Some Background on Bamboo
Bamboo is the fastest-growing plant in the world. The running varieties can be outright invasive, and many people find that out the hard way. Those qualities mean that if you want to get rid of it, you have to be prepared for some work. Nor can you relax your vigilance afterward, as it may come up again if you missed a rhizome or two.
Identify the Growth Pattern
Bamboo grows by running or clumping. Running bamboo sends out multiple horizontal rhizomes and stems, called culms, sprout along the length of each rhizome. Clumping bamboo is more like an iris or day-lily – it sends up single vertical culms. Running bamboo will regrow from any small piece of rhizome you miss in your eradication efforts.
Use the Right Techniques
Different techniques will be more or less successful. Choose among:
- Digging – more successful with clumping bamboo unless you literally sift the soil.
- Starving – may be successful if you cut religiously.
- Burning – the application of ammonium nitrate or actual fire can be a first step.
- Herbicides – while not an organic choice, it may be a last-ditch effort.
- Combination – using multiple strategies is most successful.
Try a Haircut
One bamboo plant eventually develops into a large clump with a single root mass. It’s the mature root mass that allows it to grow so fast. Begin your eradication program by cutting all the culms to the ground. Culms are tough – you’ll probably need a chainsaw for anything with a diameter over two inches. They will not regrow and the roots are deprived of their food source.
Next – Smother
Once the culms are cut off, put a large, heavy tarp over the bed. Weight it down with boards along each edge to completely shut out the light. This, plus withholding fertilizer and water, will further starve the roots. This tactic may be less successful with running bamboo, which may sneak out under the edges of the tarp. After a month, dig up the root mass and burn.
Summer is the best time for this one. After cutting back the culms, sprinkle generously with ammonium nitrate. Place heavy clear plastic over the clump and leave it for several days. The combination of the chemical and heat literally burns out the plant. After about a week, dig up the root mass and burn it in an incinerator.