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What to do with bamboo in an urban area ? Compost ?

 
Posts: 7
Location: Mauritius
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Hi everyone !
So I know that most seems to love bamboo as it's so versatile...but I'm actually having a hard time dealing with it, so that it does not become 'waste'.
We're actually in an urban area and trying to re-design the existent garden to be as productive as possible. We're also avoiding waste as we can.
The hedge of the house is made from bamboo [ I forgot the exact name, but it's the small variety, not the big ones that are so useful in constructions - hedge bamboo I guess ?]. The bamboo has to be cut quite often, to keep up with the 'tidy' look needed [as we're in an urban area, and letting it grow wild wouldn't be much appreciated by the neighbors...] - but hence it creates a lot of green waste... that we learned by experience, does not compost very well ! A compost has been installed since several months and we just earlier put together a 'slow rot' pile thingy where all the branches and other things that will take a lot more time to compost will go [looking at you coconuts !]. Would you add it to the slow rot pile ? Or Would you maybe use it directly as mulching ?  
Any other ideas on what to do with it ? What would be the best use you could think of for it ? I might only be lacking of ideas on that one...
 
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Hi Victoria.

If it doesn't want to decompose quickly, I would definitely chop it up and use it as mulch. One caveat, though, is to make sure that chopped up bits don't root themselves and begin growing new plants. In absence of this, you should have an abundance of mulch. With that down, you might not have to worry much about it, but monitor your soil. It should increase in vitality, and you might find macrobiota and microbiota breaking the bamboo mulch down for you.

What were you using for your browns, though, that the bamboo didn't want to decompose? Also, did you leave it whole? I have had much success in chopping up my compost additions to increase surface area and speed decomposition. I have ended up with some very hot compost piles working with Japanese Knotweed, which some here confuse with bamboo and also doesn't always like to compost nicely when fresh.

You could try, if you haven't already, a suped-up compost, where you build a container that supplies oxygen to the bottom and perhaps facilitates turning somehow. I once built one out of a 55 gallon drum and the inner stainless steel sleeve of an old washer. To turn the compost, all I did was tip it on its side and roll it a bit, then roll it back to its spot. It cooked so quickly that although I kept it in the shade, it at times was so hot that I couldn't touch it for long.

Good luck with your composting or mulching!

-CK
 
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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To decompose bamboo you need two fungi strains; Blue stain fungi and White lignin fungi, these will take around 4-6 months to decompose the lignin and cellulose in the bamboo and that will allow it to rot into compost.
Another way to get this decomposition going is to use spent coffee ground that have been allowed to start growing fungi and molds prior to putting them on the stack of bamboo.

The pencil bamboo (probably what you have) can be fully dried after cutting so that it won't try to sprout when chopped up and used as mulch. (this works for just about all bamboo species)
It sounds like your bamboo is a runner bamboo (also a characteristic of pencil bamboo) and if you want to contain it you will need to dig a trench down about 4 feet and install a thick plastic barrier, being sure to leave about 8 inches above ground so you can trim the rhizomes as they grow over the barrier.

Redhawk
 
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I've had bamboo start to mold and rot about a year after I started using it as a walking stick. It was left standing in the shade sometimes. It was about an inch thick dia.. I would assume having lots of bamboo on or in the ground would speed up the culturing of fungi and start to break the rest down once it starts the culturing. Or at least speed it up. I find that the slower you can get something to break down the longer you have to use it for building life. It's like long standing(or rotting) buildings providing homes for humans... long rotting fibrous things like bamboo and trees can provide homes for tiny creatures and soil life. Not sure if people use bamboo like that but I would try it if I had a bunch. Probably been covered and I didn't search, but putting it in a hugelkulture wouldn't hurt I assume.
 
pollinator
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Location: Manila
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I like using bamboo as stakes for my tomatoes, etc.

We also use wash, then split the stiff ones and use them as skewers for kebabs - they have a pleasant aroma as they heat on the fire.

Bamboo is really easy to work with if you're into handicrafts - a small saw, a glue gun, some twine or wire, sandpaper and varnish is all you need to make lots of useful things like coasters and trivets. Perfect handmade holiday gifts:

 
Victoria Fauve
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Location: Mauritius
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Thanks all for all the great answers and thoughts. Learnt a lot reading through your comments !

The bamboo variety we have is often called 'chinese bamboo' here, but I'm not sure it's its true name.

I like to use some of the sticks as stakes for the climbers in the garden indeed. For the handicraft, I would love to, but I'm not sure it's possible with this variet [or I do not know how to work with it].

I had the intuition it might be best to let it dry before using it as mulch, so that's good to see this confirmed. Didn't think about the sprouts though actually, good to keep that in mind too, thanks!

For the browns, we definitely didn't have enough of it in our compost- lately we're being careful about that and adding way more of it. It mainly comes from dried leafs and non-inked cardboard.

Thanks again everyone !

 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Victoria,  Is that "Chinese bamboo" really straight and no bigger in diameter than your thumb?

The reason I ask is that one of the main uses of old for that sort of bamboo was arrow shafts, both the Chinese and the Samurai bowmen used these shafts.
There are re-enactors and folks that practice the use of the Bow that might provide you a market for such stalks of bamboo.

Redhawk
 
Victoria Fauve
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Location: Mauritius
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Victoria,  Is that "Chinese bamboo" really straight and no bigger in diameter than your thumb?



Indeed ! It's very small in diameter, quite straight, and with lots of leaves ?

I didn't know about the arrows made from chinese bamboo - that's some cool information, thanks ! Will look into that - be it just to learn more about it, even if I can't find anyone who would want to use it in my area [would be worth keeping an eye open for this too though !].
 
pollinator
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Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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It works great to cut some in summer while it still has leaves to mulch a newly seeded garden area. When the ground was hot and dry in July, I've used a single, loose layer over rows of just planted sweetcorn. I gave it a light watering and the bamboo shaded it, so the moisture didn't evaporate as much. I think I watered it a little 2-3 evenings.
 
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