When bamboo is cut into short sections, we are left with little circular hollow pieces, which are suitable for starting garden plants. If this is done with thin-walled, immature plants, the pots will rot away very quickly.
When I was in the Philippines, I saw many different sizes of bamboo, some up to 10 inchs in diameter. These are the Big Timber bamboos useful for construction of large buildings. When people build houses, they typically use material ranging from 2 inch to 6 inch diameter. Very strong.
We are all familiar with how quickly bamboo shoots for the sky and reaches full height in a few weeks. But this bamboo is not mature. The walls are very thin and not much stronger than a sunflower stock. It takes 3 or 4 years for larger bamboos to grow the thick, dense walls that make bamboo so strong.
When it's growing , these young canes are sometimes blown over. The resultant material has no commercial value. Sometimes young canes have to be cut just because they have migrated beyond where people want them. Invariably another one comes up a short time later. There is no shortage of immature bamboo that has toppled over.
They don't start skinny and then get thick, like a tree does. If bamboo is going to be 3 inch diameter, that's what pops out of the ground. It grows up to full height and then slowly matures into the material we all know. It's the same for 6 or 9 inch material.
These immature stems can be cut using a mitre saw, into whatever length is desired. If we want pots that won't tip over, cutting them to no more than double the height of their diameter will work.
They could be cut to give a simple cylinder, if we eliminate the solid piece at each node. Or if we want a bottom in the pot, cut it so that a node is at the bottom.
For starting young trees with a tap root, a long section between nodes could be split and then held together with an elastic band at each end. When it's time to plant, take off the elastics and extract the contents, or don't split and plant the whole thing.
I am sick and tired of plastic. And I've been to too many farms that call themselves organic, but there is plastic laying everywhere. Disposable plastic plant pots are a Scourge on the Earth.
This simple strategy could provide plant pots to every nursery where bamboo can grow to 3 inch diameter.
I think in most cases, you'd want to have just a cylinder with no bottom. Plant the whole thing. That way there's no root disturbance and planting happens much faster. The bamboo will rot and not restrict root growth. Because there is no bottom, the roots will immediately go there. This may be an advantage, when we don't want roots right at the soil surface, in order to not waste irrigation water or for other reasons.
Things could be planted with an inch or so of the bamboo sticking above the soil surface. This will provide a barrier to ground crawling critters that like to lop off seedlings.
I do my weeding using a cordless hedge cutter. I think I'll leave a 2 inch empty space in the pot and then put it that high above ground. I always sheer within 1/2 inch of the soil.
A hoe could be used right up to the edge of the pot.
Those who are very short on irrigation water, could pour in just enough to bring it to the rim.
There are a few other plants that have a hollow stem and could be suitable for this. Sunflowers generally grow where bamboo does not. They have a soft pith inside, which sometimes rots away sooner than the outer walls. I could see chopping large ones into 2 inch sections and then using some sort of reamer to quickly hollow them out. This would make a nice little starter for small plants. Apparently they can prevent some things from germinating. So you'd want to test it. If it works for the type of plant you want , perhaps it will stop competition from springing up immediately adjacent.
I did several laps around the internet trying to find this, and came up empty. It's a simple enough thing that you'd think it would have been done a few times.
I had no luck searching for bamboo planting pots or bamboo geenhouse planting pots.
When I searched bamboo planters and bamboo hydroponics, some things came up. Nobody is doing exactly what I envision, but some of the horizontal planters look like something that could be easily converted to use in an aquaponics system, where the liquid drips from the upper tray, to the high end of a lower tray and so on. Probably best for lettuce and other things that don't need a lot of root space. I imagine the trays would completely rot out within a year.
But so far, nothing using the soft rotty type of material that comes from very immature stuff. As my friends and family will tell you, I'm an expert on immature stuff, so I guess I'm the one who must do the field trials on this idea.
During my search, I stumble upon many good ideas for making pots out of coconut shell, for orchids. That could be a big one for me.
I just harvested a type of small clumping bamboo yesterday. I use it for making garden trellises. I purposely harvested a couple of the immature poles, but alas, they were solid, not hollow. Guess it must be the type of bamboo. But I have another variety growing on the farm that I know definitely is hollow stemmed. So I plan to toy with that and try making pots for my perennial seedlings. I'll let you know later how things go.
It's never too late to start! I retired to homestead on the slopes of Mauna Loa, an active volcano. I relate snippets of my endeavor on my blog : www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
Bamboo really likes to grow in leaf litter, so as cool as those sheaths are, they do provide for the plant even when left on the ground. Not to mention, my chickens just *love* to get in there and play with them! (read, looking for worms and bugs under them)
That said, I totally agree with the need to get away from plastic plant pots where possible, particularly those ridiculous single use 6-packs, and find cheap, effective alternatives. We do have coil plant pots being imported, but a part of me wishes the coir was being used to build the soil where the crop was being grown.
I think it would be great if you could do some tests to see how they decompose, how fast roots will penetrate through the shell, whether there's a difference between whether the bamboo pot is sitting above ground, or planted in the ground and I'm sure I could easily think of more. I often use a paper pots to root tree cuttings, but I'm limited to about 4 1/2 inches in height. Even then, I have to put them is a secondary container which is usually plastic, but I'll put 6 or so in there, so it's still *less* plastic. It never occurred to me to use bamboo, but my largest bamboo is P. dulcis, which rarely gets to be a large enough diameter to be useful in this way.
Good luck in testing out this idea. Bamboo is such a good edge plant for shade, earthquake protection, and much of it is edible at the shoot stage. Humans have simply lost the desire to use what nature gives us when the can order 10,000 identical pots with the click of a button!
Su, I hope you are able to harvest some when it's in the very early stages. That's going to make a big difference on how quickly it all breaks down.
I'm sure you will be interested in this. Planting in banana stems, both when they are on the ground and when they are still standing. I made another thread about it but I'll put a couple pictures here and a link.
Jay, the coconut choir pots are a great thing to use and your using them does not make a dent in local supply, where they come from. I have seen big piles of choir that are simply burned because they have no value.
I will use it for pots when I want something long-lasting, like an orchid pot. I hope to gather up tons of it, to turn it into biochar.
I won't have the opportunity to make bamboo pots until I return to the Philippines. But then I'm sure I'll try every configuration. If run through a table saw to just make an open slot, 1 inch or so wide, on the bottom, then a little wider at the top, a long length of bamboo could be turned wide mouth up and filled with compost. This could then be used to grow lettuce or other greens in an aquaponics situation. The roots would easily reach down into the solution. If mature bamboo is used, we might get many generations of aquaponic production. With green stuff we might get one or a few. Once it looks like that piece of bamboo is not going to last much longer, it could be planted up to something we want in the soil. Then we insert the whole length of bamboo into the soil. Sort of like a really giant version of seed tape. Everything will be spaced properly and they will have a jump on any weeds in a newly prepared plot. Bamboo comes with handy nodes that dictate spacing.
It would be easy to create something that looks like a strawberry tree. Cut a hole at the upper part of each section, just below a node and fill the space with compost. A small drill hole could be put through the lower portion on an angle so that it make a hole in the node below. This would give drainage to each section, so that irrigation water could be added from above. The top portion could be cut so that it creates a reservoir, the size of one node. I imagine hanging these from tree branches in spots that don't get much wind. Or they could be used in greenhouse situations, similar to the ones in the earlier photos. I suppose any of the ones designed to be laid horizontally, could be placed in small trees or sat in other places where nematodes and other unwanted guests would not find delicate crops.
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