I'm designing a biofiltration system for the greywater coming from our outdoor kitchen and would like to incorporate a bathtub-sized container of bamboo growing in gravel into the mix. Ideally, I would harvest the new bamboo shoots for eating, cut the larger bamboo poles for use in the garden and for building projects as necessary, in addition to the bamboo's filtering function in the system.
My question to you all is has anyone done this kind of thing in this area (Catskills, NY, zone 5b-ish), how did it work, and where can I source good bamboo plants from for this purpose?
The health concern with irrigating edibles with greywater is the potential to ingest a pathogen from someone else whose germs are in the greywater. The health rule, and rule of many greywater codes, is you can not irrigate root crops or allow greywater to touch the edible portion of the plant. If the bamboo shoots are above the water level and greywater would not touch the part you were going to be ingesting it should be fine to eat the bamboo.
Some people wonder about the potential health affects of chemicals compounds entering the plant from soaps in the greywater. What is important to keep in mind is that in a residential greywater system, the soaps in the water were directly touching someone's skin and being absorbed directly into the body. If someone is worried about the health affects of the soap going into food through a greywater system they should definitely not put that product onto their skin! Hope this makes sense.
Co-founder: Greywater Action, www.greywateraction.org
Author: Greywater, Green Landscape, and The Water-Wise Home: How to Conserve, Capture, and Reuse Water in Your Home and Landscape
If it's going to be outdoors, you're going to need a very frost hardy variety in the upstate area. I'm a bit farther south in NY(zone 6a) and our grove got hit pretty hard this year. I'm starting to wonder how many canes will turn bare after the leaf-fall in spring. Unfortunately all the best cold tolerant varieties such as Fargesia are rather small and low-growing by comparison like shrubs, and while they will probably filter water just as well, their shoots are just too small to bother eating. You could try Phyllostachys vivax(Yellow Groove), since it's one of the best of the taller cane-type varieties that can withstand cold, but it will probably need to be planted in a protected microclimate facing south.
On the microclimate front, the bamboo will be sitting with its roots in relatively warm water (or the system will fail due to freezing up), so as long as the Grey water keeps coming in, you are well on the way to a warmer area.
I would go with the cattail or something similar; bamboos, although they like abundant moisture, are not adapted to have their roots constantly submerged. Plants that would work would be species of Gahnia, Juncus, Cyperus, Equisetum or Typha (cattail).
Try Phyllostachys heteroclada (water bamboo), which can grow in permanently saturated soils and in up to a few inches of water. Its cold hardy to -5F. Even cold hardier (to -10F) is our native Arundinaria tecta, which is found in floodplains, swamps, and bogs. Its that extremely common 5 foot high bamboo you see growing along the drainage ditches along I-95 in SC and GA.