With the growing popularity of bamboo, many people have questions about how to proceed in the best manner. The first step is to research the type of bamboo best for your area. The American Bamboo Society web site is an excellent place to start. You will find excellent reference material on all types of bamboo.
Here at Bamboo Habitat, in Pennsylvania, we are growing Phyllostachys Vivax, an excellent bamboo that handles the Pennsylvania winters, with no problems. For the Phyllostachys Vivax and any of the other vigorous running bamboos, that spread through their rhizomes system, it is important to have a containment system in place, either before, or soon after planting.
Your containment system can be as simple as a trench around the entire circumference of your bamboo grove. The trench should be at least 18 inches deep, and as you see rhizomes growing into the trench you can simple cut them off.
For those of you that do not want an open trench in your yard, we recommend Rhizome Barrier which is made of, High Density Polyethylene, or, HDPE. It should be of a thickness of at least 60 mil for most variety’s of bamboo and up to 80 mil thick for your larger variety’s of bamboo. As far as the depth, you should go, typically 30 inch high barrier is adequate, although for larger bamboos, 36’ high barrier should be used. In some cases, if your soil is particularly hard and rocky, 24’ high barrier is used, but we do not recommend it. Regardless of the height barrier you use, do want to leave 3 to 4 inches above ground. The reason for this is that the rhizomes do surface at times and you do not want them to jump the barrier.
Now that you have the hard part done and your grove is established you need to maintain your bamboo. Depending on the size of your grove, we have 235’ circumference of bamboo, you will want to maintain a path through the bamboo. This can be done simply by knocking down the new culms as the come up, where you want the path. They snap off quite easily, kind of like celery stalks. Use this technique also to thin the bamboo. Ideally you do not want the bamboo to get so thick you cannot get through it. It also enhance the beauty of the bamboo if you can see through your grove.
Winter time also brings about some maintenance issues. Heavy snow storms and ice storms can sometimes crack the larger poles from the weight of the snow and ice. Leave the poles down for the winter, but when spring comes around, make sure to cut and clear out the down poles. If left down, you will have a impassable thick, mess on your hands after a couple years, and it will be a lot more work to clean it out.
Those are the basics you need to know to get started. The bamboo can be appreciated for many years with minable care, if you start out the right way. There is nothing like sitting out on your back deck, enjoying the pretty of your bamboo.
Jim Shannon owns and operates Bamboo Habitat. Bamboo Habitat sells both foreign and domestic bamboo poles and other tropical products. Jim has been in the “bamboo business” for 15 years, grows his own grove, and would love to discuss your project.