Bamboo removal is an extremely labor-intensive process best left to trained professionals. The uninitiated may attempt bamboo removal through chemicals or fire, which will do little to slow the plant down in the long run. Though the process is daunting, it is achievable with experienced assistance. We have a track record of proven success when it comes to bamboo removal.
Bamboo is the largest species of grass. As a grass, bamboo has a shallower root structure than other plants that grow to the same height, such as trees. Bamboo roots descend only two to three feet vertically underground, but they can run horizontally in any direction as far as the plant is tall. The stalk, or culm, of the bamboo continues underground into a rhizome, from which these runner roots grow. These runners are all connected underground to the main mother plant. When we perform removal, we follow all these running roots to their terminus away from the mother plant.
Typical removal jobs require hand tools such as axes, shovels, pickaxes, and pry bars. Heavier removal equipment includes a slam
bar – a sharp spade with a heavy metal bar in the hollow shaft that can be slammed down to perform a cut of the bamboo roots. For the toughest jobs, a stump grinder is used.
A standard removal day for us lasts 5-6 hours, as we are often scheduled to perform bamboo removal up to five days a week for several months. The removal process requires a variety of labor-intensive physical tasks, including moving and using heavy machinery, breaking concrete, hauling rocks, extracting fence posts, digging trenches, and of course removing bamboo rhizomes and roots balls, which often weigh upwards of 100 pounds.
Rhizomes can grow under and around fences, decks, pipes, foundations, and other architectural elements. Our team is trained to deal with the formidable odds that bamboo presents, and we have many years of experience eradicating bamboo from properties around the region.
Bamboo removal is a messy process, frequently generating truck and trailer loads full of biowaste, including shoots, rhizome, root balls, and branches. We prioritize our customer service and remove all biowaste generated from our removal jobs as part of the contract. We make multiple dump runs during the removal process and always sweep, rake, and blow clean our work areas after completing the job. For tougher jobs where a stump grinder is used, the removal process provides the added benefit of aerating the soil in your yard, which makes for great replanting conditions. For this reason, we do not remove soil or earth products after a job.
Many people enjoy the beauty, privacy, tranquility, and various other benefits a bamboo grove provides. In these cases, containment and maintenance are an appealing and achievable strategy for preventing the unwanted spread of the plant.
Bamboo grows by sending rhizomes away from the mother plant (i.e., root ball) at a rate of 2’ to 6’ per year at a depth of 2” to 5”. New buds and shoots can occur anywhere along the rhizome of a running bamboo. If bamboo is not properly planted and rhizomes are not properly maintained, you could have problems containing it. The best way to control running rhizomes is to determine the best planting method for you.
The common bamboo planting methods we recommend are barrier containment, container planters, mound planters, and trenching. Each method requires different levels of maintenance, and are explained individually in detail below.
Planting technique #1: Barrier Containment
When you want to keep your bamboo without performing yearly root maintenance, installation of a rhizome root barrier is an excellent option. Many people make ill-advised attempts at using metal, wood, or concrete to slow down the underground roots; all of these decompose over time. The concrete will crack, and the bamboo will find a way out.
The best option is High-Density Polyethylene Plastic or HDPE. This comes in 40, 60, and 80-millimeter thickness. Although it is rare, we have seen the lower thicknesses fail in the past. As such, we always suggest going with the 80 mm thickness. HDPE, as a root barrier, also comes in 24-inch or 30-inch depths. The difference in cost is negligible, so we suggest going with the higher level 30 inch deep barrier. Barrier containment involves digging a 28″ deep and 12″ wide trench where a 30” tall 60 mm HDPE rhizome barrier is installed. The barrier creates an underground enclosure leaving approximately 2” above ground to force rhizomes to try and jump the barrier.
Once or twice a year you should check the barrier for jumping rhizomes and prune any you see. This keeps the mother plant happy and prevents rhizomes from randomly roaming your property.
Planting technique #2: Container Planter
Bamboo can be planted in any container that is at least 36” wide and 24” tall. Container planting is a great way to ensure that your bamboo is sufficiently enclosed. Containers come in all shapes, sizes, and styles to fit your needs; you can also rest assured that bamboo will not grow outside of a well-maintained container.
Bamboo grows well in containers if planted in good soil with a high nitrogen content. It is also good to fertilize container bamboo at least once a year. However, containers do restrict space for rhizomes and reduce overall plant height by approximately 20% when compared to bamboo planted in soil.
When selecting a container, make sure to size it appropriately. Larger types of bamboo will need larger containers. In general, bamboo prefers larger containers to grow best. Make sure to use rich, well-draining soil.
The container will keep the bamboo rhizomes from running. The bamboo will require more frequent watering and care as it has less soil available than if it was planted in the ground. After some period of time (typically 2-5 years) the bamboo will become root bound in the container. At this point, it can be divided, up-potted, or trimmed and returned to the same container.
Planting technique #3: Mound Planter
The mound planter involves making a soil mound of 18″-24″ tall and 3’ -4’ wide within all directions for each bamboo plant. This will give each bamboo plant plenty of space to grow into. Over time the mound will compact to about 12″ tall which is not a problem for bamboo.
The mound’s slight elevation over the surrounding ground will slow rhizome growth because rhizomes do not like to run downhill. Additionally, the mound will make it easier to see rhizomes and prune those running away from the mother.
Planting technique #4: Trenching
Trenching involves digging a 6″ to 12″ deep trench around the bamboo planting area. The area inside the trench needs to be a minimum of 3’ to 4’ wide in all directions for each bamboo plant.
The trench can be left empty or filled with sand. A few times a year you should check the trench and prune any rhizomes. Trenches can also be added to existing bamboo groves to prevent spreading.
Regardless of how your bamboo is planted, the simplest way to control growth is with proper maintenance. To ensure bamboo only grows where you want it to, you should prune rhizomes no less than twice a year and prune the bamboo root ball whenever the plant appears rootbound.
Each spring and fall your bamboo will send out rhizomes in all directions. Rhizomes growing in unwanted directions should be cut and removed to prevent spreading. Our favorite tool for rhizome pruning is the Bamboo Spade, which can be purchased here. We use this same tool on a daily basis because it is designed specifically for bamboo and greatly simplifies cutting rhizomes.
In time bamboo will outgrow its container and become rootbound. When this happens you should prune the root ball. To prune root balls we use the bamboo spade in conjunction with saws to cut each root ball to a manageable size. Then we normally compost all root balls, but you can easily plant your new root ball or give it to a friend.