Are you sure you want to plant bamboo around your pond? Ask an expert
Gardening season is wrapping up, but you may still have questions. For answers, turn to Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from Oregon State University’s Extension Service. OSU Extension faculty and Master Gardeners reply to queries within two business days, usually less. To ask a question, simply go to the OSU Extension website, type it in and include the county where you live. Here are some questions asked by other gardeners. What’s yours?
Q: I live on a very secluded farm and have a large pond that would benefit from bamboo root structures. I have seeds, however I’m not sure how to start them.
I also know that bamboo is considered an invasive plant but since I’m surrounded by almost 1,000 acres of private land, I might be able to keep it in check? Any advice you could lend me on how to propagate seeds would be appreciated. – Linn County
A: You are correct in saying that bamboo can be invasive. Can you keep it in check? Probably not. Why does your pond need to have bamboo around it?
Much of the plants near a pond can assist with taking up the algae in the water (sedges) or securing the banks of the pond, (many varieties of water-loving shrubs or trees).
Willows for example and red or yellow twig dogwoods are just a few examples.
Bamboo seeds are sometimes hard to germinate. They should be in the refrigerator for about six weeks. Then when you want to plant them, start by soaking them for 24 hours in water to soften the outer pod. There are bamboo varieties that like mostly shade and others that like mostly sun. You should research the variety you purchased to find out if you don’t already know.
I would start the seeds indoors. Some bamboo varieties take as long as a month to germinate. Keep the soil moist but not soggy and keep it warm. A grow light would be in order once they germinate. Repot to bigger planters when they reach about 4 inches.
They grow very quickly usually so be ready to re-pot as they grow. I would wait to put them outside after the spring cold snaps, when the weather and the soil are at least 60 degrees. Once in their final location, they will grow and spread.
A coincidence possibly, but I just had another question from a gardener that wanted to know how to get rid of the bamboo because it was getting into her vegetable beds (see below). I told her that it was very difficult to remove and that a 3-foot trench by about 2-feet wide lined with a heavy plastic or pliable metal sheeting would be in order after she dug out all the roots. She had cut them down, then tilled them and then saw that she had doubled the number of plants that were growing by tilling the soil. Most chemicals do not kill bamboo. – Sheryl Casteen, OSU Master Gardener
Q: We bought a home with a fenced garden and on one side of the garden is a wall of bamboo. I suspect it is a running bamboo. When we moved in 1.5 years ago, I cut down all of the bamboo. This past spring, bamboo shoots started coming up. I tried to dig them and finally tried tilling the area. This resulted in the roots sending up tufts/clumps of bamboo shoots in distress.
What should I try next to rid my garden of bamboo? Keep tilling? And what’s the best way to keep the outside bamboo from coming in – digging a trench inside the garden perimeter to snip the roots each spring or would moving a 5-foot swath outside the garden fence suffice? – Benton County
A: My years-long battle with bamboo will assist me in answering your questions. Less and less came up each year but I dug it out year after year until finally it was gone.
Bamboo is very invasive. There are various herbicides you can try but most do not kill the plant. The mother plant puts out runners and new plants emerge. Tilling breaks up the roots and as you have seen, starts new plants often more than you had before.
Dig a trench about 3 feet deep and 2 feet wide, digging out all the roots you can find and then line it with a very heavy plastic or a solid sheet of pliable metal. I used heavy plastic (for a pond liner) and lapped if over the surface on all sides. I did not fill the trench for over a year, watching for new shoots, which I cut off ASAP. I did put heavy rocks in the bottom and on the surface to hold the plastic in place.
As to the outside of the fence, is this your property? If so, dig out as much as possible again about 3 feet down and at least as wide as you see bamboo and line with plastic or you may consider putting in a cement walking area.
It would probably be very expensive to put in cement. There are companies that will come in and, in one day, put in both trenches on either side of the fence that I have suggested. It is then up to you to keep the roots and shoots down.
Getting rid of the bamboo is a longer process than we like but once gone, I was able to plant shorter flowering shrubs and the bamboo did not return. – Sheryl Casteen, OSU Extension Master Gardener
Q: How can I know if my paperbark maple survived the severe heat period we had last summer. The leaves all curled up but did not drop immediately. Some branches are dead. It is green under the bark on the trunk. Will it rebound this spring? – Multnomah County
A: “Wait and see” if your tree recovers from June’s extreme heat is a rather disappointing answer from the experts, yet it’s the best I can do.
The heat was unprecedented so this is a learning experience for us. Variable conditions such as tree age, soil moisture at the time, and even a plant’s overall health will likely impact recovery.
Partial recovery of trees and shrubs is going to mean tough decisions for some homeowners. If a specimen was attractive in the landscape due to a symmetrical shape that’s now ruined by dieback, will pruning to reshape it suffice? Or will replacement be the owner’s choice. Sometimes a year or two of growth will be needed before an owner can decide what to do.
Oh, and don’t be in a hurry to prune what might be slow to leaf out next spring. Some branches, if bark is still alive, might get a late start.
For a next heat wave, check out this gardening tips article from OSU. – Jacki Dougan, OSU Extension Master Gardener
Q: My recently planted 1.5-inch caliper crabapple tree was thrashed by a buck (deer) with severe damage through the cambium layer. Is it worth babying along to see if it will live, or just pulling it out now and replacing it? – Yamhill County
A: It is possible that your tree may survive, it looks like the wounding may not completely girdle the tree. However, this tree would not be off to a good start with the damage and potential for pathogens entering the tree. There is also potential for future structural issues and breakage (especially if there were a severe weather event, etc).
If possible, depending upon your situation, it may be worthwhile to replace it knowing that there could be some future issues. Placing some fencing or protection around your tree would be good prevention for the future. Here’s some more information. - Heather Stoven, OSU Extension horticulturist
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