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Old 08-04-2009, 10:49 AM   #1 (permalink)
 
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Cool Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini (sunken greenhouse)

Well, I bought the Praying Hands on semi-impulse. I knew that I wanted to try to grow a larger variety. I live in the Central Valley of California (zone 9). At the time of purchase, I may have downplayed the harshness of the area due to vast agricultural industry that thrives here in the San Joaquin Valley. This area becomes extremely dry and hot in the summer w/ freezing temperatures in the winter (see local season weather averages chart below). I was not too surprised to learn that I would need to create an enclosed environment and climate control for heat and cold. I milled over ways to create a banana shack. I considered building a skeletal form covered w/ plastic. I looked at some A frame designs and other simple but effective ways that one can build a greenhouse. I finally came upon the literature created by Brigham Young University regarding their design for a sunken greenhouse called a Walipini
http://bensoninstitute.org/Publicati...s/Walipini.pdf

One reason for adopting this greenhouse plan was purely financial. There are just not many building materials needed here. Since I have more time then money, I figured I could dig a hole. Anyway, having said all that I will now attempt to create an informational thread where I can post updates and gain feedback. I will report the good, the ban, and the ugly. I am not experienced in providing grow reports; however I will do my best present a clear picture of my experience. I just hope that I will not be describing a complete failure.

Season Weather Averages:
[IMG][/IMG]

This thread will be a good place for me to air some of my assumptions about banana growing and the steps that I will need to take in order to gain fruit. Please let me know if my facts are off. Praying Hands are not the most cold-hardy banana plants. However, it is not a complete slouch in this area. My assumption is that my banana environment should not go below 50ish degrees Fahrenheit. The capture and storage of solar heat will help to maintain the proper environment in the winter. I am sure that some climate control for cold will be necessary. I am also under the assumption that I will need to keep my banana plants in an environment w/ a max temp of 80ish degrees Fahrenheit. The desert conditions present in this area definitely include desert heat. There are a considerable amount of days that rise well into triple digits around here. Swamp coolers do not cut the mustard on those days. I will need to run an air conditioner, which will dry out the air. I understand that around 50% humidity is essential for gaining bananas. This brings me to my first question: How can I air condition my greenhouse and run humidifying equipment at the same time? Does it matter if the air conditioning unit draws air from inside or outside the greenhouse?

Praying Hands Bananas
Here is the description that I consistently find on the internet: Mature height is 12' - 14'. Produces perhaps the most unusual and distinctive of all banana fruits. Two adjacent hands of banqana are fused, giving the appearance of praying hands. The delicious fruits contain a hint of vanilla flavor. When totally ripe individual bananas can be carefully separated from each other.
Here they are on the day I received them in the mail (July 17, 2009).
[IMG][/IMG]

[IMG][/IMG]

Presently, I am maintaining them indoors under T8 florescent lights. They seem to be growing well. I only allow them to receive 12 hours of light. I put them outside in the evening so that they will gain the first rays of morning light. After several hours of outside light, I bring them inside for the additional hours under the grow-light. I bring them in before the outside temps reach 80-85 degrees. This, of course, is not a practical long-term plan, as the plants will reach 12 -14 feet in height.

Here is the most recent pictures of the banana plants (Aug 4, 2009):


Walipini
A Walipini is best described as simply a rectangular hole in the ground 6 to 8 feet deep. The slanted roof will face south toward the winter sun in order to efficiently gather solar rays and heat. Densely mounded and packed dirt will provide the needed angle of the roof.

[IMG][/IMG]

I have been reading the literature provided by Brigham Young University (BYU): http://bensoninstitute.org/Publicati...s/Walipini.pdf. The molten core of the earth heats the entire sphere. I was very intrigued by the BYU assertion that the temperature at four feet deep stays between 40 and 60 degrees throughout most of the planet. This report states that when above ground cold temperatures are say 10 degrees, then the temperature at 4 feet deep in the ground will be at least 50 degrees in most locations. It is further asserted that digging a Walipini into the ground will effectively tap into this “thermal constant.” Based on this it would be safe to assume that far less additional heat will be required than is the case with above ground greenhouse structures.
I began this project on July 17th, 2009.
[IMG][/IMG]

[IMG][/IMG]

I have been simultaneously building up the berm. This is the mounded area that provided the slant for the roof.
[IMG][/IMG]
[IMG][/IMG]

I have dug down a little less then 5 feet.
[IMG][/IMG]
[IMG][/IMG]

I will need to go deeper. The plans call for the hole to be 8 feet deep. The berm will allow an additional four feet, giving the roof 12 feet of height at the highest point. This still might not accommodate my praying hands banana. I will need to dig down a bit farther for them. The praying hands will take up the tallest parts of the room. I plan to gain some dwarf varieties for other areas in the room. I have some pretty lofty goals for the Walipini. The final room should be 12.5 feet (width) x 20 feet (length) I hope to have two entrances. However I am not sure how I will build the doors into the ground. I also hope to make this an off-grid solar powered structure.
Please give me feedback, advice, and/or kind criticisms.
Orin - Good thoughts to all my friends at YouTube and at bananas.org.

Here is a video that I shot of The Tubes performing at Santa Cruz California.
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Last edited by FamilyManDude : 08-04-2009 at 11:08 AM. Reason: No pictures showing and had to change video
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Old 08-04-2009, 10:57 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

Good luck with PH and please, if you include the youtube video in this forum, just paste the link, don't use those html tags cause they mess with the post. Simply write what you want and then paste the link to video, no tags needed what-so-ever.
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Old 08-04-2009, 11:57 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

Interesting project. I'll look forward to following the progress of this one. I know you state that you are in an area with desert-like conditions but your photos don't make it look too desert-like. How much rain do you get a year? Just wondering if you need some kind of drainage/pump system to prevent potential flooding from rains or ground water seepage.
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Old 08-04-2009, 12:02 PM   #4 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

I will have a sump pump for emergencies. The plastic will cover the entire berm. It will also be buried. I will also dig a trench to rout water away. So yes this is a concern. =^)
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Old 08-04-2009, 12:41 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

Well you could always pump the water out the Tubes -- great band, saw them decades ago in Los Angeles. Thanks for posting the video.

This thread is terrific also! That is a serious amount of work you've completed to date. I have dug some big planting holes in my time but your excavation by hand is enormous. Provided you keep the shelter somewhat sealed, the ground temperature at 6' under is much warmer than the surface during winter.
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Old 08-04-2009, 01:04 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

I saw something similar, through maybe 4-5' deep in Dungeness, Washington, used for growing tomatoes, peppers and herbs year round.

My question/concern in terms of bananas would be how dependent they are a soil temps, rather than air temps?
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Old 08-04-2009, 01:11 PM   #7 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

As I understand the root temp is very important. That is one of the reasons that I decided on the Walipini design. I am hoping that the "thermal constant" will maintain proper root temp year-round. =^)
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Old 08-05-2009, 01:57 AM   #8 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

That is a fascinating concept! I might try something like that where I live but it will have to be for dwarf varieties only and I'll need a pump to keep the water out. The only problem I can see is making sure it gets enough sun. I don't know how to explain this in scientific terms but I know that the amount of light that makes it through a tube or in this case a hole is relative to the ratio of the width to the depth. If it's too narrow for its depth not much light will make it through.
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Old 08-05-2009, 02:38 AM   #9 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

Very interesting experience FamilyManDude.

Hope to get more picture of the progress, as we see on the picture you are a very determinated person. Not so easy to dig a hole like this.

My questions are ;

Are you going to make walls to keep the ground ? in my place its not possible when its raining evething goes down.

How are you going to take the water of? this is realy important because in winter one of the worst thing is humidity. Of course you can put a pump but some water will stay, the best is to draIn it well.

Thanks for your answers.

Maybe Ill try to do one Walipini too
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Old 08-05-2009, 10:19 AM   #10 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

Yes I have thought about this. I have a light meter. I will need to check out how much light gets in there. I may need to set up some grow lights to supplement. I had hoped to expand the length of the room. I may need to keep at 10.5 feet by 13 feet. I think I can keep the rain out. Check out the blue average line on the rainfall chart that I provided. There is really very little rain around here. Thanks for the encouragement regarding the project.
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Old 08-05-2009, 10:29 AM   #11 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

Hi Cesar, my plans are to keep the walls earthen. I was thinking I may try to lay a dark stone wall at the back of the room so that it will absorb and collect solar heat in the winter. The dirt here has a firm clayish quality. It stays really dry here w/ little rainfall. The buried plastic sheet will reportedly keep the moisture out and help to avoid the wash-ins/cave-in that you are talking about. Thanks so much. Orin
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Old 08-05-2009, 03:50 PM   #12 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

It is a very ambitious project but I am concerned for your safety. Shoring is required by law for any excavations deeper than 5'. People have died after being buried up to only their waist. By the looks of the progress you have made with a hand shovel I would not expect vertical walls to stand indefinitely.

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Old 08-05-2009, 04:53 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

Excellent idea and thanks for sharing the pics. I am concerned for your safety too. How about sinking posts into concrete in all corners and then attaching 2x12's to them all the way around? Also, how about a drain tile going around outside of "room" to drain water away? No pump need for that. Just my 2 cents worth
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Old 08-05-2009, 08:38 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

The wait is so worth it for praying hands blooms, good luck with your project.
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Old 08-10-2009, 11:06 AM   #15 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

I am attempting to grow bananas in the in the Central Valley of California (zone 9). This area does not have the tropical conditions that are well-known to be present in southern California. This is a personal experiment for me.

This is the first update on my project, after my initial posting. The Praying Hands seem to be growing fast with new light conditions. I do have some significant things to report regarding the greenhouse project. I have gotten some good feedback and advice here at bananas.org that resulted in a complete rethinking and revision regarding the project design. I have continued to make progress with the digging involved in creating the Walipini (sunken greenhouse). I have some pictures of how far down I presently have reached.


PLANT PROGRESS
The Praying Hands have not changed much since my prior update (a new leaf or two). No need for an update photo just yet. For the past week I have begun to keep them under grow-lights overnight. I continue to take the plants outside in the early morning hours so that they can gain some actual rays from the sun. I bring them indoors before noon to avoid the excessive heat. My reason for switching to a 24/7 light-cycle was to (A) see if the plants could take it and to (B) promote maximum growth. These banana plants seem to be thriving under these new conditions.
I continue to feed the Praying Hands with Eleanor’s VF-11. I have posted a thread regarding this plant food. Eleanor's

DRASTIC CHANGE IN PLANS
It was brought to my attention that shoring up the walls of the greenhouse might be important. I do agree that this would be a smart idea. I spoke with my neighbor who is a contractor regarding the matter. He informed me that he has some telephone poles. He stated that these are the skinnier variety not the huge ones with unmanageable girth. He suggested that I cement one of these at each corner of my pit. He further stated that I could slide heavy slats behind these poles in order to shore the greenhouse walls properly. I like this idea and plan to incorporate it into my plan.
I have also come to the realization that my initial plan called for me to dig way too deep. The plan was to use boards or poles resting on a dirt mound called a berm. This berm would provide the angle of the roof and some additional height at the tallest side of the room. This tallest point was where I had planned to grow bananas. My prior posting on this thread depicted my efforts to build and pack the berm. However, the berm would only provide the plants with three or four feet of height above the sunken portion of the greenhouse. So, my floor would need to be eleven feet deep to accommodate the 12-14 foot plants. I would need to dig a few feet deeper than this in order to set up gravel for drainage. I would also need to dig even deeper if I plan to keep the bananas in containers. It quickly became apparent that I cannot dig a 15+ foot hole.
Undeterred, I feel that I have found a simple solution to this significant issue. I believe that I can keep the standard pit-depth, as specified by the BYU Walipini design, and build an above ground structure that would provide the required height. Since I am already planning to set poles into ground, I will use them in the construction of the structure. The poles set at the south end of the room (the shortest portion of the angled roof) will extend 2 feet above ground. The poles at the tallest side will extend 8 to 9 feet above ground. Here is a rough layout for the telephone poles and above ground structure that I will build.

[IMG][/IMG]

Remember that the tallest side of the structure will be around eight feet above ground. The taller the structure the less I have to dig.

GREENHOUSE PROGRESS
This new design will mean that I will need to eliminate the berm that I have already packed, tamped, and otherwise built. I don’t think that this could be considered a true Walipini. I was really jazzed about using minimal building materials and creating the traditional earthy design used in Bolivia. I am, however, excited that this change of plans means that I am very close to being done with digging the pit. The above ground structure means that I will not need to create underground entrances. I can somehow include a weatherized door in my structure and create steps to the floor of the room. I may even be able to extend structure to create an additional above ground extension to my greenhouse.
The pit is presently just less than seven feet in depth at its lowest point. After the telephone poles are cemented in, I plan to follow the BYU Walipini design and lay gravel for drainage. The soil layer will be placed on the gravel. Please give any thoughts regarding this project.
Thanks

PS – Here are the pics of my hole to China.

[IMG][/IMG]

[IMG][/IMG]

Here is me and my wife Teri -

[IMG][/IMG]
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Last edited by FamilyManDude : 08-15-2009 at 09:34 AM. Reason: Fixed the pics
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Old 08-10-2009, 11:29 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

You're ambitious, I'll give you that. Great project!
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Old 08-10-2009, 12:16 PM   #17 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

Looks interesting, I'll be following this. Thanks for the information
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Old 08-10-2009, 12:50 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

Wow, you dug that by hand? I can't even imagine attempting that! Good luck with the rest of the project!
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Old 08-11-2009, 12:29 AM   #19 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

Wow this is really cool! I dug a pit that was about 4-5' deep for my greenhouse (seen in my avatar). I filled in about 2-3' of rich topsoil/compost so the floor was about 2' below ground level. It was in zone 7 and the plants did very well growing in the ground all winter.
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Old 08-11-2009, 08:43 PM   #20 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Growing Praying Hands Bananas in Central California – Zone 9 – Walipini project

Quote:
Originally Posted by Velutina View Post
Wow this is really cool! I dug a pit that was about 4-5' deep for my greenhouse (seen in my avatar). I filled in about 2-3' of rich topsoil/compost so the floor was about 2' below ground level. It was in zone 7 and the plants did very well growing in the ground all winter.
Hi V, thanks for your response. Your greenhouse is indeed similar to what I am trying to build. Glad to hear that you are experiencing this "thermal constant" in the winter. Is this the only measure needed in your area to control for cold weather?
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