Growing Hardy Bamboo at the Sustainable Smallholding

I have stumbled into bamboo growing, almost by accident, but in 2010, I will probably be growing up to ten varieties of hardy bamboo, for food, mulch, fuel, construction material, and for the sheer beauty of the plant. If only it had a value for my bees, it would be perfect. In this article I have listed the varieties that I want to try growing, and included details about their edibility, and use as timber.

Edible Bamboo

The idea for growing hardy bamboo started to form after watching the DVD, A Forest Garden Year, by Martin Crawford. In it, he demonstrates how to eat the new shoots, and mentions that all hardy bamboo species are edible. (Please note that whilst the temperate climate varieties can be eaten raw, the tropical/sub-tropical varieties contain compounds that are poisonous, and need to be cooked first, to destroy them. ) That alone would not have been enough to start me  looking into bamboo, but by a coincidence, I have a friend who is a fan, and has quite a lot of it. I had taken some of his surplus canes to use, when he suggested that I dig up some of his and plant it at home. Vic and I share an interest in trees. He has a marvelous collection of attractive trees, along with some stunning mature bamboo. So this Autumn, another friend helped me to harvest some bamboo culms and rhizomes. These have been planted out. Some in a nursery bed, and others in containers. It will be Spring before I know how successful the transplanting has been.

Vic also recommended a book by a British Author, to learn how to grow bamboo. The book is called Hardy bamboo, by Paul Whittaker. He runs a bamboo nursery, and his website is.

here

The book is available from Amazon, for quite a bit less than from the Author, which is a little strange. I have also been loaned a copy of Bamboo for Gardens, by Ted Meredith. Of the two, the first has better pictures, and suggestions for the ornamental use of bamboo, whereas the second has better detail on propagation, and edibility.

After sifting through the many species available to me, I’ve settled on about a dozen varieties to experiment with, almost all are members of the Phyllostachys family. I have a few of the varieties, but many of them will need to be bought, and I’m still looking for stock of some.

For those of you who are interested in trying some yourself, I’ve tabulated the list that I’m working on. Please note that the heights/diameters are maximums, and may not always be attained. For people looking to grow bamboo for construction, you need to do a bit more research into the properties of the larger species.

Table of Hardy Bamboo Varieties and their Uses

Species                                   min temp    height      diameter             season                          other

Phyllostachys varieties

P. Aureosulcata                  -26c             45ft           2 1/4 ins              Early/Mid            OK Raw

P. Bissettii                            -29c              40ft           2ins                        Early

P. Dulcis                               -18c               40ft           2 3/4 ins               Early

P. Nigra

var. Henonis                       -21c               65ft          5 ins                        Late/Mid           Bitter until cooked/good timber

P. Nuda                                -29c                34ft           1 3/4 ins              Early                    Tasty

P. Praecox                         -18c                 36ft           3 ins                      Early                     Very productive/excellent taste

P. Viridiglaucescens      -21c                40ft            2 3/4 ins            Early                      Good taste/strong timber

P. Viridis                              -18c                55ft           3 1/4 ins             Late                        Tasty

P. Vivax                                -21c                70ft          5 ins                      Early/mid           Excellent taste/timber not as strong**

Others

Pseudosasa Japonica   -21c                 18ft              3/4 ins                                                Very hardy/good for canes

Sasa Kurilensis                -21c                 10ft              3/4 ins                                                Tasty, thinner but longer shoots.

Note** Whilst Phyllostachys Vivax is as big as many of the other timber bamboos, the culm wall, is less strong, so it has less strength.

Hardy Bamboo Availability

Bamboo can be quite expensive. Phyllostachys Aureosulcata varieties can be bought quite cheaply from the wholesale catalogue of Parkers Dutch bulbs. They are very ornamental, and the shoots are good to eat. Many of the others can be bought from Paul Whittaker’s nursery, using the link above. A bit more research should lead you to other nurseries, although I’ve yet to find one that sells all of the varieties that I’m looking for.

I currently have specimens/bits  of Phyllostachys Aureosulcata f. Spectabilis, Phyllostachys Aureosulcata f. Aureocaulis, P. Nigra, Pseudosas japonica, and at least two other varieties, that I don’t have a name for yet.

I have some pictures of the stuff that I’ve planted, but there isn’t really much to look at yet.

hardy bamboo

The first picture shows the clumps surrounded by wire, to keep the rabbits and chickens away from them. The tall single culm is Pseudosasa Japonica, the shorter yellow bamboo rear right is a variety of Phyllostachys Aureosulcata, and the dark green cut stems centre and right of the picture, are two un-named varieties.

The second picture shows a clump of pseudosasa japonica. This was dug out earlier in the year, using a mechanical digger. left for months in a heap, and it still had new shoots. Very tough. I also have some rhizomes in containers.

pseudosasa japonica shoots

Next time I visit Vic, I’ll take a camera, and get some pictures of his specimens. They are stunning.

Take Care

Deano

4 thoughts on “Growing Hardy Bamboo at the Sustainable Smallholding

  1. Magnus Wolfe Murray

    This is excellent. Really inspiring. I have been building basic things with bamboo for about a year, have been wanting to grow some for a long time, and even started shifting earth down to form a new terrace on our land for the “plantation”.
    Also great to see another blog of folks taking a similar path to ourselves. Albeit in the UK. We headed south, driven by price mainly, from Scotland to Northern Portugal. It turns out the rainfall is equal to that of the borders (or the average of England and Wales) so it’s nice and green, very different to southern Portugal or Spain. Despite a few torential months, we’ve noticed long summers, hot and dry. So we are having to learn how to preserve the winter rain for the summer dry season.

    Back to bamboo. I have been transplanting a few types I find on friends properties, but I think I will adopt your more thourough approach of investing in more research first!

    I wish my blog was more updated so you could visit it. I am months behind, and so much has passed since my last post, that it becomes quite daunting. But again, yours gives me another incentive. So thanks.

    Good luck!
    Magnus
    http://wolfeintransition.blogspot.com/

    Reply
    1. Deano Post author

      Hi Magnus

      I can only keep on top of it whilst the days are so short, later in the year it gets much harder to do.
      I took a very quick look at your blog, but will look again when I have a bit more time. I have a friend about to renovate a place in Tuscany, so some of wht you’re up to may help him.
      Keep in touch

      Deano

      Reply
  2. Pingback: Another busy day growing plants « The Sustainable Smallholding

  3. Pingback: Cutting Bamboo « The Sustainable Smallholding

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *