Did you know that bamboo is the strongest and fastest growing hardwood in the world? The beauty of bamboo plants is that they can grow in any region where maize, wheat or any other crop that belongs to the grass family thrives. Below are some quick tips for choosing the ideal piece of land for planting bamboo:
- Well-drained soil; not in a swampy area
- Spacious piece of land with adequate sunlight
- Spacing of 5ft in between plants
- Moderate supply of rainfall
- Soil pH – 6.5 – 8 pH
Uses of bamboo
- Bamboo is used for medicinal purposes.
Ingredients from the black bamboo shoot help treat kidney diseases. Roots and leaves have also been used to treat venereal diseases and cancer. According to reports in a small village in Indonesia, water from the culm (the side branches) is used to treat diseases of the bone effectively.
- Bamboo is used to promote fertility in cows.
- Bamboo is used to build houses.
- Bamboo is used to make clothes.
- Bamboo is used to make accessories.
Why stop with the clothes? Bamboo is also used to make necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and other types of jewelry.
From picture frames to room dividing screens, bamboo can make some elegant and exotic decorations for the home. Depending on the manufacturer, bamboo decorations can be the rough finish of natural bamboo that reminds people of tropical getaways, or the sleek, lacquered finish that creates a modern elegance that many people remember. Bamboo can also be colored so that it can fit into any décor.
Bamboo started out as a natural plant in most places, but has become a large part of agriculture. From being the main crop of a farm to be harvested for other uses, or as the channel linings for irrigation systems, bamboo fits naturally into agriculture. Of course, bamboo is also grown as a food source, and as a garden plant as well, the woody grass being an excellent addition to any garden.
While this is rarely seen any more, bamboo was once used to make many different types of weapons. From blow guns to archery bows and arrows, bamboo made light but strong weapons for many centuries. Though they aren’t used as frequently any more, even gunpowder guns have been made with the hollow tubes.
To get the seedlings, you will have to chop the culm into buds before punching holes on each bud. The buds are then covered with soil lightly, watered, and allowed to sprout. To hasten shoot germination, you will have to pour water inside the hollow buds. Once the shoots grow four leaves, they will then be divided into individual bamboo plants before they are transferred to portable seedling bags.
The seedlings will take about three months before they are finally transplanted. During this period, they can be allowed to develop from a greenhouse for one month. They will then be transferred outside for the other two months to harden. After this, you can either plant them yourself or sell them to other bamboo buyers in Kenya.
How to Grow Bamboo from Cuttings in Water
- To grow bamboo from cuttings in water, cut several 10 inches long cuttings from new growth that has at least two nodes and two internodes. Cut it in a slight 45 degree angle with a sharp knife.
- Dip the ends of cutting in melted wax. Place the cutting in water and leave it on a well lit location for several weeks.
- Change the water every other day as standing water will quickly run out of oxygen.
- Move the cutting in a pot as soon as it has 2 inches long roots. Fill the pot with potting mix or a mixture of 1 part loam to 1 part sand to improve drainage. Make a hole in soil and plant the cutting to 1 inch depth into the soil.
- For support tie it to a stick with string. This will stabilize the bamboo cutting until it establishes.
Plant your bamboo seedlings during the rainy season or ensure that you water then thoroughly. Mulching is also very important at first but once the bushes get going, the dropped leaves from the plant itself will do just fine. As long as you avoid sweeping away the leaves, bamboo trees will actually mulch all on their own. Fertilization should be done regularly. Nitrogen rich fertilizer is best for this purpose. Cow manure can also be used.
Most large bamboos (Phyllostachys) do best with 5 or more hours of direct sunlight. They must be given ample water, fertilizer, and protection from competitive weeds. They will benefit from a windscreen and light shade when first planted as well.
Spacing and Growth Rate
Bamboo should be spaced 3 to 5 feet apart to form a dense screen. The faster spreading types can be planted farther apart, if you are willing to wait a little longer for the screen to fill out. OR, if you want an immediate screen, some types can be planted very close together as long as they have some space to spread in width.
Most bamboo will not suffer from being planted nearly back to back, but their growth rate may be slowed. If you wish to make a full size bamboo grove with less emphasis on dense screening, planting at wider intervals is recommended (5- 10 feet apart, or even 20 feet in some cases) Starting from a small size, most bamboo will reach mature height within five or six years. As a very general rule, Clumping bamboo gain about 1-2 feet of height per year and the Running types gain about 3-5 feet per year, and spread outward at the same rate. Height and spread rate is variable depending on the species and climate.
Staking tall plants
When planting bamboo over 15 feet tall, it may need to be staked for the first year of growth or until well anchored by their root mass. This will prevent strong wind from uprooting them, or damaging new shoots and culms. Tall bamboo plants are best guyed with a rope tied to the same point on the culms, anywhere from about one third to halfway up the culm. Use three or four guy lines depending upon how much wind you expect. We recommend four ropes, one on each point of the compass. Drive two foot stakes one and one half feet into the ground at least 6 feet from the bamboo. Wood and bamboo stakes work well. If supporting very large bamboo, metal stakes are recommended. A useful method for supporting long, tall screens is to put a sturdy post at each end of the screen and run a strong line between the two posts. Each bamboo can be loosely tied off the main line. A fence can serve the same purpose for bamboo about 15 feet tall.
Maintenance pruning for large running bamboo
Bamboo, like other plants, requires some pruning to maintain its attractiveness. Individual bamboo culms live about 10-15 years, but a full grove producing many new canes each year can live for several decades. Once each year you should remove older, unattractive culms and cut off any dead or unattractive branches. You can prune most bamboo without fear of damaging it. Just trim so it looks attractive. Make cuts just above a node, so as not to leave a stub that will die back and look unsightly. If you cut back the top, you may want to also shorten some of the side branches so the plant will look more balanced, not leaving long branches at the top
Bamboo has few pests. For those starting new plants the most devastating pests can be, moles and large herbivores such as cows, horses, goats and such.
Smaller and less devastating but certainly very significant are the bamboo mite, aphids, and the two spotted spider mite. The two spotted spider mite, Tetranychus urticae, can be a problem on indoor bamboo plantings. However the bamboo mite, Stigmaeopsis longus (see photo below) seem to be the only serious mite for outdoor bamboos in cooler climates. In warmer climates a close relative Stigmaeopsis celarius the mite of concern. (note: the Genus Stigmaeopsis was formerly Schizotetranychus and is still referred to by that name in some publications.) They live under the leaves, where they are protected by a very small web, attached to the surface of the leaf. They suck the juices from the leaf, and leave a white or cream colored patch (about 1 mm x 2 mm for longus, much smaller for celarius) on the upper surface. In severe infestations these patches can almost cover the whole leaf. Sometimes this is mistaken for variegation, nutritional deficiency, or leaf minors.
Aphids sometimes show up on bamboo early in the summer and their excretions can disfigure the foliage with a black sooty film. You can spray with a pesticide, a mild soap solution, or you can spray with a strong jet of water a couple of times and wait for small birds, ladybugs and other predators to control the infestation.
If your bamboo is kept thinned so that there is air movement through the grove, mites and aphids will be much less of a problem.