welcome, and thank you for joining me on my farm and studio in southern lancaster county, pennsylvania

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

know your enemies

I moved here four years ago and have been battling a stand of bamboo ever since. Believing we could live in harmony, it started out with me just breaking off the new shoots that were growing where I didn't want them. Apparently that made it mad. Showing its true colors, it made a dash towards the house, coming up through the deck, disrupting the stone patio surrounding the water garden, and invading the hosta bed. Amazed by the audacity, I countered with more severe pruning as well as judicious applications of weed killer. Hostilities escalated. Last summer, it ran twenty feet into the woods. That was the final straw - I envisioned a future where nothing remained in my woods except a few older trees and bamboo. No wildflowers or saplings, no place left for the native flora and fauna to survive, let alone thrive. So bamboo and I were now locked in a battle to the death. Clearly there was no way to live in harmony with this monster. Accepting that there might be some collateral damage, I vowed to do whatever it would take to completely eradicate it.

So when I found a book on bamboo at the library last week, it came home with me. I thought perhaps at the very least, there would be something about containing the beast, if not killing it outright. The book is well written and speaks so glowingly of the beauty and benefits of bamboo, that if I didn't know better, I might be tempted to plant some. Reading through the book, I finally got to the part about keeping it contained. I learned it can go under sidewalks, driveways, and even roads in some cases. The root system is usually significantly larger than what you see above ground and it can run for fifty feet underground before popping up in another location. FIFTY FEET! What are people thinking when they plant this stuff? Let me just say here that in my opinion, it is irresponsible, short sighted, and selfish to plant bamboo without adequately containing it with a permanent barrier that is up to the task. Seriously.

Reading further, it was as though the heavens opened and angels sang when I saw the following: "Killing bamboo is not easy, but it can be done." For the benefit of anyone else engaged in a similar war, I offer the following:
"Bamboo can be eliminated without the addition of any herbicides or chemical fertilizers, but these can be employed to accelerate the process. There are variations on the theme, but an effective regimen for eradication is as follows: cut the aboveground growth to the ground with a lawnmower (who are they kidding?), pruning shears, hand saw, chain saw, or other implement, as fits the situation. Water and fertilize to encourage the rhizomes (roots) to generate new growth. If necessary, limit the height of new shoots by pruning. As soon as the new shoots have leafed out, stop all watering, fertilize very heavily with a high-nitrogen fertilizer, and spray with a strong herbicide. Remove the culms (shoots) and foliage once the herbicide has been fully absorbed. Remove all subsequent shoots before they leaf out. Damaged by the herbicide and stressed and weakened by over-fertilization and lack of water, the bamboo's demise is accelerated."

Aha! A plan of attack! It will be a big job and not one I will likely get done this year, but at least there's hope. There is just one fly in that ointment, however. I have seen this bamboo, when stressed, send up tiny little shoots that look nearly identical to grasses. In the woods this will be hard to spot, but I'll stay on top of it.

Wish me luck.

1 comment:

Sheltie Owner said...

Did they mention anything in the book about adopting a pair of Giant Pandas and letting them have at it?