To celebrate Earth Day last year, the Lemur Conservation Foundation began a new venture in sustainability. With help from a group of volunteers, we planted our first two banana circles. These 2m wide circles are planted with bananas around the circumference of that circle. A banana circle serves a valuable purpose and provides a range of benefits to our reserve and the lemurs, who enjoy eating, playing with, and scent marking the broad, green leaves. We are excited to update everyone on their progress over the last year.
At the back of LCF’s reserve was a large, overgrown compost pile. The area became very wet during rainy season, and frequent flooding made it difficult to get our tractor back to properly maintain and turn the compost. Our dedicated volunteers cleared out this area by hand and prepared a flat area to begin a new banana circle.
After marking out a 2m circle, volunteers began digging. The dirt removed from the hole was then mounded around the circumference of the circle. When the hole reached 1m deep we used recycled cardboard to line the hole.
Volunteers then refilled the hole to promote efficient composting. First, a layer of woody sticks and branches was tossed in to provide drainage and air pockets. Next, we placed a layer of compost followed by a layer of green organic material (weeds and grass clippings). We repeated this pattern until a large mound was created.
We started by planting five baby banana trees, generously donated by the UF/IFAS Extension in Sarasota County. Each baby banana was planted evenly around the rim of the circle. The circle was finished by adding a thick layer of mulch around the new baby bananas.
As the material heats up within the large mound, the biomass decomposes and provides the baby banana plants with much needed nutrients. Gradually the mound shrinks in size, and more waste is added.
From this point, the banana circle needed minimal maintenance. Daily kitchen scraps and waste from cleaning at the reserve were fed to the circle to provide ample nutrients. Natural Florida heat and sunlight, as well as ample rainfall, did the rest. Over the course of a few months, LCF staff saw incredible growth.
All waste from lemur diet prep, daily enclosure cleaning, and even staff’s leftover lunch scraps from the office are used to feed the banana circle. Over the last year, LCF has successfully transitioned to divert over 24 cubic feet of waste from the landfill to our new compost system every week. That adds up to 1,248 cubic feet every year!
This low maintenance system helps to transform waste to fruit. Bananas are a favorite treat for our lemurs. Now they will be able to enjoy sustainable, organic bananas grown directly on our reserve. The banana leaves are also used as a fun, enriching source of browse.
The original five baby bananas have grown over 9 feet tall and we saw our first fruit develop this year. The plants continue to bloom. Additionally, these original plants have produced many shoots that can be used to create more circles. The success of our first two circles has encouraged us to build more.