Banana Circles in Amritapuri, India


When I visited Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri, India in December 2014/January 2015, I was fascinated by the banana circles that were located in one of the ashram gardens. Banana circles are a permaculture technique that is most often used in tropical and subtropical regions. They help create humus and water retention where soils are either sandy or heavy clay.

I found this description of banana circles:

“Papaya, banana and coconut circles are developed by digging pits up to two meters in diameter (for papaya and banana – 3 m for coconut) and approximately 1 meter deep. They are then filled with dampened, compacted organic material to a height of 1 meter above ground. Up to seven plants of the appropriate type are then grown on the rim of the pit. Taro or other moisture loving plants may be grown in the inside edge, as sweet potato along the outside edge to provide a living ground cover and mulch, as well as additional food production.”

Banana circles also are a way to compost organic materials, produce food, and utilize grey water. They are filled with microorganisms.

I learned something else in researching this topic. I always thought bananas grew on trees. It turns out that banana palms aren’t trees, they are plants. I was even more surprised when I read the following information from The Permaculture Research Institute:

Did you know that banana palms are actually a grass? Also, each plant only gives fruit once, so after you have cut the bunch of bananas down you can remove the whole plant at ground level. By this time, there should be new suckers coming up — only allow a couple of these to grow, as too many will make your bananas overcrowded and they won’t fruit well.

When I first looked at the banana palms in Amritapuri, I was astounded by how fast they grow. The first picture below was taken on the day the palm was planted. The second and third pictures are of banana palms three or four days after they were planted.

Here are some other pictures of the Amritapuri Banana Circles.

For more information:


Originally written for PNW Green Friends Newsletter, Issue 44, March 2015