Placement – When you picture how you want bamboo to accent your yard or garden, a few important items of placement must be considered in the process. Bamboos will grow best in full sunlight. While protection from competing weeds is important it is not vital. Small plants may be enhanced by a slight windscreen and occasional shade when they are young, (without the extensive roots, young plants risk burning up). Fargesias, Thamnocalamus and Sasas benfit from light to moderate shade. In fact the Fargesias and most Thamnocalamus will grow faster and more successfully if they have a little shade during the hottest part of the day. Fargesia and Thamnocalamus are the most resilient of all the clump type bamboos. There is no need to be concerned with intense spreading. Most other bamboos will spread through their underground rhizomes, so take that into consideration when choosing placement and species. In this case, a barrier material 40 mil in thickness by 30 inch deep of HDPE (high density polyethylene) will help to control any unwanted bamboo expansion.
Planting your new Bamboos – Most bamboos will grow will in acidic soil. The composition isn’t extremely important, as bamboos will grow where many plants won’t. However, to enhance growth, a heavy mulch is a great idea, as well as digging in any organic matter. Dig into the bamboos surrounding a decent depth and add mulch two or more inches surrounding the plant. Bamboo will do best if mulch is placed over the roots and rhizomes. Leaving fallen bamboo leaves and plant particles on the ground at the base of the plant is a great way to keep the soil soft, and moist, and recycle silica and other natural chemicals that help the bamboo grow. If you want to avoid the look of mulch, finding a low growing ground cover plant will work—make sure it is tolerant of shade and allows plant particles and leaves from the bamboo to fall through so that a natural mulching can occur. Many organic materials can be used for a mulch composition. Grass is an excellent choice, being high in nitrogen and silica. Any type of homemade or commercial compost is great. Hay and manure will work as a mulch, but will be a catalyst for competing weeds. Chipped trees from tree care services is also a good alternative. These chipped trees can contain pathogens that can affect some trees or shrubs, but bamboos relish it.
Timing and Winter Protection – Bamboos can be planted any time of year when you have a mild climate. If you are planning to grow bamboo in a colder climate, be sure to plant early enough in the year that your young plant can grow and mature before enduring its first winter. Mulching the plant deeply and heavily will provide extra protection for the bamboos if they are planted late in the year, or if it is its first winter. This is a common practice for very cold areas. The heavy mulching helps to keep the ground soft and usable for the roots and rhizomes.
Controlling the Spread of Bamboo – To control the rapid spread of bamboos, a correctly installed barrier is especially important. It is recommend for most situations a barrier of 40 mil thick and 30 inches deep. Except in very light soils (where mobility encounters little resistance) the rhizomes of the bamboos are near the surface. But, when the encounter a barrier, they often turn downward and try to grow around it. If there are loose or air pockets in the soil next to the barrier, the bamboos may grow deeper and grow around the barrier. When replacing the soil after barrier installation, make sure the soil is well compacted, (using water will help). Any soil amendments or enhancements only need to be added to the top foot of soil. Remember, if you do not want your bamboos to spread, controlling the rhizomes is the key. An alternative, and cheaper, method to controlling the spread of your bamboo is to make a trench, 8-10 inches deep that surrounds the plant. Be sure to check a couple of times in the latter end of the year to make sure the rhizomes are not trying to cross the trench. If they are, simply cut them off. This check, in reality, should be done around each fall, whether you are using the barrier of the trench. It isn’t too difficult, but it is extremely important.
Staking Tall Plants – When planting very tall and slender bamboos, they may need to be staked, to help with straight growth and to develop resistance to the wind without being uprooted or damaged. Tall bamboo plants are best guyed with a rope tied to the culms up about 2/3 of the way up, and tied to stakes on three or four sides. The plant needs to develop roots strong enough to resist the wind and elements, but this little bit of encouragement will do the trick.
Yellowing and Falling Leaves – Springtime causes the bamboos to yellow their leaves and drop them. As evergreen plants, this happens every spring and should not be cause for concern. They will lose their leaves over time as each lost leaf is replaced by a new one. Healthy bamboos, in the spring, should have a mixture of green leaves, yellow leaves and newly unfurling leaves.
Water – Bamboos are overachievers in the wild. They are able to grow in harsh conditions with little watering. However, in attempting to achieve the optimum growth of your bamboo, liberal watering is required in young plants. Twice a week during mild weather would be sufficient, and more often if it is really hot. Plants under a five gallon pot size should receive about a gallon of water and more than a gallon the larger they get. When the plant reaches its proper height, the irrigation requirements are much less. Until this point, water and fertilizer will help the bamboo to grow beyond just decent height. Poor growth of new bamboos can most often be attributed to lack of water on hot or windy days. Watering too much for new bamboos can cause excessive leaf drop.
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