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How to Get Rid of Bamboo

Removal Strategies

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Many readers ask how to get rid of bamboo plants -- especially, how to remove them without resorting to the use of herbicides. Indeed, trying to contain one of the "running" types (as opposed to the tamer "clumping" types) is is one of the toughest problems known to gardeners and landscapers. Below, I touch upon three ways often discussed.

Getting Rid of Bamboo by Digging

To get rid of bamboo, some suggest digging. This tactic may work for a small stand of bamboo, but is problematic for larger stands. Pick a shoot to start with and begin digging gingerly around the base. After you've loosened the soil enough to wiggle the plant, tug at it gently. You want to try to pull up as much of the plant and its rhizome system as possible with your tug, as opposed to just ripping it out and leaving a lot of the rhizomes behind. When you've done your best in that area, move onto another shoot, etc. Chances for success using this method will be enhanced if the soil is moist, so water the affected area beforehand.

Even if you're successful, there will inevitably still be rhizomes left behind in the soil. So carefully excavate down and around your original hole in pursuit of those fugitives! It may help to have a sifter, so that you can sift through the soil as you inspect it to locate the rhizomes. Any fraction of a rhizome left behind now will result in a new shoot later, thus mocking your efforts to get rid of bamboo. Indeed, you'll probably have to repeat the process many times.

Getting Rid of Bamboo Using Tarps, Barriers

Another tactic used for getting rid of bamboo is smothering with tarps. However, note that the bamboo may be able to outflank the tarps by spreading beyond their perimeters. Therefore, employing tarps can result in the bamboo's popping up somewhere else in the yard -- clearly not a desirable result!

To prevent such a result, consider using the tarp tactic in conjunction with burying barriers. That is, many people contain rhizomatous bamboos by sinking plastic barriers into the ground all around them, effectively "fencing" the bamboo in. Barriers should run 30" deep; also make sure a couple of inches of barrier extend above the surface. Using such a barrier in conjunction with the application of a tarp makes sense: the two tactics complement each other.

Getting Rid of Bamboo by Cutting

The American Bamboo Society recommends a different approach to getting rid of bamboo: cutting. Since their specialty is bamboo, I would lend the most credence to their advice, which, in sum, runs as follows:

  1. Cut the bamboo shoots down
  2. Apply water to the area
  3. Cut down the new crop of bamboo resulting from #2
  4. Repeat the process

In conclusion, the American Bamboo Society writes:

Keep doing this until no more shoots come up. This will exhaust the energy stored in the rhizomes underground. Without green leaves to photosynthesize and produce new energy, they will no longer be able to send up new shoots. The rhizomes will be left behind, but will rot away.

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