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Question About Banana suckers, croms, and banana circles

Andrew Michaels


Joined: Sep 05, 2008
Posts: 73
A Few questions about growing bananas:

So my impression is that one crom grows a single sucker which becomes a shoot which grows a single stalk of bananas. I know that while the shoot is maturing new suckers grow from the crom as replacements for the soon-to-be-dead shoot, and that you can pull up those suckers and replant them. Those replanted suckers will grow into shoots of their own right when you replant them. Right so far?

1) So do the transplanted suckers eventually grow their own crom underground from which new bananas can be grown in turn?

2) Will a crom eventually die off and produce no more banana suckers? How long does it take?

3) If you leave the extra suckers growing from the crom will one crom then support multiple shoots producing multiple stalks of bananas? Are they all smaller as a result?

Banana Circles:

A lot of people like growing bananas in banana circles because the plants are pretty greedy for compost, which you can throw into the middle of the sunken circle, and the beds raised from the soil extracted from the center will make a nice mound around the hole, which bananas like.

4) Do you generally only grow one type of banana in one circle, or would it not be better to mix in 2-4 different types for each? I know bananas are prone to disease, so I figured diversification would be a good idea.

5) I know that another crop growing from a plant similar to bananas is the papaya, which also likes to be grown in circles. Is it a good idea to mix the papayas and the bananas, or will they interfere with each other? Are there other fruit trees that good good in mixes?

6) Seems like there is always space around the banana plants. Has anyone tried smaller plants and vegetables around the raised mounds? Lettuce? Spinach?

Thanks.



Terri Matthews


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 405
Location: Eastern Kansas
    
    3
I have a clump of hardy bananas in zone 5 in dappled shade.

As is fitting for a plant that suckers next to the trunk of the parent plant, the suckers do tolerate some shade. As the bananaws get taller (they grow to 7' in a season) the spreading leaves do get more sun.

Every year the bananas die back either to the ground or to the top of the heap of mulch that I protect them with: the trees grows better if they get a head start with the mulch, of course. And, I have never gotten any ripe bananas: our growing season is too short.

I have never tried to transplant the suckers. I have a single little patch because it makes me smile to see bananas in zone 5!!!
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
I worked bannanas in hI and Australia a bit.

1)stalks can be cut from the corm and transplanted to moist sand, but I never did this. IN the operation in worked the stalk of the old tree was cut down and the keiki (shoot) that was closest to the north was allowed to grow; all others (ussualy 2-3) were cut.

2)corm life can be 15+ years.

3) each stalk will only produce 1 cluster of bananas. a corm will shoot out 2-4 stalks each year; they are thinned to one stalk in commercial operations.

4) I dont know the answers top 4-6, but I would suggest that bamboo does well with banana, if your into that.

im reading loads of stuff on guilding banana with an overstory of nutmeg, breadfruit, comingled with some citrus, and understory of yam, manioc, sweetpotatoes. and I imagine coffee and chocolate. having only worked the bananas, and then before I really started looking at guilds, I do wonder about the soil preferences of these plants, and suggest thats a good place to start- what kind of soil do bananas really thrive in and who else makes, lives in that soil.
Andrew Michaels


Joined: Sep 05, 2008
Posts: 73
So is it that the crom has all 2-4 growing at once, or do they emerge sequentially as the older ones mature and die?

Deston Lee wrote:

3) Each stalk will only produce 1 cluster of bananas. A corm will shoot out 2-4 stalks each year; they are thinned to one stalk in commercial operations.


Cris Bessette
volunteer

Joined: May 20, 2011
Posts: 669
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 8A
    
  29
A Few questions about growing bananas:



>>>>>So my impression is that one crom grows a single sucker which becomes a shoot which grows a single stalk of bananas. I know that while the shoot is maturing new suckers grow from the crom as replacements for the soon-to-be-dead shoot, and that you can pull up those suckers and replant them. Those replanted suckers will grow into shoots of their own right when you replant them. Right so far?

Corm. not crom
Each corm will grows 1 or more suckers, I have a two year old plant that has 4 right now. "pseudostem" is the correct word for "stem" in the case of banana plants. No, you cannot "pull them up" you have to cut them from the main corm leaving a piece of the main corm attached, this is the source of energy and roots for the new plant.

1) So do the transplanted suckers eventually grow their own crom underground from which new bananas can be grown in turn?

Yes.

2) Will a crom eventually die off and produce no more banana suckers? How long does it take?

generally some years, though by that time new corms will have formed around the original plant.

3) If you leave the extra suckers growing from the crom will one crom then support multiple shoots producing multiple stalks of bananas? Are they all smaller as a result?

From what I have heard, only one pseudostem on a corm will produce fruit at a time. That stem then dies and another one takes its place.

4) Banana Circles:

A lot of people like growing bananas in banana circles because the plants are pretty greedy for compost, which you can throw into the middle of the sunken circle, and the beds raised from the soil extracted from the center will make a nice mound around the hole, which bananas like.

I've never heard that myself, though in the wild, bananas tend to grow outward from the original plant and the patch will move around somewhat.

5) Do you generally only grow one type of banana in one circle, or would it not be better to mix in 2-4 different types for each? I know bananas are prone to disease, so I figured diversification would be a good idea.

Diversity is a good idea. The Musa Cavendish (Grand Nain) banana we get in the grocery store will possibly be wiped out in the near future because of the lack of diversity in South American banana plantations. It is being threatened by a variant of the same disease that wiped out the Gros Micheal which used to be the grocery store favorite.

6) I know that another crop growing from a plant similar to bananas is the papaya, which also likes to be grown in circles. Is it a good idea to mix the papayas and the bananas, or will they interfere with each other? Are there other fruit trees that good good in mixes?

Again, I've never heard of the circle thing, but I can't imagine it would be a bad idea. Unless you are in a tropical zone, generally you would want to have as much energy to go to growing the banana plants so that they can produce fruit before the growing season is over. Mixing other plants in will cause some of the soil nutrients to be taken away from the banana plants.

6) Seems like there is always space around the banana plants. Has anyone tried smaller plants and vegetables around the raised mounds? Lettuce? Spinach?

ditto per #5


Here is some good info:
http://www.greenhousebusiness.com/banananinfo.html



Saybian Morgan
volunteer

Joined: Apr 22, 2011
Posts: 580
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
    
    8
Banana Circle + Guild "Subtropics"
http://www.permaculture.org.au/images/perkins_banana_circle.jpg
http://treeyopermaculture.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/untitled5.png
http://treeyopermaculture.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/untitled6.png

The guild if the plant's dont fight you suggest sounds like a great stack with sufficient water, although I think the banana circle bill mollison suggested is pretty dam packed. But I've seen all those plant's you suggest thriving in an abandoned garden in the tropic's so I dont see why with a 1 meter mulch pit everyone wouldn't get on.
                        


Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 34
Location: Big Island, Hawaii
I'm on the big island of Hawaii, subtropic with ample (100"+) rainfall.

Bananas here can produce many bunches from one corm. I wouldn't recommend planting many vareities in one patch. I generally would say 15 ft spacing between patches. I start patches as 3-10 individual "keiki" (Hawaiian for child). If the keiki doesn't have a big root mass I cut off all the leaves and psuedostem about 3ft from the top of the corm. Expect a well fell banana circle with an interplant to turn into a solid clump of bananas. Some plants (taro, tumeric) grow even in the middle of an established patch, but bananas are for the most part greedy and don't lend themselves to understory. Vines (squash, legumes) climb well in bananas if planted a  outside theirn root zone, but the root zone expands each year. I wouldn't reccomend bamboo and bananas being planted any closer than 10ft, and much more for big bamboo. Mollisons banana circles are too dense for this area unless you're using it as a pit toilet. Papayas get choked out before they can produce. I've had best luck with n-fixing plants And comfrey, lemongrasss etc to build soil as the bananas grow into the circle

manage your bananas well and they will produce. Cut away and replant all but 2-3 of the shoots that emerge from the mother corm - it will produce bigger, twister bunches. But then double this number next year, leaving 4-6 shoots in a second year pAtch. After a few years the patch will self regulate and produce fewer, stronger shoots. But, even old bananas patches like to be slashed to a few main psuedostems every few years 

Tl;dr plant bananas densely, don't expect an understory, and feed them as much as possible. Bananas can be eaten ripe, cooked, dried, feedto poultry. The wastes (stalk, leaves, and peels) are relished by livestock. IMHO it's a waste of time and energy to crop bananas as anything but very dense, well fed patches.   


Big Island, Hawaii, 2,000 ft elevation, 200+ inches yearly rainfall.
Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka Aina I Ka Pono
Andrew Michaels


Joined: Sep 05, 2008
Posts: 73
Thanks for the great information Kaiwiki.

Do you use the term patch and circle interchangeably? That's what I got out of your post.

So your patches of 3-10 croms - are they arranged around a sunken circle or just planted below the regular surface level in a tight group? How far apart would you say the croms are planted?

If you don't have a sunken circle, you just sort of throw any extra compost among the psuedostems?

Kaiwiki wrote:
I'm on the big island of Hawaii, subtropic with ample (100"+) rainfall.

Bananas here can produce many bunches from one corm. I wouldn't recommend planting many vareities in one patch. I generally would say 15 ft spacing between patches. I start patches as 3-10 individual "keiki" (Hawaiian for child). If the keiki doesn't have a big root mass I cut off all the leaves and psuedostem about 3ft from the top of the corm. Expect a well fell banana circle with an interplant to turn into a solid clump of bananas. Some plants (taro, tumeric) grow even in the middle of an established patch, but bananas are for the most part greedy and don't lend themselves to understory. Vines (squash, legumes) climb well in bananas if planted a  outside theirn root zone, but the root zone expands each year. I wouldn't reccomend bamboo and bananas being planted any closer than 10ft, and much more for big bamboo. Mollisons banana circles are too dense for this area unless you're using it as a pit toilet. Papayas get choked out before they can produce. I've had best luck with n-fixing plants And comfrey, lemongrasss etc to build soil as the bananas grow into the circle

manage your bananas well and they will produce. Cut away and replant all but 2-3 of the shoots that emerge from the mother corm - it will produce bigger, twister bunches. But then double this number next year, leaving 4-6 shoots in a second year pAtch. After a few years the patch will self regulate and produce fewer, stronger shoots. But, even old bananas patches like to be slashed to a few main psuedostems every few years 

Tl;dr plant bananas densely, don't expect an understory, and feed them as much as possible. Bananas can be eaten ripe, cooked, dried, feedto poultry. The wastes (stalk, leaves, and peels) are relished by livestock. IMHO it's a waste of time and energy to crop bananas as anything but very dense, well fed patches.   
                        


Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 34
Location: Big Island, Hawaii
when i say "patch" i mean a dense grouping of bananas. I think a banana circle, planted at first with intercrops, will inevitably become a banana patch, because the intercrops will be crowded out unless the bananas are thinned out every few months. of course, thinning bananas results in lots of new banana keiki to plant.

to maximise first/second year production, space the individual corms in a new patch 4 ft (or more for very tall bananas). that would be in a triangle pattern or circle, not as a grid. The idea is to be able to fell the psuedostem away from the center of the patch, so that it doesn't damage other plants. clumping the planting makes best use of space, and frees of space for intercrop (between patches, not within them). Plant only one type of bananas per patch, preferably from the same mother corm, so the corms can easily graft together underground when they meet. I usually dig a shallow and very wide pit, like a large dish shape, and mix in as much compost as possible - bananas have an extensive mat root system that stays in the top couple feet of soil. if possible, they should be placed to collect water - maybe lead swales into the pit, or position it in a natural drainage channel - even in the middle of seasonal streams - bananas will self propagate downstream if placed in flood areas. If planting on a slope, be sure to dig out the uphill side and mound up the downhill side to create a dish that will hold any water running down the hill. if planting along a swale line, stagger the bananas so you have two rows alternating like this: .'.'.'.'.

if you can't dig a sunken pit, you can just as easily mound up, althou you will probably lose production unless you keep it very wet. I've grown bananas on top of lava or concrete just by building up a big mulch pile then planting a few corms into it. water becomes much more of an issue in this case. bananas can handle short term waterlogging and flooding pretty well, but stop growing if it gets dry. very thirsty plants.

when spacing patches, remember that harvesting involves cutting down an entire psuedostem. tall bananas with heavy bunches (100lbs of bunch tipping over on a 20ft psuedostem gets some momentum going) are like wrecking balls when they fall. grow only short varieties (short enough to cut the stalk off without toppling the psuedostem) in or around other plants that shouldn't be damaged. otherwise, leave lots of space to topple the plant - a good usage of this space would be green manure crops that are slashed anyway, or vine crops like squash or sweet potato that can handle being smashed. Chicken range would also be good, althou they will destroy young banana plants - don't let them get to your banana plant until it is well established. cut the psuedostem halfway through, and then slowly keep slicing until the plant begins to fall over-stop slicing once it gets moving. It's a real bummer to cut down a bunch only to have it smash into the ground and scatter all over the place. Taller varieties can be planted next to sheds or buildings, and the bunch can then be harvested while standing on the roof - perfect if you've got a pit compost toilet outhouse with taller bananas planted around it. In sunny areas, a light shade overstory like acacia sp. or other NFT's could serve the same purpose. bananas can produce well in heavy shade, so long as they are very well fed and watered.

if you've only got one piece of corm, and want to grow more starts, plant it and let all the shoots that come off of it grow - this will reduce the yield of fruit (probably won't get a bunch the first year), but you can turn one piece of corm into 5-7+ plants in a year, which, if divided and planted, could yield 5-7+ bunches next year. if you were to plant that piece of corm and manage it for banana production, you'd end up with a bunch in the first year (depends on variety and climate of course, some take 9 months some as long as 2 years) and two bunches the next year, 4 the year after that etc etc.

this post is too long so i'm spliting it up...
                        


Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 34
Location: Big Island, Hawaii
sorry for the wordy post, i just got rolling and didn't stop...


Aging patch that are no longer producing good fruit can be slash to the ground, and all the plant material chopped up and piled on top of the corm. a few wheelbarrows of compost or manure, and a bit of lime mixed in with this mulch will give the plant a good boost - be sure to thin out the resulting explosion of shoots, or you'll end up with a thicket that you can't get into to harvest. thinning regularly keeps a patch accesible and reduces the amount of hiding space for rats, centipedes, and other nasty creatures.

bananas make excellent mulch and compost starter - chop the psuedostem that you cut down to harvest into 2-3ft long sections and then chop those in half lengthwise, lay them down the the ground and marvel at the worms that come to live in them and the moist soil beneath.

cleanliness is important for bananas - pruning off dead leaves and pushing them into the patch helps reduce pathogen loads and helps to keep rats out of the plants - rats LOVE to eat banana fruit right before you notice that's its ripe. hot compost the leaves if you notice lots of signs of disease building up. if you notice parts of the leaves being cut and rolled into little tubes, you've got banana leaf roller caterpillars. the butterfly is medium sized and white. the caterpillar itself is BIG, white, and really gross looking. it eats the leaf and rolls itself a little home. however, i kind of like this particular pest. I call them "chicken twinkies" because chickens go absolutely NUTS for these fatty caterpillars - feed them one, and once they figure out about unrolling the banana leaf, they will always be eager for more.

research "Banana Bunchy Top" and know the signs of it - if you are certain your banana patch has it, cut the whole thing down right away and burn it, burn out the corms, cover it with mulch and don't plant bananas nearby for 5 years+. unless your area is already heavily infected, in which case you will have to plant resistant varieties and let the susceptible ones die out. Banana bunchy top is a virus spread by an aphid and will stop all production from susceptible plants a year or two after infection. Some varieties (the red varieties in particular i think) are highly resistant and can produce for years after becoming infected. DON'T PROPAGATE from plants that have this very damaging disease, or take banana materials (corm, keiki, leaves, etc - i don't think the fruit itself can host the vector, but not sure) from areas known to be infected.

in hawaii, we prefer "apple" bananas, which have small but very very tasty fruit. The very best (for flavor and texture) variety is know around here as "Hamakua tall apple" - this gets to be about 15ft, but produces pretty small bunches. dwarf "apple" bananas aren't quite as tasty but way easier to manage, and maybe more productive. red varieties (dwarf red, cuban red, tall red) are quite striking as ornamentals, disease resistant, and productive (they take twice as long to make a bunch but DAMN those are big bunches!). Chinese Dwarf banana is perfect for gardens - it grows so low that the bunch often touches the ground! you can put the bunch in a wheelbarrow before cutting it from the plant, which is really good for folks who aren't up to hacking down giant plants.

bananas are a very odd plant in that they are almost 100% reliant on humans for their propogation - nearly every variety you would run into is seedless. the seeded varieties are very nearly inedible. how did humans manage to convice the banana plant to become seedless? i think it was an ancient act of green magic, where humans told the banana plant that we'd take care of them forever if they would produce seedless fruit. or maybe the banana plant told the humans...anyway, i love bananas

wow i kinda went bananas with this post 

aloha
Terri Matthews


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 405
Location: Eastern Kansas
    
    3
Is there a dwarf banana with tasty fruit?

Here in zone 5, any edible banana will have to be a house plant: we have a 6-7 month growing season.
                        


Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 34
Location: Big Island, Hawaii
Try the Chinese banana also called dwarf cavendish. It's the shortest banana I know of. It could easily fit in a largish conservatory or greenhouse, and the fruit is of good quality. Bananas will cease growth at low tempatures - by low I mean below 60f. Ice cream bananas can handle lower tempatures I believe, maybe to 50f, but all bananas will be killed to the ground by freezing tempatures. Ice cream bananas are medium heights - your greenhouse would have to be at least 12 ft tall to accomadat one, and even then the leaves would be pressed agaist the greenhouse. They are succebtible to leaning and toppling, so I rarely plant them. I would imagine the corms would stay alive if protected by mulch through mildish winters, and a long summer with lots of water and food would be enough to produce fruit from a good sized corm. I have no experience with bananas anywhere that gets so cold. They do grow and produce in Hawaii even at high elevations that drop below 50f inthe winter.

One nice thing about bananas is that the fruit can be cut at any stage and will ripen to a decent flavour. Usually underripe bananas are cooked. Try frying green bananas, sliced into strips with skin removed, in coconut oil and maybe adding a dash of salt or brown sugar to bring out the flavour. Mmm mmm! 
 
 
subject: Question About Banana suckers, croms, and banana circles
 
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