Bamboo as fuel and building material in small garden

Hi Everyone,

I have been thinking about buying a bamboo plant for my garden; the garden measures about 7m x 7m. I'm not looking for a bamboo plantation, since most of the garden is already used, but by planting a clumping bamboo and harvesting it frequently I believe I can keep its size in check and gradually build up building material and/or fire fuel.

Dutch settlers brought bamboo from South East Asia to South Africa in the 1600s and so we have bamboo species that have adapted to our environment.

The bamboo will have to be dried after harvesting, which will require additional space; I thought of hanging bamboo sections in existing trees and so using vertical rather than horizontal space for this. I'm still researching the time it would take to dry but as long as it's shorter than its growth time, I should be able to cope space wise.

If my stash becomes too big I can always use the bamboo for barbeques or just give it away to others.

Of course the shoots are edible and the plant has some medicinal uses too. One could argue that growing more everyday food crops would make more sense and I'm about to plant my first potato (yes, one potato), but I feel far more confident in my abilities to manage bamboo than other crops.

Every year I spread our compost on the lawn and use whatever comes up there (usually tomatoes and butternuts) and that's about as far as I get with the food gardening.

Has anyone else here tried this sort of thing? How did it work out? What do you guys think of the idea in general?

Wishing you all just the right amount of sunshine and rain :-)


David Trammel's picture

I've got a patch in the back corner of the yard. It crawled under the fence and established itself long ago. Haven't tried using it for food or medicials yet. The stems are too small for any projects at the moment. The plants are 10-12 foot tall and the stems are only finger sized.

BTW, no matter what you are planning, that stuff will spread. Once it does its hard to corral back into a specific area. If you are going to start a patch, I would recommend that you wall it in somehow. Maybe get some big planters and bury them in the ground most of the way. Or what I'm going to try is to bury sheets of stainless steel into the ground at the edge, which are 8-10" tall. Overlap them and pop rivet them together to try and prevent the runners from getting out. Not sure even that will work.

Here's a picture of what I have, from a few years back. The tree has been cut down, and I'm putting a concrete pad and garden shed to the right of the bamboo next Spring. Have to be 10 feet from the back fence (the white one) so that should leave me a nice little area for small personal meditation area.

I'll keep what you said about spreading in mind. Will also talk to the nursery people about that when I go to buy the plant.

ClareBroommaker's picture

My backyard vegetable garden is a smidge bigger than this and I do use bamboo for supports, yet I would not try to grow it in that space. Consider not only the spread, but the water & nutrient uptake, and the potential to block sun.

Here, there are enough householders wanting to get rid of bamboo pieces, that I can get it free from others. Sometimes I do not even need to cut it myself, just pick it up. What I get is a bit taller than what DavidTrammel shows and the pieces are about 2-4cm diameter, a nice size for garden use. Small enough to cut with pruners or loppers, not needing a saw.

That said, I would like to grow my own if I had enough space. Heck, there are lots of things I'd do differently if I had enough space.

If you do decide to grow it, please do some reading on your own to find an appropriate type. Gotta tell ya, nursery workers do not always have the knowledge, at least around here. Here's a bamboo forum for casual growers. You can probably get some initial bits of info there (Just ignore the "featured answer" designation, as they are random, meaningless, not highlighted for being a good answer.) Oh, here's some good info

mountainmoma's picture

I had a large timber bamboo patch ( it was burned thru in the fire), running bamboos, Moso and leopard, and I put it in an area that could contain it, it is surrounded by driveway/road on all sides. for bamboo to make its best size/growth it needs alot of fertility and water, so that was a big drawback, and also mine had gophers eat the roots and then the high winter winds would blow the the taller ones over. It is a large grass, so think of the kind of fertility for a super nice lawn, and if you were buying fertilizer for bamboo a lawn fertilizer would work well. In the right location it could thrive on your homes greywater and you could fertilize with human urine. Around here it would still be a constant gopher maintanence issue. SO, for us, we had high hopes and the first many years had soaker hoses for the summer and tried to baby it. I was hoping for a cool area to just "be" in also, kind of a meditation are in the middle. For me, it was too much trouble in the location I could keep it corraled in to get that kind of bamboo forest effect. And, while bamboo shoots are edible, they are just for interest in the food, texture taste interest, not a good source of any particular nutrients and not protein or calorie rich, so for me, shoots ( if I could ever beat the gophers to them) were just an extra to having the environment I was trying to create.