June 16th, 2011

Building With Bamboo

dougCan a gardener have too much bamboo? Ask anyone who made the mistake of planting one of the aggressively running bamboos in a small back yard and the answer is an emphatic “yes.” But I’m talking about having a supply of cut bamboo poles for making trellises, fences, and plant stakes.

Last week at the Organic Gardening test garden, a volunteer helped me build a new trellis for pole beans using nothing more than bamboo and twine. It’s a simple rectangular frame, supported by four tripods of bamboo spaced 6 feet apart, for a total length of about 18 feet. Vertical twine strung every 6 inches along the length of the trellis provides plenty of climbing room for the three varieties of pole beans we have included in this year’s variety trials.

Bamboo is a fast-growing woody grass. Here in Zone 6 we can’t grow the massive timber bamboo that’s used for home construction in the tropics, but we can certainly harvest poles up to about 2 inches in diameter and 20 feet in length. Most of our stockpile at the test garden is about an inch in diameter, in lengths of 8 to 12 feet—a handy size for pole beans. We also used bamboo to build a broad A-frame trellis for the snow peas, and shorter lengths to mark rows of seeded-in-place crops.

Too much bamboo? Hardly!  —Doug Hall

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