The Gardens of Chiconia 36: Going bananas about compost

Something is brewing in the garden…

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Cross sections of banana trunk, showing the rings and cellular construction. Tough fibres hold together wet plant tissue and give stiffness.

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 5.00.33 pm In a good way, I hasten to add. Let me explain. After my lumberjacking activities earlier this week, the Dowager was left with a substantial pile of banana tree debris. Bit by bit, she hauled the huge leaves into a corner, where she tried to ignore them. But the sections of trunk were too big to pretend they were invisible, and too heavy for her to move alone. Besides, she’s a lady of advanced years and shouldn’t be hauling heavy stuff around if someone else (me) can do it for her. So I hitched up the trailer and drove over there, and loaded the lot up, fully intending to do as she asked and take it all to the dump.

Somewhere on the way there, a light went on in the gloomy, echoing spaces of my skull. Hang on, came the thought, you spent days and weeks and many dollars and much hard yakka improving the soil upon which this banana monster lived, grew and had its being. Now you’re just going to chuck all that lavish greenery away? That banana trash is full of all the nutrition you dug in. All that’s needed to unlock it all again is patience and chicken poo. (Yes, you did read that right…) So I didn’t go to the dump. I brought it all home.

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 4.58.39 pmThe thick sections of trunk are still full of water and will slowly disintegrate and break down, but are very fibrous. I’ve tossed them into the chook pen to give a home to insects which in turn will provide protein to the chooks when they arrive. I stripped the green of the massive leaves from the central spine, and piled the leaf debris up under the palms in the centre of the back yard, where the bird feeder is. The soil there is baked hard, covered in crusher dust and contains no sign of organic life. I need to invite the worms back.

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The young mango is doing well in the ground. That’s a 6ft bamboo cane, to give you an idea of size.

Bear with me, there’s method in my madness. Onto the heap I piled fronds I’d cut from the golden palms at the side of the house. These form a sort of stiff mesh which will prevent matting of the vegetation and enable aerobic composting. Then I sprinkled a tasty cocktail of pelletised chicken manure, blood & bone and several shovels full of active compost for starter microbes. Over everything went a lavish layer of lucerne hay and the whole lot was well watered. Birds visiting the feeder will poo over this pile, drop seed, poke around in it for insects. I will poke holes in it to bury vegetable peelings and scraps. I will sprinkle it with weeds, prunings, grass clippings and occasionally, a bit of urine (or perhaps the Husband will oblige there, being better equipped by nature for these things). It will be alive, and active, and one day, it will be soil. And at that point, I will plant something which will be happy there, and move on to create soil again somewhere else.

The way I see it, I’m helping the Earth recreate herself, little bit by little bit, with the materials at hand.

Elsewhere in the Gardens of Chiconia….

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‘Fur’ on a palm leaf capsule

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Mandarins are ripening

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Garden Tea, almost ready

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Banana trunk sheen


31 thoughts on “The Gardens of Chiconia 36: Going bananas about compost

  1. Gail says:

    Sounds like a recipe for success.

  2. Lovely, and I think I’ve never seen a picture of a banana trunk section in my life. That does give me quilt ideas, I think…

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s interesting, isn’t it? All those little cells full of water, which runs down the trunk in streams when you cut it. Even a day later, the sections of trunk were much lighter, having leaked a lot of their contents back into the soil.

  3. I know I’m impressed.
    I once had a husband who occasionally urinated in the ficus I had growing in pots on the patio. He swore it would help them grow, but I always knew it was an act of passive-aggression directed at me.

  4. Wow so that is a banana tree trunk!

  5. EllaDee says:

    I’ve been explaining to the G.O. I’ll be needing his help with the garden tea & targeted mulch/compost 😉

  6. tialys says:

    I thought it was a snake! Must get some glasses.

  7. claire93 says:

    gosh the segment of banana trunk is beautiful – and it’s wonderful to think that you’ll be recycling all that goodness back into the soil. Mind you, are you sure you should be lugging heavy things around? I did my back in last weekend cutting and burning our boxwood, and have been out of action since.

  8. Sounds like time well spent – has energised me to go and do some composty things. Not sure what – may need a cup of tea first, then I can compost the bag.

  9. No snakes in your compost? Don’t be too sure! We’ve finally started composting. Our house backs up to trees, so almost all the yard waste has just gone back there to decompose on its own. But we haven’t had a system for produce trimmings before now. We’ll see how it goes.

  10. katechiconi says:

    It hasn’t heated up enough yet to be attractive to snakes, and in any case is pretty close to the house and closely monitored by the birds, so I’ll get some advance warning from them – the magpies and butcher birds will set up a fuss if a snake is spotted. I need to set up a compost trench as well. Once that’s up and running, I can plant banana trees in it – they love a nice compost heap.

  11. Kate, you have turned making compost from a science into an art form! I’m looking forward to seeing the phenomenal growth which will surely appear in the fullness of time.

    • katechiconi says:

      The fullness of time might take a while, but I’m not in a hurry. And it gives me a convenient dumping ground for all the soft green stuff I have to get rid of, not to mention somewhere to put the kitchen scraps till the chooks arrive. Also major brownie points with the Dowager, I might add, not to be sniffed at!

  12. The Belmont Rooster says:

    Great post! When I saw the first photo, it looked like a snake coiled up.

  13. Grannymar says:

    When I saw the cross sections of banana trunk, I thought it was a a completed Needle Art project. Nature gives great inspiration from rust, & peeling paint right throught to the banana trunk or skeletal leaves.

    • katechiconi says:

      You’re absolutely right. It was the patterns I saw in the cut trunks that gave rise to the whole post – the photos were too interesting not to share.

  14. dayphoto says:

    I loved the cross sections of the banana Trunk…I thought you were making something then realized it was a plant!


    • katechiconi says:

      It does look like some elaborate piece of embroidery or textile design, doesn’t it? Nature is full of inspiration, and I had to capture these images before the trunks rotted away. You never know, one day I might produce a ‘banana trunk’ quilt.

  15. […] Source: The Gardens of Chiconia 36: Going bananas about compost | talltalesfromchiconia […]

  16. Kirsten says:

    I thought the first picture was of a strange snake skin initially . . .

  17. I don’t just want to ‘like’ this post, I want to ‘love’ it… lots!

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