new to bamboo

Paris, TX

hi, im just starting to learn about bamboo, and i had a few Q's for you. i live in north east texas where 100+ degrees in summer and winters get down to high teens are the norm, but a few -0 nites can happen. watering will not be a problem. im looking to grow bamboo for 2 reasons, 1 i would like to make a living fence 15 to 20 feet tall around my property (1 acre). i dont want that to spread into my yard. im willing to give up 4 to 6 feet of depth for it to grow in, but i dont want it to grow past that. the second reason im wanting bamboo is the usefulness of it after it has been culled. i would like to build a few things around the yard (a shed and walkway) for starters. for that i would like bamboo that gets at least 30 feet tall and has a diameter of at least 8". im sure many projects would follow so growing too much wouldnt be a prob. i have horses on the property next door, so eatable bamboo would be a plus, and not poisonous a bigger plus. the types that will grow in my climate and fit my needs are the first question i have for you. i dont know if i would have to put in a underground fence to stop it from growing past the 4 to 6 feet or if i can just keep it mowed down with my riding mower by mowing once a week? also how many or how close to each other should i plant the "bulbs" to get the coverage i want, and what kind of time frame am i looking at to get the fence as tall as im wanting it? thanks for your time jason

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Well, if you don't want it to spread, make sure that you make one search term "clumping" instead of "running" bamboo. The only website I found that said it was "easy" to contain running bamboo showed how they "simply" used power shovels and poured below-ground concrete to contain it.

Not my idea of "easy".

But I've had a clumping Fargesia rufa for around three years now and it's not spreading enough to notice. I was hoping to harvest 6-12 foot poles, 1/2" diamter from it, but it srtill more like thick, heavy grass than like bamboo poles! Now I'm guessing that it might take 5-10 years to reach maximum thickness.

I wish I had started with F. robusta (up to 15' and 0.75" or 1" diameter). It might have produced usable size culms sooner. On the other haqnd, if my c onditions are far from ideal, both species might remian like gloriifed ornamental grass for decades. We'll see!

Herte's a place you c an search and filter by size and cold hardiness (minimum temperature)..

Does anyone know about bamboo's maximum temperature? If summers often go above 100 F, is he likely to need shade and irrigation? I don't know. I always assumed it was a fairly cool climate plant.

I searched for cold-hardy clumpers with culms thicker than 5 inches, and did not find any7 until I upped the minimum temperature to 20 F: Bambusa sinospinosa, very thorny and numerous branches at a node.

Raising the minimum temp to 25 gave m any chocies among Bambusa and Dendrocalamus

Dendrocalamus brandisii 'Black' up tgo 40' tall, up to 8" diameter. Live culms are black but dry to a dark brown color, very valuable for furniture etc.

Dendrocalamus giganteus 100' and 12" . From Burma, perhaps the largest bamboo in the world.

Dendrocalamus latiflorus 65' and 8"

Dendrocalamus sp. 'Maroochy' 33' 8"

Don't take my word for it, but I seem to recall reading somewhere that "cold hardiness" in some bamboos might mean that many leaves die, but new culms may still come back next year.

Good luck!

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I should stress my ignorance! I only know what I've read, and there is some variety of opinion on how easy bamboo is to contain.

My own one gallon plant from Home Depot took 2-3 years to be 5-6 feet tall and wide.
If you want to cover a fenceline in 2-3 years, and yours grew like mine, you would need plants started every 5-6 feet.

If it were me, being cheap and patient, I would double or triple my time estimate.
I'd buy one plant now, then fertilize and water it.

Divide it into 6-10 clumps 3 years from now.

Plant those divisions 4-5 feet apart, in a row 25-50 feet long, and wait 2 more years for them to fill in.
Or plant them 10 feet apart, in a 100 foot row, and wait 3-4 more years for them to fill in.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

2009 - 2010 - Feb, April, May, June

F. rufa on clay soil, shady, PNW Zone 8, c ool dry summers and mild, drizzly & cloudy the-rest-of-the-year.

Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Same F. rufa in July 2011, then four shots in June 2012.

Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

A few shots from March 2013 before the new culms emerge, showing a late snowfall that mashed this guy FLAT.

I brushed the snow off and he sprange right back.
I'm eager to see how big he'll get this year!

Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA
Brunswick, GA(Zone 9a)

Can anyone tell me the correct fertilizer for my bamboo?
I have "Robert Young" and "Henon" and some that i'm not sure of that get larger than the previous mentioned. They are all runners.
Thanks in advance.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I never heard of special fertilkizer for bamboo, except that one person suggesting they need some silicate. I couldn't verify that.

But several sourc es say they appreciaqte a thick layer of organic mulch.

My inclination is to get some fertilizert with a little more N than exactly balanced. Or to get soil tested and supply only the defficiencies.

Does anyone know if bamboo likes lots of food, or a lean diet? Or what is the best time of year to encourage them?

Perhaps fertilization at different times of year encourage different kinds of growth: late summer and fall are supposed to be when the rhizomes expand and store up food. Fertilizing then would (I imagine) encourage spreading and balanced growth of the whole clump. (I grow a clumper, not a runn er. Fargesia rufa).

On Cape Cod and coastal PNW, new shoots appear in April and May, and grow taller in May and maybe June. Perhaps fertilizing at that time encourages this year's new culms over balanced, gradual growth of the whole clump? And maybe fertilizin g during early summer helps culms to harden up and branch more??

I am purely speculating and hoping someone knowledgable will correct me.

One source said this:
"Once a bamboo has reached the desired size, it can survive with much less irrigation.
But until then you must water and fertilize copiously to achieve optimum growth.":

( Pam ) Portland, OR

Bamboo is a grass so a lawn food without weed killer is what most folks use. It would be applied at the same time you normally fertilize lawns in your area. Just remember, more is not better. Follow label directions.

That said, so far I have not been able to convince myself to buy any sort of commercial chemical fertilizer for my various groves, since my garden is pretty close to organic and I haven't wanted to upset the balance I've achieved in the last forty years here.

When first planting a grove, I make sure the spot is at it's peak condition since I will not be digging through there anytime soon. I have developed my own routine over the years. Early spring I sink my spade around the edges of each grove, checking for potential runners. This gives me the summer to deal if needed. I double check these edges in the fall too.

During the summer, after all the shooting is done, I start thinning the groves taking out older culms ... three years old or older. I judge by where I want privacy protection, sunlight for the garden, and enough air /light flow through the culms. At about the same time I remove many of the large culm sheaves as much of the old leaves..all to the compost pile. I then add compost to feed and conserve moisture. I also add some of my basic organic fert since I have a huge many pound stash. It's a Steve Solomon recipe, but darned if I can remember the exact mix right now. It's the basics, feather, bone etc.

I am starting to think it's time for me to up the ferts though since my largest grove and most important one has reached it's maximum space available and without any new ground to grow on at all, I'm pretty sure I need to step in and provide what it was getting as it ever so slowly increased where it is growing. It's over 35 years in this contained space now. After much consideration I think I'm going with some Milorganite. There's no food growing near and never will be. The area does not drain to other parts of the garden, so even though Milorganite is controversial, in this case I think it's probably the best pick given the location, need of the grove and the fact that it is not a chemical fert. I don't want my worms injured. LOL

Here's a picture of the first grove I'm worried about. The light green on the lower edge is the neighbors about 9 feet plus right now. It's cold and rainy here, but the first shoot is up and you can see the first old leaves starting to yellow getting ready to drop. The photo showing the culms is shortly before a thing / cleaning out the bulk session.

My bamboos are on the smaller side of their growth ranges due to the amount of shade here from the surrounding trees. Here's a link showing how they would be in a sunny spot. But they are doing exactly what I need them to do. Lower the temp of my home in the summer and giving me privacy here in a densely populated area.

This one is Phyllostachys vivax....oh yeah a runner. I stay on top of it. Never had trouble. It's all about the initial set up. Build your bamboo jail BEFORE you bring in the bamboo, make sure you have room on ALL sides to swing a pickax, and never plant on the edge of the property letting your bamboo become the neighbors nightmare.

Bamboo is a wonderful, misunderstood plant with many uses. It's the irresponsible owners that give the rest of us a bad name.

This message was edited May 28, 2013 5:56 PM

This message was edited May 28, 2013 6:08 PM

Thumbnail by citybusgardener Thumbnail by citybusgardener
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Milorganite sounds extremely safe. Dried at 900-1200 F?

When I see "safety" labelling describing ways to keep dogs and children from eating large amounts of it, I just don 't think of that as a "safety" risk.

But my perceptions may have been skewed by workimng in the chemical industry, where 'safety" means things like concentrated nitric acid, benzidene and sodium hydroxide.

( Pam ) Portland, OR

Hi Rick,

I've read and read about the Milorganite. Back in the olden days it was common knowledge to keep it far away from food plots due to the heavy metals. But it seems they have changed over the years and that's no longer a concern ???? The experts even disagree so it won't be near a veggie for me. But then I have only enough veggies growing I can count them on my fingers.

Heavy metal safe or not ???? I've decided I'm not smart enough to figure it out. LOL

Your little rufa is looking GREAT BTW. I wish I could figure a place to fit one in just because I've watched yours grow and I really like it.

( Pam ) Portland, OR

There's the link. It's just so hard to decide what to feed my poor OLD groves.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Ever thought about Greensand ,, What they once grew in naturally around New Jersey and bay area locations ,, I don't have any besides "rufa "

Have tried a few from seed , put them out too soon and lost them ,, mistakes are what they are ..oh well ..

( Pam ) Portland, OR

Excellent. I didn't know that. Thanks.

I have lots of greensand, though first I suppose the smart thing to do is find my Steve Solomon recipe and see if that has greensand, since I have been using that. Now I've started looking for my book but it seems it must be in the stored parts of the garden library. Been doing some renovations and had to put some things out of the way. This may take awhile.

So your seeds did germinate ? Well, that's a big success.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Most , even some that did not , I soaked some that did not in my ""wanna be"" chemistry formula , After another three months approx the seeds germinated ,
Yes I tried the Hydrogen peroxide &salt combination to begin with ,, it worked for some ,, Of another type ..(variety)

( Pam ) Portland, OR

Cool ! I'm going to try and remember that for the "someday I'll germinate Bamboo " moment of my life. I've read about the HP, just never done it. Sounds good.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> Back in the olden days it was common knowledge to keep it far away from food plots due to the heavy metals. But it seems they have changed over the years and that's no longer a concern ????

I know that "Class A biosolids" have to pass a battery of tests before it can leave the treatment plant. One of those tests is for heavy metal. And I totally believe that such tests and laws were not in place a few decades ago. Som etimes the fears last longer than the reasons for the fears.

>> Heavy metal safe or not ????

There's no question that many heavy metals are quite toxic. And they never biodegrade - at best they leach away into someone else's groundwatedr. And most or all heavy metals are cumulative poisons: whatever yopu absorb stays with you, and their toxic effec t is added to the toxic effect of other heavy metals you consume years later.

I think the only question about heavy metal toxicity is "how much is harmful?" Really, you would have to ask how much accumulation is harmful over your en trie lifetime, so at any age "less is better".

Or you might worry that some sewage treatment plant cheats on its tests, or bribes inspectors, or too many inpectors were fired as a cost-saving measure. The only guy I know who mis a sewage treatment engineer says convicningly that HE doesn't cheat on tests, and couldn't get away with it if he wanted to.

( Pam ) Portland, OR

Fear ? Not really the right word in my case. Maybe skeptical is closer?

If I'm remembering correctly it was clearly printed on the back, lower portion of the Milorganite bags.. never use on vegetable gardens. Shoot, I can almost see it. Yellow background, black printing of the basic facts and this part was slightly bolded text.

Worry that they cheat ?
Not really. In fact that thought doesn't enter into my equation. Do they report truth on what they test ..sure. But if you think of all the industrial waste not caught before entering the system, pharmaceuticals,vitamins and magic snake oils, cleaning chemicals, solvents, etc..then it all mixed together, what exactly has been created and what should be tested for ? The poo icks some folks out, but I've raised two kids, plus various animals. Poo and puke is a fact of life. :)

Science is practiced by people. People are flawed, and pig-headed. People like to think they’ve found certainty, when what they’ve found is just a better method of refining uncertainty than they had before.

Would I use this on my vegetable garden ? Nope. Too many other options. Would I want my daughter to use this on her vegetable garden and feed my grandchildren if it was the only thing she could afford ? No. I would find a way to get a truckload of good stuff delivered to her, maybe saying it's easier for her. Not that the $ is easy for me, but I am just not wanting to always wonder. The smaller the child, the more potential harm there is.

Do we have an ethical responsibility to use waste like this as best we can ? Absolutely. Filling garbage dumps is quite unethical and leaving the problem for our great grand children. Thus it seems reasonable to use products like this responsibly...not where food will grow, We just don't have the knowledge to declare this food safe. I am well aware the sellers of these products do say it is food safe. Well, balancing economics with human health is a hard line to draw. Doubt that look again at our health care system.

After all, nothing is 'pristine'. Can't remember where I heard this..back in school I think. The claim is that since the water on this earth is finite, water you drink toady has already been through five people. Bottoms up ! :)

wait.. this was supposed to be about bamboo right ? Okay, remember bamboo creates more oxygen per sq inch of plant material than trees. Grow more bamboo !

This message was edited May 31, 2013 2:16 AM

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> never use on vegetable gardens.

Amazing. Maybe the high heat breaks down fewer things than actuall tertiary processing and composting. Class B and Class A biosolids aren't that hard to produce, and Class B is spread on farms that sell to supermarkets.

>> The smaller the child, the more potential harm there is.

I agree with that, all the way back into the womb.

>> Science is practiced by people. People are flawed, and pig-headed. People like to think they’ve found certainty, when what they’ve found is just a better method of refining uncertainty than they had before.

When you said that, I thought "Very true, BUT ..."

>> Well, balancing economics with human health is a hard line to draw. Doubt that look again at our health care system.

OK, now I take back the "BUT". Very good point. Fourty years ago, I bought into the belief that "we have the best health care system in the world".

Now, partly relying on my SO's experiences in other countries including Thailand and India, and partly relying on my own too-extensive expreiences as a patient in the USA, I believe that we have the most PROFITABLE health care system in the world.

"You get what you pay for" is only true up to a point. Sometimes you can pay 5-10 times as much but get less.

Sorry, "bamboo bamboo bamboo". Do you give any credence to the idea that bamboo needs to be fertilized with extra silicate in some soils?

Brunswick, GA(Zone 9a)

About the silica, I have some citrus trees that I fertilize. I don't remember the name of it but I've found that there is a piece of silica inside the little round pieces of the fertilizer. You just squeeze it between your thumb and index finger till it pops and you can feel the piece of silica.

Brunswick, GA(Zone 9a)

Hello, and thanks for the information about the fertilizer for bamboo. I should have realized that bamboo and grass are in the same family. I think I will mix up a batch of lawn fertilizer diluted by 50% just to be on the safe side and take it from there. Thanks for the tip citybusdriver!

Brooksville, FL(Zone 9a) You might want to get in touch with this group. They will point you in the right direction of bamboo selection for what you are wanting to accomplish.

Best of luck to ya. Note: there are editable bamboo that are wonderful tasting, look in to a few of them.


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