Removing Bamboo: Why And How

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Aug 31, 2017 | Laura Firszt

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Live bamboo is popular as an inexpensive, natural, privacy fencing material which is about as green as you can get. Although it’s a type of grass, bamboo is actually stronger than wood; it’s also remarkably fast growing, meaning you won’t have long to wait before your fence is all grown up. However, rapid bamboo growth is exactly what can turn this plant into a problem. Too much of a good thing is, well, too much … and removing bamboo may soon end up on your garden chore checklist.

Reasons For Removing Bamboo

The problem has its roots in the fact that some types of bamboo spread extremely fast. Invasive bamboo species quickly grow not only upward but also outward, taking over 3-5 feet of new territory per year. These types are known as “running” (as opposed to “clumping”) bamboo. Perhaps their name is a not-so-subtle hint that you should be running as fast as you can away from chimono-bambusa, indocalamus, pleioblastus, and sasa.

The result of all this activity? Bamboo growth can and will take over your yard – and your neighbors’, to boot. In the process, other less aggressive plants tend to be crowded out. This reduces native plant varieties and limits the biodiversity of your neighborhood.

The problem of invasive bamboo species has become so severe that some municipalities are passing laws which require homeowners to pay for removal.

Why Is Removing Bamboo So Difficult?

What makes removing bamboo so difficult is that it's not just about getting rid of the rapidly spreading stalks and leaves which are easily visible in your yard. Below the surface of the earth, as well, running bamboo growth is rapidly taking place via its underground stems -- called rhizomes -- that must be removed as well.

You will have to deal with the rhizome system carefully whether you want to eliminate, or even just contain, bamboo growth on your property. 

Methods Of Removing Bamboo

Chemical-Based

Cut back the aboveground bamboo growth and spray the remaining stems and leaves with a chemical weed killer containing glyphosate. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for safe spraying. To protect your grass and garden plants, be conscientious about applying the product only to the bamboo. Two or more applications will be necessary.

Chemical-Free

1. Digging. To get rid of a small amount of bamboo without chemicals, dig up the plants, including their rhizomes. If you’re removing a bamboo patch consisting of just a few plants, water the ground or wait for a rainy day. Moist soil is easier to work. Dig up the plants completely, together with their underground stems. Allow the roots to dry; then add to your compost.

2. Mowing. Trim the bamboo growth as close as possible to ground level. Go over the remains with your lawn mower on a regular basis. With no leaves to provide a food supply through photosynthesis, the rhizomes will eventually die. This method of removing bamboo is simple and natural, but it does take a while to be completely effective.

3. Covering. Similar to mowing, another way of cutting off the bamboo’s food supply is by chopping down the stalks and covering the leftover stalks with a tarp. Try this method only if you have a lot of patience; it will take many months to kill off the bamboo completely.

4. Containment. Not strictly a method of removing bamboo, containment will keep your bamboo plants alive, but stop them from spreading further. Dig a trench 28 inches deep around the plants and fill it with a bamboo-resistant barrier of metal, plastic, or concrete. The barrier should extend at least 2 inches above the earth to control those pesky rhizomes.

Whichever method of removing bamboo you go for, it will demand a great deal of time and effort. If you’d prefer not to DIY this particular gardening task, hire a professional landscaper to get the job done for you.

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

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