Bamboo is probably the most useful plants on our planet. It is also perhaps the most beautiful. When planted and maintained properly, bamboo is a great choice for a home garden. The robust nature of the plant is one of the reasons it is a desirable privacy, noise, and dust screen. Bamboo is evergreen and needs only fair soil and water to grow effectively.
However, if planted improperly, or not maintained, the aggressive and invasive nature of bamboo can create problems for the home gardener. Once established, bamboo creates a strong and complex network of rhizomes making the emergence of new culms unpredictable. These culms can come up under fences, decks, sidewalks and driveways, and even under your home.
Removing a well established grove can be a daunting task. Simply cutting the shoots and culms at ground level will not suffice for effective bamboo removal. Rhizomes will continue to travel underground in search of new territory to colonize. The entire rhizome system must be removed to completely stop the emergence of new shoots. Often gardeners will try herbicides, smothering, and other methods for removal of bamboo, these will NOT work, despite the pervasive information found on the internet. Bamboo has a number of built in survival mechanisms that are stimulated when gardeners attempt these ineffective methods. The result is an even more difficult and costly problem.
Bamboo Removal - Running Species
Removal of running bamboo can be highly difficult as runners are robust and invasive. They have the ability to spread over wide areas and are connected by a system of underground stems, or rhizomes. In order to fully remove running bamboo, the entire rhizome system must be dug out. We cannot stress this enough, in order to remove a grove of bamboo ALL rhizomes must be extricated from the soil.
For well established groves we always leave the culms intact in order to use them as leverage to extricate rhizome masses, and to attempt to save the plants for future use by others. We usually dig a trench alongside the grove, often digging the trench completely surrounding the grove. We then use hammer shovels, long pry bars, reciprocating saws, chain saws with carbide blades, and other prying and levering tools to remove the rhizome masses.
The work is back breaking and actually quite good exercise. It is not recommended to use regular shovels as you will certainly break the handles.
Once the grove has been removed we start to follow any and all rhizomes that have traveled away from the grove and extricate them carefully, being sure not to allow even small pieces or lengths to remain. These remainders will start an entire new plant.
If the rhizomes have traveled under fences, retaining walls, side walks, driveways, patios, we always suggest that these be removed to extricate the rhizomes underneath.