Updated: Dec 12, 2022
A banana circle is much more than a group of bananas planted in a circle. It presents many opportunities, and many benefits.
A banana circle is a fertile area we create, which normally has a recycled water source directed into a compost pile which lays in the centre of the circle. Bananas are very hungry (and thirsty) plants and will thrive from the abundant cycling of organic material as well as the moisture captured in its design. Having a place to throw your excess trimmings and compost, knowing it will feed you!
Multiple Benefits & Functions:
Compost and cycling of nutrients
Recycling of your Grey water- from a sink, shower, guttering or drainage pipe nearby.
Habitat for wildlife
Creation of a guild (a group of plants which benefit eachother) eg. Beneficial relationships between the different species of plants (the bananas protect the papaya and create shade for other plants) while the sweet potato, pumpkins or melons shade the soil.
Do it yourself!
The beauty of the banana tree is also very relaxing, giving a very tropical feeling. Especially when the bananas are flowering/producing! Here is one simple way of constructing a banana circle:
Step 1: Select an area to use for your banana circle and mark out a circle two meters or more in diameter. Try to find an area protected from strong winds or build a wind break.
Step 2: Using your two meter circle, dig out a dish-shaped (concave) hole to a depth of 50cm to 1 meter. Put the soil from the hole around the edge to create a mounded garden bed (ideal width: minimum 70 cm and ideal height of minimum 50 cm).
Step 3: Fill the pit with organic material such as branches large and small, you can add ash, manure and other garden waste making a large compost pile in the centre which will break down and add nutrients.
Step 4: Plant banana suckers around the rim of the mound at 60cm intervals. Normally 4 to 5 banana suckers around a two meter banana circle. You can add other plants to the system which enjoy a similar environment such as: papaya, watermelon, pumpkin, lemongrass, sugarcane, sweet potato and many more depending on your climate.
Step 5: Mulch generously to protect the soil and minimise evaporation, add your water source (Preferably recycled, such as an outdoor shower or vegetable washing station.) You may need to add extra irrigation until the plants are established and depending on how often you use the system.
Here are some variations we have created recently, including photos of some preparation!
(Quinta Bohemia - Moncarapacho, Algarve, Portugal.)
Plants: Bananas - Cavendish, red dacca and Lep chang kut.
Papayas, Starfruit, Lemongrass, Sugarcane.
Water source: Irrigation and stormwater runoff - possibility of future outdoor shower addition)
(Casa Colombo, Fuseta, Algarve)
Plants: Sugarcane, bananas, Papaya, Pidgeon pea, Cowpea, Pumpkins, Sesbania grandiflora, Vetiver, Lemongrass.
Water source: Irrigation and Outdoor sink/shower/veg washing station)
Tips for Mediterranean climate:
In order to improve the banana circle design, we recommend you to build a stone wall on the Northern edge of your banana circle in order to offer some wind protection and to create a big thermal mass which will protect the plant during the colder months. We also recommend planting the papayas against that wall because they are very sensitive.
Varieties of bananas for Mediterranean countries:
Dwarf Musa Cavendish, Musa Lep Chang Kut (the most frost and wind-resistant banana), Musa Dwarf Orinico, Musa Dajiao
This article was a collaboration by Jackson Knights and Miguel Cotton at Orchard of Flavours If you have any questions, suggestions or if you would like professional consultancy for your own project, do not hesitate to contact us.