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Old 09-11-2006, 05:35 AM   #1 (permalink)
wim
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Default preparing soil for bananas outside

Hi,

I'm new to the banana world. I wonder if you experts can help me out.

I got a Musa sikkimensis from a friend and bought a Musella lasiocarpa. I've tranplanted them into a larger pot where they can stay for this winter (cold and dry in the garage). I'm planning to plant them outside in the garden next year.

The sikkimensis gave me the banana virus. It's beautifull wine red rubbery leaves grew at a ratio of about 1 new leave per 10 days in spring. At that time it was still standing in a 1 gallon pot.

I am planning to redesign my garden. The soil is sandy loam. Nothing wrong with that, but it's totally void of organic material. When it rains, it gets mudy and looses its structure, then once it stopped raining three days later the soil becomes as hard as a rock. In those places where I have used cow manure the structure is sooo mucht better. I was planning to add (a lot) of organic material in it this autumn/winter, so I can start planting in spring (bamboo, ornamentals and any banana I can lay my hands on).

What tips could you give me to prepare my soil ? I live in what would be a USDA zone 9 (perhaps 8). I don't mind to invest a lot of work in its preparation, but the resulting garden should be able to stay the way it is for about 5 to 10 years without a lot of additional (ground) work.
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Old 09-11-2006, 08:58 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: preparing soil for bananas outside

I'd also mix some peat moss in there, it's cheap and when mixed with everything else, like black cow, makes a wonderful medium to grow plants in.
Break it up with your hands, it comes compressed. They should sell it at your local garden center.
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Old 09-11-2006, 09:15 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: preparing soil for bananas outside

You pretty much said it yourself. You need to add LOTS of organic material. You can get free compost from the city that would make a nice base to start with. Then add composted chicken or steer manure, I use both. Composted horse manure works well too. You can also include a lot of different organic things like seaweed, worm castings, organic plant food. You might even consider adding some perlite to help keep the soil loose down the line when the compost breaks down.. Some will also say that the addition of gravel and a drainage system in the bottom is needed for good drainage but that really depends on the existing soil that will stay under your prepared soil and how it will drain. I have hard Clay here in so Cal and I put some gravel in the bottom of my beds but no drainage system and I've never had an issue with water sitting for too long even in the worst of weather.

Edit: I forgot to mention the addition of Sul-Po-Mag and Green Sand is very good for Bananas. You may also need to add some source of lime depending on your soil. There is no way to keep soil real nice for 5-10 years without the constant addition of more organic material as it constantly breaks down and gets used up by the plants. A heavy top layer of compost helps to maintain moisture and soil temperature as well as adding to the soil as time goes by..

Last edited by momoese : 09-11-2006 at 09:36 AM.
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Old 09-11-2006, 11:06 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: preparing soil for bananas outside

Thank you for the feedback.

What is "Sul-Po-Mag" and "Green Sand" (I'm not from the US) ?

I tried the compost from the city. While it's not free, at $ 8.50 per trailer or $ 3.50 per cubic meter if taken by truckload, it was worth a try. I found impurities like expanded clay grains and small pebbles and stones, but also glass pieces. While I didn't care about the expanded clay and stones, I don't like the idea of putting glass sherds into my garden. I'm still looking for a good (cheap and pure) compost source.

I read about adding peat and lime to the soil. What do banana trees prefer; an acid, neutral or basic soil ?

How deep should I mix the soil with organic matter ? Is it true to plant the corm 1 foot deep to protect if from frost and from being blown out of the ground during heavy wind? If so, that would mean I'd have to put organic matter at least 2 feet deep.

Besides of gravel and drainage, are there other things I can do to prepare the soil?
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Old 09-11-2006, 12:45 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: preparing soil for bananas outside

Sul-Po-Mag. A naturally occurring mineral containing significant quantities of sulfur, potash, and magnesium. Application rate: 20 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft

Greensand is mined from ancient seabeds; it is a dry organic fertilizer. It is useful for its ability to slowly supply to the soil a number of different micronutrients, as well as potassium.

I wouldn't worry about some glass in the soil unless you plan on letting children play in it. Most Bananas like a neutral PH. There are exceptions like Ae Ae that prefer acidic soil. When I prepped my beds I went down about 4 feet with the organic matter. Rule of thumb is generally twice as deep and twice as wide as the container, but I just do the whole bed at the same time instead of just the holes.
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Old 09-11-2006, 01:39 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: preparing soil for bananas outside

In California, the organic matter in the soil "literally" burns up. So every year they should be replaced. Even the bark chips decomposes rapidly when in contact with moistened soil.

There is Coconut Husk Chips which are very good amendment and last several times than redwood bark chips or peat moss. They are still too expensive to obtain. They provide perfect aeration and they can store water at more than 5 times their weight. These are renewable resources.

Another wonderful amendment is wood charcoal, preferrably in powder form. If you have heard about amazonian black soil or terra preta, the first step is to incorporate powdered wood charcoal into the soil. Charcoal do not degrade, even for several thousand years. It helps aeration, increases fertilizer efficiency, provides better habitats for beneficial microbes, and others. This means that you wouldn't waste a lot of water and fertilizers. It takes 3 years to reap benefits of adding charcoal into your soil. But the greatest advantage of using charcoal is that you store carbon forever, meaning you will literally reduce the amount of carbon dioxide from the air. Plants sequester the carbon from the air via photosynthesis, now you make charcoal out of the plant material, put it in the soil and trap it there forever, helping solve our greenhouse gas problems.


http://citrus.forumup.org/viewtopic....&mforum=citrus


http://www.css.cornell.edu/faculty/l...aPretahome.htm
http://www.innovations-report.de/htm...cht-55516.html
http://www.newfarm.org/columns/resea...charcoal.shtml
http://www.geo.uni-bayreuth.de/bodenkunde/terra_preta/
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Old 09-11-2006, 04:45 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: preparing soil for bananas outside

Wow, thank you for your answers!

Momoese,
If you went 4 feet down to mix organic mather in your soil, how do you do that practically? 1 foot deep that's a tree spade deep, 2 feet down is more dificult, but not impossible, but 4 feet, how do you do that ?

Joe,
I had never heard of terra preta before. I've read all the articles you referred to. It sure sounds more than promising.
From what I've read, no-one was able to recreate terra preta by simply adding charcoal to soil. In the tests they added 20% (weight) of charcoal to the soil. That's a lot of charcoal if I have to go 4 feed deep!
Have you tried it ? How did you do it? What are your experiences?
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Old 09-11-2006, 05:11 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: preparing soil for bananas outside

It is a lot of charcoal, for me, I see it as a huge potential for trapping greenhouse gases. The more required, the better is the storage. It is a kind of storage that we can put to active use and benefit. We usually spend a lot of fossil fuels to manufacture fertilizers, and so this method can potentially reduce greenhouse gases two ways. One is that the increased fertilizer efficiency by minimizing leaching will reduce our usage of fertilizers and hence use of fossil fuels, and the other is that the carbon trapped will not go back to the atmosphere anymore, so we have a net entrapment.

It could be expensive, but I am buying charcoal when they are for sale, I add them every year. Mix it with my compost too. I plan to design a yard charcoal maker that can process grass clippings and other yard waste, but have no time so far.
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Old 09-11-2006, 06:41 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: preparing soil for bananas outside

While I've heard of people using briquette charcoal - which "melts" easily in water - I would recommend using lump charcoal instead which is basically just pieces or lumps of wood that had been charred while briquettes are made of charcoal powder that's been compressed with a binder into their final shape. Making your own is easy if you have a steel drum - heck, you could make some in a smoker for that matter. Just gotta get it real hot in there, then cut the oxygen and let the heat cook the wood. I've even collected charcoal from the local deli that uses hickory sticks in their electrically heated smoker - perfectly charred and ready for powderizing. Powderize it really well - a fine powder has many many times the surface area and exposed pits for microbes to park and start processing and storing nutrients. It is an interesting concept of putting carbon back into the soil! If it gets popular with farmers, we may even be able to reverse the carbon cycle we've started by burning fossil fuels...

Be Well,
Mike

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Originally Posted by JoeReal View Post
In California, the organic matter in the soil "literally" burns up. So every year they should be replaced. Even the bark chips decomposes rapidly when in contact with moistened soil.

There is Coconut Husk Chips which are very good amendment and last several times than redwood bark chips or peat moss. They are still too expensive to obtain. They provide perfect aeration and they can store water at more than 5 times their weight. These are renewable resources.

Another wonderful amendment is wood charcoal, preferrably in powder form. If you have heard about amazonian black soil or terra preta, the first step is to incorporate powdered wood charcoal into the soil. Charcoal do not degrade, even for several thousand years. It helps aeration, increases fertilizer efficiency, provides better habitats for beneficial microbes, and others. This means that you wouldn't waste a lot of water and fertilizers. It takes 3 years to reap benefits of adding charcoal into your soil. But the greatest advantage of using charcoal is that you store carbon forever, meaning you will literally reduce the amount of carbon dioxide from the air. Plants sequester the carbon from the air via photosynthesis, now you make charcoal out of the plant material, put it in the soil and trap it there forever, helping solve our greenhouse gas problems.


http://citrus.forumup.org/viewtopic....&mforum=citrus


http://www.css.cornell.edu/faculty/l...aPretahome.htm
http://www.innovations-report.de/htm...cht-55516.html
http://www.newfarm.org/columns/resea...charcoal.shtml
http://www.geo.uni-bayreuth.de/bodenkunde/terra_preta/
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Old 09-11-2006, 06:53 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: preparing soil for bananas outside

Quote:
Originally Posted by wim View Post
Wow, thank you for your answers!

Momoese,
If you went 4 feet down to mix organic mather in your soil, how do you do that practically? 1 foot deep that's a tree spade deep, 2 feet down is more dificult, but not impossible, but 4 feet, how do you do that ?

Joe,
I had never heard of terra preta before. I've read all the articles you referred to. It sure sounds more than promising.
From what I've read, no-one was able to recreate terra preta by simply adding charcoal to soil. In the tests they added 20% (weight) of charcoal to the soil. That's a lot of charcoal if I have to go 4 feed deep!
Have you tried it ? How did you do it? What are your experiences?
My wife and I picked up shovels and started at one end digging down and making a huge pile of dirt. Then we mixed the organic matter in with the dirt that we were digging ahead of our selves. We slowly made our way across the area where the Bananas were to be planted. It was totally insane and I don't know that I would go quite that crazy again. We also did it for our Bamboo area, again just an insane amount of work, but boy does the Bamboo like it!
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Old 09-11-2006, 07:01 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: preparing soil for bananas outside

I think you guys did the right thing, insane to the world, but right for plants.

when my wife first planted fruit trees, half of them died. i found out that the problem was heavy clay that is anoxic where no water almost moves through. It literally drowns the plants when they are watered

so I dug out 3 ft wide by 3 ft deep, most of the border, totalling about 245 ft perimeter distance. I then installed real drainage pipes and aerators, mixed the soil with sand, gypsum, lots of organic matter, and put the amended soil back in. Was higher by about a foot after all those amendments. Now I can plant a wide variety of plants, even those that people would say can't be grown in our city. The plants have been very healthy in the amended soil.

My wife say I was insane, but a couple of years later, she would tell me that I did the right thing.
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Old 09-11-2006, 07:29 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: preparing soil for bananas outside

For my bamboo and nanner beds, I'll go the lazy way and use deep-rooted plants and lotsa compost and mulch to prepare my beds for me. Daikon radishes, if over-sown, are a great way to break thru hard virgin soil - when they've matured just hoe off the tops so the root will decompose then sow another run and the second set will put roots down even deeper. Keep applying compost over this as well as mulch and green clippings. Sunflowers and fava beans are also good at rehabilitating the soil too - I'll have a very dense stand of them where my plantings will go. Not only are their roots good at invigorating the soil, they produce a lot of vegetative matter that you can just cut down and leave where it lay - get a scythe for that, I love mine! Hairy vetch is also very good at giving the soil a kick as well. Mix it up and keep adding compost and never pull a thing out of the soil - leave the roots in to decompose. In a couple of seasons, you can turn sand or clay into rich black earthworm-filled soil just begging for nanners and bamboo!

Be well,
Mike

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My wife and I picked up shovels and started at one end digging down and making a huge pile of dirt. Then we mixed the organic matter in with the dirt that we were digging ahead of our selves. We slowly made our way across the area where the Bananas were to be planted. It was totally insane and I don't know that I would go quite that crazy again. We also did it for our Bamboo area, again just an insane amount of work, but boy does the Bamboo like it!
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Old 09-14-2006, 02:42 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: preparing soil for bananas outside

What's the best way to powderise charcoal?

When I was 15 I tried to make gunpowder (charcoal, potassium nitrate and sulphur). I put BBQ charcoal in a plastic bag and smashed on it with a hammer until the plastic bag was broken (after 1 or two hits, that is). Cleaned the mess up a bit and used a glass bottle to grind it further down to powder ... or at least I tried.
End of the story is, the gunpowder I made only gave a huge flame, a lot of heat and a lot of toxic smoke (great to root out wasp nests in the ground). Now that I think of it, that may be the reason why I'm still alive with all my libs, eyes, ....

For me it was a hard time to powderize a small amount of charcoal, how do you powderize lots of it?
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Old 09-14-2006, 10:39 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: preparing soil for bananas outside

I found an old steel pan and use a hammer on a block of wood. It's labor intensive tho - I'm rooting around for something I could adapt to the job. A big grinder. A mill of sorts. Heh - make a wind-mill with a pair of mill-stones... I tried a coffee mill and it works pretty well on small amounts - but it's more to test the concept than for practicality. Currently, it's a hammer and patience. But I'll build that mill - I have tons of wood ready to be charred...

Be well,
Mike

Quote:
Originally Posted by wim View Post
What's the best way to powderise charcoal?

When I was 15 I tried to make gunpowder (charcoal, potassium nitrate and sulphur). I put BBQ charcoal in a plastic bag and smashed on it with a hammer until the plastic bag was broken (after 1 or two hits, that is). Cleaned the mess up a bit and used a glass bottle to grind it further down to powder ... or at least I tried.
End of the story is, the gunpowder I made only gave a huge flame, a lot of heat and a lot of toxic smoke (great to root out wasp nests in the ground). Now that I think of it, that may be the reason why I'm still alive with all my libs, eyes, ....

For me it was a hard time to powderize a small amount of charcoal, how do you powderize lots of it?
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