Banana Circles in Amritapuri, India

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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:

http://permaculturenews.org/2014/04/08/banana-circles/

http://www.homegrownediblegardens.com/banana-circlemulch-pit-guilds.html

http://www.mitra.biz/joomla/index.php/writingssustainability/3050-howtobananacircle

http://permaculturenews.org/2008/06/23/build-a-banana-circle/

https://treeyopermacultureedu.wordpress.com/chapter-10-the-humid-tropics/banana-circle/

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

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14 thoughts on “Banana Circles in Amritapuri, India

  1. I wonder what the banaba flowers look like and how they smell. I bet this pit planting idea woould work well for other garden plants, some that grow tall like artichoke, and some vining ground cover plants beneathe.

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    1. I wrote a friend in Amritapuri to ask. She sent this response:

      We don’t have any flowers at this time, but it is a large downward hanging deep purple bud. They are quite beautiful. I keep watch for one, but may not see one before I leave at the end of the month. As for circles working for other plants, yes I think it might, but it might be most effective for those plants/trees which like a lot of heat (from the compost in the center).

      She sent this link so you could see a picture of the flower: http://www.google.co.in/imgres?imgurl=http://blogs.swa-jkt.com/swa/10961/files/2013/12/banana_flower.jpeg&imgrefurl=http://blogs.swa-jkt.com/swa/10961/2013/12/10/bananas/&h=749&w=1000&tbnid=V2FcMzmK7Dzf5M:&zoom=1&tbnh=90&tbnw=120&usg=__zzhR7SPpjqz3t0heAtoFbw1-Kgg=&docid=VI9YdXk-iej9LM.

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      1. Thanks for taking the extra step to research this. That’s an interesting flower, it sort of looks like little bananas in it’s sex parts. I’m going to explore what I can grow best in composting circles in this Idaho summer heat.

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    2. I looked it up and found another:
      https://images.search.yahoo.com/images/view;_ylt=AwrTcXSAlPhUMs4AIMOJzbkF;_ylu=X3oDMTIzbG52ZGF0BHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDaW1nBG9pZANiOTIyODAzM2VkYmYxN2FkMjkwYTdkYjgyZDQ4YmQ2NgRncG9zAzQzBGl0A2Jpbmc-?.origin=&back=https%3A%2F%2Fimages.search.yahoo.com%2Fyhs%2Fsearch%3F_adv_prop%3Dimage%26va%3Dgoogle%2Bimages%2Bbanana%2Bpalm%2Bflower%26fr%3Dyhs-mozilla-002%26hsimp%3Dyhs-002%26hspart%3Dmozilla%26tab%3Dorganic%26ri%3D43&w=1195&h=1600&imgurl=3.bp.blogspot.com%2F-OUYUwKntaoM%2FT3MAaPBMBiI%2FAAAAAAAABIk%2FD3mGoakYgmE%2Fs1600%2FIMG_1350.jpg&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.tchotchkesetc.blogspot.com%2F&size=520.1KB&name=Anyway+-+my+%3Cb%3Egoogle%3C%2Fb%3E+searches+haven%26%2339%3Bt+come+up+with+anything+-+so+if+you+…&p=google+images+banana+palm+flower&oid=b9228033edbf17ad290a7db82d48bd66&fr2=&fr=yhs-mozilla-002&tt=Anyway+-+my+%3Cb%3Egoogle%3C%2Fb%3E+searches+haven%26%2339%3Bt+come+up+with+anything+-+so+if+you+…&b=0&ni=128&no=43&ts=&tab=organic&sigr=11635har3&sigb=150o7velm&sigi=12l180i06&sigt=12kdrlkjc&sign=12kdrlkjc&.crumb=J.GhhjvUj6r&fr=yhs-mozilla-002&hsimp=yhs-002&hspart=mozilla

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      1. What a long link! I had to copy it all and put in my URL but it worked. I doubt I have a long enough growing season here to produce a banana but maybe I’ll see if I can grow one just for the amazement of the plant and bring it indoors in winter.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I questioned what I said to you in the last reply so looked that up too! This is what I found:

        Banana plants are capable of growing in any climate as long as the temperature outside is above freezing. They can be grown in a greenhouse, or brought inside when the weather turns cold. Some banana varieties, such as the inedible Fiber Banana, (Musa Basjoo) are cold hardy to 20 degrees ferenheight. Some areas on the coast of Washington state are plenty warm enough for many types of bananas to live well.

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      3. So maybe you can grow a banaba in Seattle. I might see if my daughter can grow one in Port Angeles, while I try it in Idaho. The hot springs near my house has a green house heated by tubes that run hot water through cinderblock raised bed walls. I’ll see if they would bring it indoors for me in winter. What fun!

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    1. I’m very new to permaculture so I have very little personal experience other than what I witness. I know, however, that there are western devotees who are know a lot about permaculture who are working in the Amritapuri gardens or are teaching the residents new techniques when they visit. Amma is placing a high priority on organic gardening, both at the ashram and throughout India….. and everywhere else she goes for that matter.

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