How To Grow, Control, and Use Bamboo On The Homestead


Clumping Bamboo

Bamboos are the easiest to grow on your homestead as they don’t have a lot of requirements. As long as the ground is fertile and the climate is neither too cold nor too hot, you’re good to go. One thing you can be certain about is how fast they grow.

There are different species and varieties to choose from, depending on your needs or specifications. In this article, I’m going to guide you through the diligent process of growing them from seeds, transplanting them, and caring for them. If you thought bamboo trees were just native to the rain forests, you’re wrong. In many locations bamboo can be easily grown on your homestead and reap the benefits.

Bamboo’s long history

Before the rest of the world knew anything about bamboos, Asians had already known of the benefits, and some of them believed the plant was enchanted. So many of their furniture used bamboo as the main source of wood, from beds to tables to dishes such as cups and so forth. Most people back then used it for shelter, firewood, weaponry, and food.

How to Plant Bamboo

There are different types of bamboos, the major ones being two; clumping and running. Clumping bamboo grows in clumps while running bamboo rhizomes, long underground stems which grow expansively and, if not taken care of, can easily invade other ground and plants altogether. The other primary type of bamboo is reeds which are rarely planted in backyards, and if planted, they can be either clumping or running bamboo depending on how they were planted.

Most bamboos prefer more sunlight to shade, but certain species can grow under shade as well. To start growing bamboo, you need to make sure your soil is generally well-draining and fertile as well. You might choose to add fertilizer or compost to improve your soil if it isn’t fertilized enough.

Planting Bamboo

Preparation

When to Grow Bamboo

The best time to plant is during the spring season. The plant grows fast, and because of this, it needs access to humidity and warmth from the environment, a weather condition mostly found during the spring season. If you’re starting out your plants from seeds, consider planting them during early spring to give them enough time to establish themselves by summer. Seedlings don’t need as much time, so planting them into the ground during spring should be fine. 

Where to Grow Your Bamboo

Bamboos don’t necessarily require much when it comes to choosing a location. However, they can provide unique views if planted in the right place. I would recommend planting it behind short plants, against your fence, or at the edge of your garden because they tend to grow very tall in such a short time. You may also choose to plant the compact varieties for bamboo in a giant flower vase or pot and place them strategically around your home.

Selecting the Right Species for Your Garden

Do you live in extreme weather regions? Is it always hot or cold? These extreme weather conditions are not favorable for the bamboo plant. Bamboos love tropical climates where the climatic conditions are balanced out. Humidity is not in excess, and neither is heat. In such extreme temperatures, you can choose to plant your bamboo indoors, where you can control the growing conditions.

If you live in a tropical climate type of region, the following species would be best suitable for you.

For warm regions: The Bambusa multiplex species, also known as Alphonse Karr, Phyllostachys nigra species, and the Borinda boliana species.

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For slightly cooler regions: Fragesia dracocephala species which is a clumping variety of bamboo, and the Pleiblastus viridistriatus species, a running variety.

Planting Bamboos

If you’ve chosen to plant the running bamboos, make sure to dig large holes into the ground, cement all sides of the hole and plant your bamboo plant. This will ensure that the rhizomes don’t invasively grow into other plants’ space in the ground. The clumping bamboo has more discipline when it comes to invasion. Dig the holes big enough to fit two rootballs. Proceed to plant your bamboo and water it. This technique allows the plant’s rootballs to sit on the same level as the ground surface.

Growing bamboo From seeds

Bamboo seeds may be hard to come by because flowering on the bamboo plant is usually irregular and unreliable. Regardless, you can purchase seeds from your local store or an online store and proceed to plant them. Select a large pot where they will grow and flourish without any disturbance.

Once you’ve gotten your seeds, begin by spreading them out to dry under the sun for at least two hours. Soak them for another eight to twelve hours. This breaks them out of dormancy, and the seeds can easily germinate. Don’t drain the water if you haven’t prepared the seedbed or planting pot. Do it around a fifteen-minute interval between draining the water and planting them.

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For better results, use plastic containers or plastic pallets meant for seedling growth and fill them with a soil mixture. The mixture should contain eight parts of topsoil, one part of ashes, and one part containing either rice husks or wood chips. Make sure to filter this mixture to sieve out the stones and other unnecessary large debris before filling the containers.

In the containers, the soil should be loosely filled to the top. Avoid pressing it into the container. The air between the soil particles is crucial for germination. At the center of each compartment on the pallet, make a small hole the size of about two inches deep and drop your seed inside. Cover the seed and put the pallet in a partially shaded place. Remember to water the soil as often as you can, possibly daily. Germination of the shoots may take roughly two to three weeks, depending on whether the conditions were suitable for growth.

It’s important to remember that the younger bamboo plants are weak and susceptible to attacks from pests and diseases. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, isolate the plants and care for them as long as they need.

Transplanting Your Bamboo seedlings if you’re growing them from seeds

You should only transplant your seedlings three to four months after germination. Despite the fast growth rate the bamboo plant may have during its early stages, the seedling at this stage are usually very fragile, and in most cases, they will not be ready for transplanting into your garden until they have grown around four months in.

Since the pallets may become small, you may transplant your baby seedlings into plastic bags or larger plastic containers mixed with fresher soil, manure, and sand mixture. This soil mixture ensures that it is equipped with the necessary nutrients for growth.

Transplanting your bamboo seedlings into the ground if you’re growing them from seedlings

In your garden, plant the seedlings with a space of about three to five feet apart from each other. As the bamboo thrives, the plants will create a dense screen primarily because of the leaves. This applies especially to the running bamboo variety. The clumping bamboo variety doesn’t spread much and can be planted within one to two meters apart. 

Check for the height of your plants. Don’t transplant unless they’re grown to a size of sixteen to twenty inches tall. Only then can you remove them from their containers and place them directly into the soil. As mentioned earlier, the hole should be twice the size of the seedling root mass.

While the clumping bamboo variety increases in the height of about one to two feet tall, the running bamboo gains three to five feet in size and width yearly.

Taking Care of Your Bamboo Plant.

Watering

Water as regularly as you can. This doesn’t mean that you allow your bamboo plants to grow in soil that is excessively watered. Too much water will kill the plant. Water is just enough to ensure the plant receives enough humidity to maintain adequate growing conditions. Once the plants have established themselves in your garden, water them around four times a week, depending on how dry the weather is. If the weather isn’t as dry, you may water them around twice a week.

Mulching

Mulching uses hay or wood chips, or plant remains after harvesting on plants to help the soil beneath these plants retain moisture and naturally fertilize the ground beneath. Organic mulching on your bamboo plants will make sure that the soil stays moist enough for proper growth. For better results, use grass clippings, hay, or even compost which are rich in Silica and Nitrogen nutrients. There are many options to choose from when it comes to mulch.

During winter, you should take extra precautions and add a thick layer of mulch to make sure that roots don’t freeze completely. You should also be on the lookout for a cold injury. A dry look or a silver color on the leaves or stem. The plants should also be protected from harsh winds. You can do that by creating a barrier.

Using Fertilizer

Organic fertilizers rich in Nitrogen are the most recommended type of fertilizers. Nitrogen promotes stronger and greener growth for the plant, making it stand healthy. The fertilizer should be applied once in the early spring and in the early summer, corresponding with the main bamboo growing season. You can also choose to use a mild organic fertilizer that can be applied during the early spring, summer, and fall seasons.

Pruning

Because the bamboo grows very fast and spreads wide, you might have to trim it to control the growth. The running variety can invade other plants nearby with its overgrown foliage. To prevent the plants from spreading too much, cut the first new shoots that appear in their early stages at ground level. Cutting bamboo just above the node will allow it to grow back later on, so it’s better if you cut the shoots instead. At least once a year, purpose to cut off the old bamboo leaves and stems.

Harvesting

Harvesting bamboo is relatively easy. If you’re harvesting for food, consider cutting the fresh shoots of the plants. You can cut them and freeze them if you hope to use them later. For uses such as firewood or their wood, consider harvesting the older stems. Just cut above the node, and new shoots will appear.

Harvesting Bamboo

Benefits of growing Bamboo in your garden

Pests and diseases resilience

Bamboo plants tend to get hardy and resistant to attacks from pests and diseases once the plants grow. For other weaker and more vulnerable plants, bamboo could prevent the spread of infections in your garden.

Environmental benefits

Similar to how trees clean up the air, bamboo also uses up a lot of the toxic gases produced in the air. It’s a great alternative to trees, so you’re sure to get a clean environment with lots of pure Oxygen produced. The extensive root structure prevents damage such as soil erosion from happening.

Ability to renew

Bamboo is a grass that quickly renews itself, so you don’t have to worry about providing conducive conditions to support faster renewability. This particular feature is great for instances when the plant has suffered from frost or drought.

Common Uses For Bamboo

Bamboo Products

Wood

Bamboo plants can produce great lumber. This wood is used in making floors, ceilings, and houses altogether.

Textile

Bamboo is a great competitor against cotton. The plant produces a soft fabric used in the manufacture of bedsheets, high-quality towels, and so forth.

Utensils

Bamboo is excellent for making reusable chopsticks.

Toothbrushes

The young stems for the plants have been known for their usefulness in cleaning teeth, especially for native tribes in the Asian continent.

The Bottom Line

Bamboos are fantastic plants and have minimal requirements when growing them. They are not just great for their aesthetic looks in our garden; they are also beneficial to our health, provide great food, and constantly supply our environment with Oxygen.

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Harold Thornbro

Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Public Speaker, Teacher, Homesteading and Permaculture Enthusiast. If You're Looking For Me, You'll Find Me In The Garden.

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