Friday, March 23, 2012

Permaculture Project: Planted Compost Circle

The "Banana Circle" is a classic, but tropical, design.

The Banana Circle is a classic Permaculture design. A circular pit is dug. The soil from the pit is used to build up walls around the pit. Bananas are planted in the wall. Any and all organic matter that would be added to a compost bin is added to the center of the pit. Over time the organic matter breaks down and provides a fantastic nutrient supply to the growing (and nutrient hungry) banana plants. This design illustrates Permaculture Principle Eight: Integrate Rather Than Segregate. This design integrates a compost pile and a food producing crop planting into one structure. This design automatically fertilizes itself as the organic matter breaks down into compost. This design protects from drought by having a huge pile of organic matter (which absorbs and stores large amounts of water) right next to the banana's roots. This design is brilliant!

But it is tropical.

Yes, I have a few banana tress in my backyard right now, but I'm moving in a few months, and I don't suspect I'll ever live in the tropics or sub-tropics again. 

One similar method that is being used with annual vegetable gardening is the Tomato Circle. The same basic premise is followed as the Banana Circle... a central compost pit with tomatoes growing all around. I particularly like the one design shown below. Note the "pit" is really more of a circular trench with a drain. This allows more focused water collection closer to the plants, but still allows an escape if too much water collects.

But this is for annuals.

A "Tomato Circle" is a growing trend.

So how can I incorporate the concept of a Banana Circle in more temperate climates using perennial plants? I have yet to find anyone designing Planted Compost Circles (I don't know if there is an official name for these designs, so this is what I call them). I wanted to get a few of my ideas out there, and maybe spark better ideas from others. Here is what I have so far:

  • Mixed Berry Circle - a few each of Goji, Goumi, and Nanking Cherry.
  • Bramble Circle - a mixed variety of blackberries and raspberries.
  • Gooseberry Circle - a mixed variety of Gooseberries
  • Blueberry Circle - compost can be heavy on the "acid" content (i.e. pine needles).

As I come across more, or better, ideas, I'll post them here.

31 comments:

  1. I love this concept, really considering the bramble & blueberry circle. I live in the Pacific Northwest both grow well here. Where might your move to be?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
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  2. interesting! Id love to hear more about this idea!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This sounds perfect for asparagus. It likes lots of rich compost.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Probably works well for rhubarb as well - I try to plant this downhill from a compost heap, but in a circle would also be great. I've just discovered your old site - will get onto your new one probably in a few days. Don't know why it took so long to find it? today while looking for nepalese raspberry articles. Brilliant articles thank you
    SkyeEnt

    ReplyDelete
  5. Id thought of the same concept - other plants for a compost circle for a temperate climate... so good to find your post already questioning this. I wonder how Scarlet runner beans on either one or multiple cone or bamboo trellises would go.. or an artichoke circle.. or perpetual leeks.. parsley. Perpetual spinach, sorrel. Maybe a guild of them around the compost pit with a keyhole entry like in the tomato circle.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Keyhole gardens are similar in concept but involve more initial work.

    Benefits of keyhole gardens:


    added hight gives gains in comfort for gardener

    safeguards against, for example, carrot-fly

    maintains humidity in the compost centre pit

    shields the organic waste from view
    (eggshells look bad :)

    makes it tougher for animals to get
    at the compost and make a mess



    Run an image search for "keyhole garden" and you will see what I mean....

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love banana circles, and I too had a question about how to use them in a temperate location. Although they are used for food in the tropics, in temperate you can great success if you use them with mulch or additional carbon materials. I have heard that using willow or another fast growing shrub is a good way to go.

    You used my photo at the top of the post, and I do appreciate it. I have since moved my blog from that link to http://kellyhays.ca/banana-circle/, would you mind crediting my image by linking the link. Thanks

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  8. For acid, you could use blueberries with:
    1. regular potatoes, especially heirloom like Ozette fingerlings that are also Slow Food Ark of Taste (SFAT), Green Mountain SFAT, SFAT Louisiana Mirliton Potato, Red McClure Potato*, and
    2. Sweet potatoes: SFAT Ivis White Cream Sweet Potato*, SFAT Nancy Hall Sweet Potato*
    (SFAT in US, *awaiting international review)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Perhaps a "mulch pit" design with a progression of local native varieties from wetland plants (that are not harvested) on the interior where the water level might be a little high to bushes or trees on top of the mounds (that could be harvested, whether food or medicinal or utility plants, or a combination) would work. This would be a bigger setup overall, but the mulch of the interior remains fairly shallow.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I am thinking yacon or other perennial root crops would do well with the compost pit in the center. and the mound hiding their tubers till easy harvest.
    Yacon takes so long to start that the compost area will stay accessible for a long period. of course it would die back in the fall.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Love this website. I need to comment on one inaccuracy though. Pine needles don't make soil more acidic. Check out this youtube video for explanation.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_B8-1sVcfzE

    ReplyDelete
  12. THe paw paw is native to temperate north America and acts like a bannana in many ways. I hear tell that it is a good replacement for the bannana circle. I have not done it yet but I intend to.

    ReplyDelete
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  19. I'm looking at adding something like this for use with my ground vine plants (pumpkin, watermelon, honeydew, gourds). In Florida, growing these can be tricky because of the amount of rains that we get. I am hoping that the compost circle will provide a natural place for the rain to run to in order to store it and to help release the benefits of the composts for the plants.

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