Foraging for the Garden: Bamboo

An old Chinese proverb: Have Garden…Will Need Stakes. Okay, I made that up, but I’m sure all gardeners will agree with the sentiment. Staking plants is a common activity. Without stakes, your tomatoes wouldn’t stand to attention for easy picking. Buying bamboo stakes doesn’t come cheap. A set of 10 1.2m bamboo stakes will set you back $6 or more. And you’d be lucky if those last you 3 growing seasons. They also come in that inevitable plastic packaging.

If you purchase untreated wooden stakes, we’re talking $1 each. It’s a costly business, this support system for plants. So time to talk frugal gardening.

This grove of bamboo grows along our roadside.

We live in the Bay of Plenty region. Plenty rainfall. Plenty to forage. Including bamboo. Everywhere you drive, you pass swathes of bamboo growing by the roadsides. I have had my eyes on this patch as you enter our town, for a while now. The bamboo is just the right size, about 2cm diameter at the base, tapering to a fine 1cm top. It’s long, straight and doesn’t have the knobbly joints many bamboo species tend to have.

Behind the roadside frontage, this bamboo is easy to harvest.

Bamboo can be quite invasive, especially in natural bush areas where it is left unmonitored. So in truth, we are doing everyone a favour by harvesting some of this fast growing resource. Bamboo when dried, has great strength, and unlike rigid pine stakes, has the ability to bend a little which is also good.

In order to harvest bamboo, you need to collect your stash 3 months in advance, so they have time to slowly dry out and strengthen up for the task ahead.

The little gully behind the grove of bamboo shows some native trees growing. Good to keep the bamboo confined and harvest it to give the indigenous trees some space.

Tools for harvesting Bamboo

  • Big sharp loppers
  • Sharp hand secateurs
  • Gloves to protect your hands
  • Garden twine (for binding lengths together for easy transporting)
  • Gumboots
Essential tools of the Trade

Once you have lopped the bamboo at the base, you need to remove any side growth with the sharp secateurs. Remove the papery husks that protect the joints and cut off the thin tops to the length you want. I make two piles, one lot I cut to 1.2 m, the other I cut at 2 m. The smaller lengths are good for staking capsicums, broad beans, eggplants etc. and the longer lengths I use for tomatoes and bean teepees.

Curing bamboo

It is good to have help with your foraging. This makes your mission short, sharp and focussed. One cuts the bamboo, while the other cleans it up. Once prepped, simply tie bundles of 6-8 bamboo stakes together with the garden twine. All that’s left to be done, is to stand your bamboo bundles up in a sunny spot or garden shed to slowly dry out. If you complete your foraging in winter, your stakes will be ready for the busy Spring/Summer growing period. Voila!

Staking tomatoes

Enjoy!

So go forth and forage. It is time to prepare for the impending Growing Season ahead. Winter is a great time to clean up, gather resources and prepare for the busy times ahead. I usually weed and mulch pathways, scrub sowing and planting punnets and pots and tidy up the garden shed.

My French HelpXers lending a helping hand.

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