Banana Circles

Suburban banana circle (Photo: Nevin & Linda Sweeney)

Yes, you can grow bananas in Sydney! A banana circle is a circular mound of banana plants with a compost pit in the centre. Bananas are very ‘hungry’ plants and need a lot of water and nutrients, so there is a great benefit from growing them around a compost pit that also traps water.

Another good thing about this compost pit is you don’t have to do anything with it except keep adding material! You can include things you might not put in a regular compost bin, like wood and palm fronds that break down very slowly, as well as seeds and weeds because you won’t be using this compost anywhere else in the garden. We know plenty of banana circles that are the final resting place for pets!

You will ideally need an area of about two metres radius for a banana circle. Remember that the soil from the pit is used to create the mound for the bananas, so prepare the circle before the pit is dug. Treat it like a no-dig garden – start with a layer of cardboard and newspaper as a sheet mulch to inhibit weeds, then add layers of compostable materials, before the top soil from the pit is added.

Plant the bananas and fill the pit with compost and lots of water. You can grow other plants between the bananas that like similar conditions, like taro and paw paw. Sweet potato will make a good ground cover crop to stop weeds, and aromatic lemongrass and citronella can help control insects. When you trim or harvest plants from the circle you can simply throw the plant material straight into the pit.

You could make a banana circle the central feature of a large mandala garden. You can link it to a grey water system, or build an outdoor shower or sink within the circle, to help water the bananas.

Did you know that bananas are actually a type of grass? Each plant only flowers and fruits once. The plant reproduces by producing new offshoots known as ‘pups’.