The calming sound of bamboo clacking in the wind, and the way light falls on
the ground through a stand of bamboo can be a nice addition to any garden.
Despite its finer qualities, the mere mention of bamboo is often enough to
illicit a firm "Not in my backyard!" from many gardeners. Bamboo certainly
has the annoying tendency to take over a yard quickly, but a well-planned
stand of bamboo may be helpful to striking a peace accord with the pushy
If you are contemplating using bamboo in your yard plan to plant it in
containers to keep it from spreading. Select where you would like to grow
your bamboo and then bury containers in the ground so the tops are level
with the soil. Fill part way with soil, place your bamboo plants in the
containers and then fill the rest of the container with soil.
You will need to monitor your bamboo closely and cut it back regularly in
order to be sure it stays where you want it. When cutting back your bamboo,
cut off the stems, also called culms, shortly after they come out of the
ground, and before their leaves open. The leaves feed the roots and help
the plant to establish itself and begin growing. When cutting back your
bamboo, trim out the old culms from the center of the colony. While this
may seem counter-intuitive, cutting out the center of the colony will help
to prevent the colony from spreading. If you have stands of bamboo that are
not contained, cut them with a sharp spade in late summer, drive them into
the ground about a foot and then dig them out.
Once you've cut it down and dug it up, the question of how to get rid of
your cut bamboo arises. Bear in mind that since bamboo is a woody fiber,
putting it in a chipper is not a good answer. Instead of setting by the
curb for garbage pick up, try using it around your home. For all of its
difficulties, bamboo is a useful plant-the Japanese employ it to make all
kinds of structures. It works well for bean trellises, tomato stands, or
fences. When working with the plant remember that nails and screws will
split the bamboo poles. Binding them together is usually the best solution.
The Japanese traditionally use sisal, an expensive palm rope, but you can
also use household twine.
For those who plan to devote more time to the bamboo arts consider
purchasing a bamboo splitter. This is a cast iron Asian tool that looks
like a sliced pie, with blades making up the slices. It is used to split
the bamboo into pieces so it can be used for weaving. Simply place the
splitter on the top of a bamboo pole and tap it until the splitter works it
way down the pole, slicing the wood as it moves. Splitters come in a variety
of sizes with anywhere from three to 18 blades.
If you know how to monitor and care for your bamboo it can be a pleasure to
grow, as opposed to a nuisance to tame.
Sources: Adrian Higgins, The Washington Post; National Gardening
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