months every year. ONly rice grown here in the past. We did have a drought. Maybe thats all it is...a few extra months...
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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I had my first real-life experience with bananas last few weeks. I spent my 'vacation' at a plantation with bananas, papayas, etc. at Curaçao (you can read more in my thread). The bananas there are planted in pits, with a 'ring' around the stem to keep the water in. But these bananas are on the slope of a hill, water will not stay there unless there is that 'ring'. I understood it takes time to get a yield of bananas. So patience is really important. Your bananas look better than these, in my opinion. But there's the 'trade winds' at the Caribbean island of Curaçao, so the banana leaves are torn by that almost daily stormy wind. And trees that aren't rooted firmly in the ground can be blown down suddenly ...

There they told me you can take any kind of 'sucker' to plant it as a new banana plant, but the 'water sucker' takes more time to grow bananas than the 'sword'. But this is not what I learned from youtube videos I saw on the subject. I heard more things different from my 'youtube education'; it might be the difference between permaculture and 'ordinary' organical agriculture.

If/when I start my permaculture experiments at Curaçao, I would like to try swales and other ways of water harvesting in the rainy season, because that's only a short period (about three months per year). My hostess is watering her plantation every day, with water from her deep well. Such wells are not everywhere ...  Having my own bananas (both the ones to eat 'raw' as the ones to bake or cook) is part of my 'dream'...

bananas and other fruit trees at Curaçao
 
Rene Nijstad
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Location: La Mesa, Cundinamarca, Colombia
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Hi Erich,

We are in a wet-dry tropical climate as well. Bananas planted on the swale mount don't do well here. The mount dries out quite quickly in the dry season and bananas like to have a lot of water. They also tend to fall more quickly when sticking out above the field. You could try planting some more below the swale mount, or inside the channel of the swale itself and compare if you see differences. Planting in pits as mentioned before also works. Because our terrain is rather steep, we plant them on terraces. On slopes we see the same problem as on the swale mounts, not enough water in the dry season and they fall over more often.
 
Erich Sysak
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Rene Nijstad wrote:Hi Erich,

We are in a wet-dry tropical climate as well. Bananas planted on the swale mount don't do well here. The mount dries out quite quickly in the dry season and bananas like to have a lot of water. They also tend to fall more quickly when sticking out above the field. You could try planting some more below the swale mount, or inside the channel of the swale itself and compare if you see differences. Planting in pits as mentioned before also works. Because our terrain is rather steep, we plant them on terraces. On slopes we see the same problem as on the swale mounts, not enough water in the dry season and they fall over more often.


Thank you, all, for posting, very helpful to pull all of this information in...Rene, do you have bananas in the water all rainy season? In rainy season here the mounts are filled with water. The water flows down the slope to the bottom of the farm, but is still constantly full of water for almost 4 months.
 
Rene Nijstad
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I don't know how much rain you normally get, so it could be way more than what we receive. We're getting on average about 1200-1400 mm per year I think, from October to December, then mostly a pause of about 2 months and then it rains again from March to May or a bit longer. We have bananas and plantain all over the land in lots of different circumstances, dry or wet, sheltered or open, on slopes, on terraces and below swales.

I'll upload 2 pictures. The first one shows plantain we got from our wettest spot, there water comes up out of the ground during the rainy season. It's been completely waterlogged for months, during the time the fruits developed. It clearly rather likes this super wet spot. The picture below shows the fruits from plants on slopes, where water retention is low, compared to what we get from the plants in terraces. Not super wet, just wet and then dryer during the dry times. Both of these were harvested at the end of the drought caused by last El Niño.
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Erich Sysak
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Rene Nijstad wrote:I don't know how much rain you normally get, so it could be way more than what we receive. We're getting on average about 1200-1400 mm per year I think, from October to December, then mostly a pause of about 2 months and then it rains again from March to May or a bit longer. We have bananas and plantain all over the land in lots of different circumstances, dry or wet, sheltered or open, on slopes, on terraces and below swales.

I'll upload 2 pictures. The first one shows plantain we got from our wettest spot, there water comes up out of the ground during the rainy season. It's been completely waterlogged for months, during the time the fruits developed. It clearly rather likes this super wet spot. The picture below shows the fruits from plants on slopes, where water retention is low, compared to what we get from the plants in terraces. Not super wet, just wet and then dryer during the dry times. Both of these were harvested at the end of the drought caused by last El Niño.


That is extraordinary. Rainy season has started here very early and I think I will try this. Thank you for the inspiration! May through September...lots of rain, about 1500...so not far off from your average.
 
Maureen Atsali
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Keep in mind that while bananas are thirsty, they don't like wet feet.  They will rot and get diseased if they are in standing water or an excessively soggy place.  I planted some in a rather swampy area.  They did fantastic in the drought, but rotted in the rains.  If you are planting in a soggy area, I think you did the right thing to put them up on the berms.
 
Erich Sysak
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Maureen Atsali wrote:Keep in mind that while bananas are thirsty, they don't like wet feet.  They will rot and get diseased if they are in standing water or an excessively soggy place.  I planted some in a rather swampy area.  They did fantastic in the drought, but rotted in the rains.  If you are planting in a soggy area, I think you did the right thing to put them up on the berms.


The berm height seems right, but we shall see about width. We will see this rainy season.
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