Saturday, May 9, 2009

Bamboo U

Longview Ranch has a strangely-shaped backyard: there are two larger areas north and south, with a narrow bottleneck in the center back. This center space is the view through a bay of three windows in the sunny breakfast room where we spend a lot of daylight hours.

Also immediately visible is our eastside neighbor's driveway and house with windows looking directly at our windows. We needed green privacy everywhere in our backyard, but we especially wanted it as quickly as possible there. The solution? Bamboo.

Below is a shot of the backyard area in original condition except the plastic vanes have been removed from the lovely chain link fence. Note the neighbor's teenage pin oak, another factor we need to consider as we garden this area.

The future bamboo planting area in spring 2008.

Above, the fence is painted black - looks better already, right?

A shot of the grass removal in spring 2008. It was so much fun to see how quickly the transformations occurred from this point on.

In our last garden, we had bamboo with no barrier. For years, we worked intensively to keep it under control. This time, we were going to be smart and save ourselves lots of future work: we would have an approved bamboo barrier installed by the landscape crew.

The soil has been added and incorporated into the beds.

Oops, a communication problem with the crew: the bamboo barrier was supposed to be installed before the soil was added. This will mean a lot of extra digging.

These two photos are reversed: below, the barrier is being installed in the three-foot-deep trench dug to hold it. Above, the trench is being backfilled after the barrier is in place.

The finished installation. We started out with the bamboo in a row resulting in minimum visual excitement but maximum privacy coverage.

Late summer 2008. The bamboo just took off - those plants were happy!

Then we went to the Hardy Plant Society's fall sale. We spent some time there talking to a very knowledgeable bamboo grower, who convinced the Mulch Man that the bamboo barrier was not a long-term solution to containing bamboo. He advocated for using a trench system.

The concept is to dig an 18" deep trench at least a foot wide, then fill it with sand or another soft material. Several times a year, you run a tool through the sand to find any shoots that are growing through the sand and you cut them. Apparently, because the bamboo is not encountering the resistance of the barrier, it will stay shallow and easy to locate in the sand. The existing barrier needs to be cut away down to 16-18", so the sand is directly in contact with the soil.

So that's what we did.
Above and below, you can see the sand installed in the trench around the bamboo planting bed.

We moved one plant forward as part of this second phase, since the bamboo was growing so robustly and we already had great coverage.

The jury's out on this method. I'm looking forward to being able to report positively in the future. But I hope that even if it's not the perfect solution, we will at least have bought ourselves a few years of lower maintenance.

As my dear old dad would say "On vera."


  1. nice work!! I hope the sand barrier works...

  2. Hooray for you! Not only doing it right once but twice. I've heard much praise for the sand method. The folks at Cistus speak very highly of it too. It looks great! Don't you just love how it blocks out the 'uglies'?

  3. I love the look of bamboo, but have always been afraid to plant it because of the invasiveness. You've just done me a big favor with all this info!

  4. I am terrified of bamboo, but it looks like you are brave enough to give it a good go. Curious - is there a sand trench on the other side, so you keep it from spreading over to the neighbors'? I can see why you'd want to block that very bare expanse, and the black on the chain link really makes it so much classier.

    Thanks for your comment on my blog - I actually have pretty crummy soil but am gradually amending it with layers of mulch and compost. Slowly but surely, things are starting to get happier.

  5. Karen - there isn't any sand on the wall side of the bamboo. We couldn't get enough space behind it to trench, so the original barrier is still intact there, along with whatever buried footings support the wall (it was there before us.) We hope the bamboo will be obliging enough to head west!


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