Particulars of Growing Bamboo

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Particulars of Growing Bamboo

Postby George Collins » Sun Apr 29, 2012 2:20 pm

Some time ago we had a massive problem with some wisteria that had escaped cultivation. Countless hours were put into a failed attempt at its removal. Hurricane Katrina blew in the Chinese tallow (aka popcorn) tree which has proven to be equally resilient to eradication attempts. A doctor I go to church with has vainly waged a life-long battle against Chinese privet hedge. Japanese honeysuckle is so prevalent here that one would think it a native species. Trifoliate orange escaped cultivation 'round here long before I was born and has form thickets that makes a dewberry patch look like a feather bed in comparison. And then there is kudzu - the only method of control yet seen effective in dealing with it is to turn an infested area into a pasture or to move to a part of the world not yet infested.

Having been exposed to all of these pests, adding another potentially invasive plant species has been placed low on the list of priorities. I did an Internet search some years ago about invasive species and found, to my eternal surprise, that bamboo was at the top of the top-ten list of the worst offenders.

Having said that, I can't get the desire to have bamboo out of my mind. I think I've read before that it is the world's most useful plant. I know that I could find MANY uses for it beyond just fishing poles. I think I would like to have two varieties: "timber" bamboo which has up to a 6" diameter and "fishing pole" bamboo which has up to 1 - 1.5" diameter. Neither of these types are "clumping" varieties.

Since bamboo only flowers once ever 30 - 100 years, seed dispersal seems like it would be easily controlled - just bush hog the whole patch the the year it is scheduled to flower before it has a chance to set seed. The other way it propagates itself is via rhizomes. This SEEMS like bamboo would be easily controlled if planted out in the middle of a cow/hog pasture and fenced in. If the animals didn't keep it under control for you, easy access with a bush hog would allow one to prevent it's spread via regular mowing around the perimeter. I know that I've never seen it cross a road so there seems to be a limit to how far it can spread via rhizomes. These factors taken together seems to indicate that even though the potential for bamboo to become invasive exists, an intelligent, carefully thought out method for its cultivation could allow one to have this cake and eat it too.

Does anyone have any experience or knowledge along these lines that could either confirm or allay my fears or have a better method for having it and keeping it under control?
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Re: Particulars of Growing Bamboo

Postby Lollykoko » Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:03 pm

I have done a lot of reading about bamboo, George. It seems like a versatile plant that would be beneficial to grow.

Regarding the spread of the plant by rhizomes ... my reading has indicated that you should place an underground barrier on three sides of your bamboo patch to keep it contained. There are special liners you can purchase, poured concrete, sheet styrofoam ... Then you keep the front edge trimmed back by cutting out the plant if it starts to spread.

I think the recommended depth was 3 feet. The barrier offered for sale seemed to be of the same type of material (I got this info from a website, not seeing the product) used to make plastic edging for keeping the mulch out of the grass. Of course it is three feet or so high, and comes in variable lengths.
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Re: Particulars of Growing Bamboo

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:39 pm

A woman who used to work with me bought a house in town. The Lady mext door is a bit strange and she did not like to work, so she planted Bamboo in the yard so that she did not have to mow. The kind she used gets over 20' high. It did what it was intended to do and took right over. When Tera bought the house she saw the neighbors yard but did not think much of it. The Bamboo was creeping into her yard, so she mowed it off. Problem was that it left a very sharp 1/4 stick in the ground that was painful to walk on. It kept creeping, the cost for the barrior seemed very high to her because she was told that only concrete would actually stop it. The Boro had a Grass ordinance that said your grass could only be 9" high. Bamboo is technacly a Grass. She sued to have the Boro make the Lady get rid of it but she lost. She sold the house because it made her yard almost unusable. She did say that there were a Huge number of birds that nested in the Bamboo. It was a problem for her because the birds woke her up at dawn and pooped all over her sidewalk. Turns out people in town don't like that. In a pasture the bird sancuary sounds like a plus, and the sharp stick in the ground after mowing should not be a problem because you will not be walking there much and the pigs can root around and dig them up. Your idea of planting it in the Middle of the pasture makes sense to me, at that point I would not worry about spending the money on Barriors, just keep it mowed. It is hard to get rid of, and it is invasive, but your eyes are open and you are going in to the program knowing those facts. If cows or pigs don't like to eat it than you will have to mow around it to keep it in check. Maybe more than once a year, because the plants out side the fence that you mow off will send out a shoot beyond itself, so the spreading will continue.
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Re: Particulars of Growing Bamboo

Postby lonv166 » Thu May 03, 2012 1:02 pm

I have limited experience with bamboo. I live in an area where bamboo is prevalent, Southeast Asia. Yes, bamboo is a grass, and yes, it most likely can become pervasive. However, here (unlike the states) bamboo is cut consistently. Each bamboo you cut should be at a mature age beginning 3 years to 5 years, and is prime then for cutting (speaking primarily for building bamboo, not fishing poles) and using. I have now been in my jungle for 3 years, have cut bamboo since the first year, and our bamboo is not pervasive. It has reclaimed, but has not spread. I can only state in my experience that we have cut the bamboo as it matures. The area of the land it occupies has not changed. In over a hectare of land (now) we have some 25 gatherings of bamboo, and all have been trimmed (and put to constructive use) regularly. Allowing bamboo beyond 4 or 5 years is consistent with cutting your lawn every 4 years. In my opinion. Beyond the fact that at 5 years parasites and various diseases infiltrate.
A potential way of curbing whatever invasive tendencies there might be is to merely cut through the root surrounding the clumps of bamboo. Is that easy? No. Here we have a length of pipe, maybe 4 to 6 feet long. At the end of the pipe is a blade-like piece of metal (doesn't need to be sharp the longer your length of pipe is) that has been welded on. Just lift the pipe and let it slide through your hands until it pierces the ground, repeat until it pierces through the root itself. Voila! You might add pressure.
That equipment here is called a bondo. 90 minutes drive from here call it a budlong. Sometimes it is a heavy gauge re-bar, with a flattened edge on one end and a pointed edge on the other. Does the same job, except when using the pointed edge.
Good luck!
Oh, by the way, I am building a home this year with bamboo. Structurally stronger than steel when built correctly, and can easily withstand earthquakes. You might YouTube bamboo structures for more insight.
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Re: Particulars of Growing Bamboo

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Thu May 03, 2012 2:18 pm

Well George, Lonv166 has much more experiance with Bamboo than I do. The building type is not what was planted here in town I dont think. It never gets that large of a diametor. Cutting it every 3 years does seem to make sense to me, That should help with keeping it in check. The woman in town NEVER cuts hers, like I said she does not like to work. That is why she planted the bamboo in the 1st place. With this new information I think you could safely go for it and see what happens. Good Luck.
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Re: Particulars of Growing Bamboo

Postby lonv166 » Sat Jun 02, 2012 10:29 am

I should think a pick-ax will do the trick for splitting the bamboo, should the clumps begin to be invasive. I have asked the natives here, but no one seems to be aware of the seed problem. On the other hand, it may be welcomed, as bamboo according to 2005 sources, is a 30 billion dollar business. Makes me think about increasing my lot.
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