I have worked with many dozens of bamboos over the years in tropical, temperate and arid zones, and I can think of no more valuable single group of higher plants. They can pioneer difficult sites, create very fast shade and windbreak, make good nurse species for food forest development, provide mulch, construction material, food, and medicine. There are species that will grow from the equator to the Arctic Circle (admittedly not many of these) so there is usually a choice of species for about any location. To me, permaculture and bamboo go hand-in-hand; I could not imagine a design without bamboo. In bamboo cultures, there are so many uses that books have been written on the subject (see for example The Book of Bamboo by David Farelly)
Bamboo can be used to replace wood for construction purposes and could allow our forests to regenerate; instead of a 20-to-40 rotation for hardwoods, the same acreage of bamboo can be harvested every year after establishment... talk about a renewable resource.
Cortland Satsuma, the spot on your property you are describing would be well served IMO by planting it with Phyllostachys bambusoides ( called "madake" in Japanese) a large (to 65') running timber bamboo. Google it; it's both beautiful and useful.
Geoff Lawton claims bamboo on a dam won't damage it because of the lack of tap roots and that also suggests a leach field would be safe so long as the pipes are deep enough. They grow grass over leach fields, and bamboo is a grass. That being said, bamboo's a heavy feeder and is attracted to water, so I'd want to monitor the situation closely. I agree that you should choose a bamboo that isn't particularly tasty so one isn't tempted to eat the culms.
Jay, the fact that your Fargesia is in a pot is probably contributing to its slow growth. Fargesias are slow growing species anyway and keeping them confined in pots only exacerbates this.
They are also shade loving species, being native to high elevation forests in Asia. In their native habitat they are often found in association with conifers, so I would plant yours in the shade of your cedars (in the ground), and watch it closely. Remember they do not like drought and will accept a fair amount of nitrogen, so an N-fixing interplant would help.
Thank you everyone for wonderful contributions to this thread.
My idea is to plant bamboo in a place that is becoming overrun with knotweed. There is a scrappy patch of woods on our property with lots of scrubby invasives and weedy things (would be a great place for goats eventually as it is also full of poison ivy) and on the southern edge not too far from a vernal pool (I suspect a creek ran through there long long ago) this patch of knotweed is having a great time clearing out just about everything in its reach… If I can establish the bamboo (which I have no plan for- knotweed is aggressive! advice, please?) perhaps it will outcompete the knotweed and some of the other less impressive individuals in that area. I hope!!
Is it likely to bother the large trees there? From what I have read above my guess is that the dense shade of large trees discourages bamboo from taking over and this would not be an issue.
I wonder if it could effectively outcompete multiflora and wild honeysuckle in some instances. (A loopy cartoon of big hitter invasive ("opportunist," if you will) plants duking it out in a boxing ring dances in my mind.) Perhaps a combination of well established bamboo stands and goat grazing (like that in one of Geoff Lawton's somewhat recent videos) would actually take out heavily occupied rose/honeysuckle zones.
btw this area is separate and distant (separated by cultivated fields) from our diverse and healthy wooded areas. good for weird experiments. plus, we want bamboo. This seems like the best place to grow it. I bought two bamboo plants on ebay (perhaps somewhat carelessly because I am a free spirited individual- I love buying plants/seeds on ebay- despite the risk it often works out) One Phyllostachys bissetii and another "black bamboo" -I forget the latin name offhand. Should I plant them far apart from each other?
I really want Phyllostachys atrovaginata "Incense Bamboo" partly because of the great name and partly because it seems so wonderful. Perhaps I'll eventually go with a legitimate nursery as this seems hard to find. Anyone have it??
For planting bamboo, I would personally make sure the barrier is at least 30" and 40 mil thick. You can go thicker if you are trying to protect expensive hardscapes, walkways or driveways. Encircling the bamboo is a good idea as it is common to protect your yard but forget about your neighbor! I'm sure he or she won't like rhizomes invading their yard so you can a have a beautiful privacy screen. Rhizome Barrier Supply carries a bunch of different sized barriers, 30 mil to 80. Bamboo Barrier Supply
Cj Verde wrote:I just remembered Bill Mollison's trick for containing bamboo - plant it on a island where it will be marooned.
I am considering this and was wondering about the size of the island. I am installing some ponds and want to either have bamboo contained on a small island or on the dam wall. If the island were very small would the bamboo end up overcrowding itself and not doing well?
If bamboo is on a dam wall is it significantly less likely to run away and spread?
S Haze wrote:If I may ask, does anyone have experience or know much about growing bamboo in cold climates? I live in USDA hardiness zone 4 or 5 depending on the version of map you're looking at.
In doing some research a while ago I seem to recall a couple varieties I could probably grow here in the right micro-climate but I seem to remember the information indicating they should be in full or at least partial shade. Finding a micro-climate that's shaded but still a little warmer may be challenging unless the shade is only needed in the summer.
Also I'm wondering if it's the above or below ground portion of the plant that is most susceptible to the cold or both.
I have a slowly seeping spring on a north facing hillside that's well shaded in the summer where the ground doesn't freeze ever but since it's a spring of course the ground is always very damp which I don't think bamboo likes much.
Any suggestions Thanks!
Like several folks on this site have mentioned, bamboogarden.com is an excellent resource. What follows is my non-expert advice.
My SO and I have differing views on using bamboo in our forest garden; I'm for it, and she's not. What we ended up doing is compromising on a species ( p. nigra) that is hardy to zone 7, and planting it on the south side of a 13ft granite boulder on the land up here in our zone 5 climate. The boulder has enough solar gain to effect a small micro-7-climate, and so the plant lives. Should it venture too far beyond the protection of the boulder, the winter will likely kill the culms.
Based on what you've described with your site (northern and moist) I'd recommend Incense Bamboo It is edible, and has potential for use as a timber bamboo.
Hope this helps!
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