How I Created A Self-Sustaining Garden

May 24, 2018

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Recently, I attended a conference where Jean-Martin Fortier and Joel Salatin spoke. It was a great experience meeting people interested in the same things as me. Of course, the main topic of the convention was growing plants and animals to sell at a market (market gardening/farming), but almost everyone there was an avid gardener as well. As I visited with other gardeners and farmers throughout my state, I became aware that I had something different in my garden.

While almost everyone around me was struggling with weeds (sometimes having to weed as much as 3 times a week!) my garden stayed weed-free for weeks at a time. I never water my garden (except for once or twice in the summer drought), and my plants always seem to grow twice as tall as their estimated height. I used to put it off, making excuses such as “I guess my soil is good,” or, “I’ve just been lucky,” when really, it was a combination of right practices and plant placement.

Last weekend was just the icing on the cake when the large group of people at the convention were amazed at my garden and wondered “what kind of magic” I had up my sleeve. This made me seriously think – why was my garden performing so well?

My Garden 5-24-18

After a little thought, I jotted down a list. After reading over my list, I realized that my garden was centered around nature, not around a set standard that I held it to. Calling it ‘self-sustaining,’ ‘permaculturesque’ (here I go making up words…), or just simply ‘naturalistic,’ would describe it best in a nutshell.

Today I will share some of those key practices that contributed to my garden’s success.

1. Let the leaves fall.

Once the first frosts arrive, browning all of the foliage and causing the plants to go dormant, I rarely remove the stems and leaves from my garden. Instead, I let them stand all winter, decaying in my garden and providing habitat for overwintering wildlife. Once spring arrives, I remove all woody stems and other slow-decaying items, but leave small stems, leaves, old flowerheads, and last fall’s mulch to decay and build up the soil. This creates a rich layer of soil and debris that harbors beneficial microbes and fungi, while retaining water and cooling the soil.

2. Ignore spacing recommendations.

When most people visit my garden, they are stunned at how closely spaced everything is. “You will get more pests and diseases that way,” a university extension agent once told me, but my research has proven otherwise. As long as you have a healthy soil structure high in beneficial fungi, microbes, and organic matter (achieved by mulching and no-till practices), close spacing has the opposite result.

The plants will be taller, water will be lost more slowly, and wildlife will be more present than in a conventionally planted garden. One way I determine how closely to space plants is to observe how large they get with no close neighbors, and then plant them in the garden in a space slightly smaller than their maximum size.

3. Let plants achieve their natural shape.

I know, sometimes plants get leggy or their flowers are too tall to “properly” enjoy, but a garden is not the place for perfection. I’ve noticed that when plants are allowed to reach their full stature without interruption, they tend to become more vigorous every year, almost as if it’s challenging itself to beat least year’s stats. Natural processes work best with as little human interference as possible.

4. Don’t supplement with any type of fertilizer (even natural!).

Fertilizer encourages beautiful, lush growth, right? What many people don’t know is that by using any type of added fertilizer, they are creating more work for themselves. In order to support the extra large leaves and flowers that fertilizer produces, plants demand more water and a sustained level of nutrients to perform well.

As soon as the fertilizer wears off, the plant can’t support the large amount of foliage and flower it had produced and starts having nutrient deficiencies. The only way to prevent this, of course, is by adding more fertilizer and watering more regularly, and no one wants that, right? Especially if the plants would have been more than happy anyway.

5. Mulch every fall.

I’ve already mentioned this, but I mulch once a year, usually in November (although that time varies depending on where you live). By using leaves and needles from nearby trees, the fungi and microbes in the soil are already adapted to break down the particular type of leaves that you add. This means quicker decomposition, and richer soil.

6. Encourage Fungi.

This is one of the most important practices I do. Without fungi, my garden would not be the same. Leaves would decompose slower, diseases would be more prevalent, and nutrient absorption would be more uneven. If you omit fungicides and follow the other points on this list (assuming you’re an organic gardener), fungi should naturally make their appearance.

7. Water only when absolutely necessary.

By watering only when your plants start to wilt, you encourage a strong and durable root system. This in turn, allows plants to search farther and deeper for nutrients, creating a more stable garden ecosystem.

8. Have variation in plant selection.

The more of one species you plant, the more likely that plant is to get a disease or pest. By planting in smaller groups, you discourage pests and allow even the most delicate plants to perform to their best ability.

9. Keep an open mind.

Since everyone has a different climate and unique challenges, there should be no standardized way of gardening that applies to the entire world. If a plant performs well in a certain spot, even if it was accidentally planted there, maybe you’ve discovered its ideal growing conditions.

10. Natives are always an asset.

Since a native plant is fully acclimated to your climate, they will almost always thrive. They even create some of the best ornamental and wildlife friendly additions to your garden. Try some and see! They will quickly become long-standing favorites.

 

Was this post helpful? Let me know your thoughts down below!

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Join the growing community of gardeners and adventurers seeking to reinvent the world of gardening!

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How I Created A Self-Sustaining Garden

May 24, 2018

Recently, I attended a conference where Jean-Martin Fortier and Joel Salatin spoke. It was a great experience meeting people interested in the same things as me. Of course, the main topic of the convention was growing plants and animals to sell at a market (market gardening/farming), but almost everyone there was an avid gardener as well. As I visited with other gardeners and farmers throughout my state, I became aware that I had something different in my garden.

While almost everyone around me was struggling with weeds (sometimes having to weed as much as 3 times a week!) my garden stayed weed-free for weeks at a time. I never water my garden (except for once or twice in the summer drought), and my plants always seem to grow twice as tall as their estimated height. I used to put it off, making excuses such as “I guess my soil is good,” or, “I’ve just been lucky,” when really, it was a combination of right practices and plant placement.

Last weekend was just the icing on the cake when the large group of people at the convention were amazed at my garden and wondered “what kind of magic” I had up my sleeve. This made me seriously think – why was my garden performing so well?

My Garden 5-24-18

After a little thought, I jotted down a list. After reading over my list, I realized that my garden was centered around nature, not around a set standard that I held it to. Calling it ‘self-sustaining,’ ‘permaculturesque’ (here I go making up words…), or just simply ‘naturalistic,’ would describe it best in a nutshell.

Today I will share some of those key practices that contributed to my garden’s success.

1. Let the leaves fall.

Once the first frosts arrive, browning all of the foliage and causing the plants to go dormant, I rarely remove the stems and leaves from my garden. Instead, I let them stand all winter, decaying in my garden and providing habitat for overwintering wildlife. Once spring arrives, I remove all woody stems and other slow-decaying items, but leave small stems, leaves, old flowerheads, and last fall’s mulch to decay and build up the soil. This creates a rich layer of soil and debris that harbors beneficial microbes and fungi, while retaining water and cooling the soil.

2. Ignore spacing recommendations.

When most people visit my garden, they are stunned at how closely spaced everything is. “You will get more pests and diseases that way,” a university extension agent once told me, but my research has proven otherwise. As long as you have a healthy soil structure high in beneficial fungi, microbes, and organic matter (achieved by mulching and no-till practices), close spacing has the opposite result.

The plants will be taller, water will be lost more slowly, and wildlife will be more present than in a conventionally planted garden. One way I determine how closely to space plants is to observe how large they get with no close neighbors, and then plant them in the garden in a space slightly smaller than their maximum size.

3. Let plants achieve their natural shape.

I know, sometimes plants get leggy or their flowers are too tall to “properly” enjoy, but a garden is not the place for perfection. I’ve noticed that when plants are allowed to reach their full stature without interruption, they tend to become more vigorous every year, almost as if it’s challenging itself to beat least year’s stats. Natural processes work best with as little human interference as possible.

4. Don’t supplement with any type of fertilizer (even natural!).

Fertilizer encourages beautiful, lush growth, right? What many people don’t know is that by using any type of added fertilizer, they are creating more work for themselves. In order to support the extra large leaves and flowers that fertilizer produces, plants demand more water and a sustained level of nutrients to perform well.

As soon as the fertilizer wears off, the plant can’t support the large amount of foliage and flower it had produced and starts having nutrient deficiencies. The only way to prevent this, of course, is by adding more fertilizer and watering more regularly, and no one wants that, right? Especially if the plants would have been more than happy anyway.

5. Mulch every fall.

I’ve already mentioned this, but I mulch once a year, usually in November (although that time varies depending on where you live). By using leaves and needles from nearby trees, the fungi and microbes in the soil are already adapted to break down the particular type of leaves that you add. This means quicker decomposition, and richer soil.

6. Encourage Fungi.

This is one of the most important practices I do. Without fungi, my garden would not be the same. Leaves would decompose slower, diseases would be more prevalent, and nutrient absorption would be more uneven. If you omit fungicides and follow the other points on this list (assuming you’re an organic gardener), fungi should naturally make their appearance.

7. Water only when absolutely necessary.

By watering only when your plants start to wilt, you encourage a strong and durable root system. This in turn, allows plants to search farther and deeper for nutrients, creating a more stable garden ecosystem.

8. Have variation in plant selection.

The more of one species you plant, the more likely that plant is to get a disease or pest. By planting in smaller groups, you discourage pests and allow even the most delicate plants to perform to their best ability.

9. Keep an open mind.

Since everyone has a different climate and unique challenges, there should be no standardized way of gardening that applies to the entire world. If a plant performs well in a certain spot, even if it was accidentally planted there, maybe you’ve discovered its ideal growing conditions.

10. Natives are always an asset.

Since a native plant is fully acclimated to your climate, they will almost always thrive. They even create some of the best ornamental and wildlife friendly additions to your garden. Try some and see! They will quickly become long-standing favorites.

 

Was this post helpful? Let me know your thoughts down below!

Join the Movement to Bring Back Gardening

Join the growing community of gardeners and adventurers seeking to reinvent the world of gardening!

!

!


Get Access

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

How I Created A Self-Sustaining Garden

May 24, 2018

Recently, I attended a conference where Jean-Martin Fortier and Joel Salatin spoke. It was a great experience meeting people interested in the same things as me. Of course, the main topic of the convention was growing plants and animals to sell at a market (market gardening/farming), but almost everyone there was an avid gardener as well. As I visited with other gardeners and farmers throughout my state, I became aware that I had something different in my garden.

While almost everyone around me was struggling with weeds (sometimes having to weed as much as 3 times a week!) my garden stayed weed-free for weeks at a time. I never water my garden (except for once or twice in the summer drought), and my plants always seem to grow twice as tall as their estimated height. I used to put it off, making excuses such as “I guess my soil is good,” or, “I’ve just been lucky,” when really, it was a combination of right practices and plant placement.

Last weekend was just the icing on the cake when the large group of people at the convention were amazed at my garden and wondered “what kind of magic” I had up my sleeve. This made me seriously think – why was my garden performing so well?

My Garden 5-24-18

After a little thought, I jotted down a list. After reading over my list, I realized that my garden was centered around nature, not around a set standard that I held it to. Calling it ‘self-sustaining,’ ‘permaculturesque’ (here I go making up words…), or just simply ‘naturalistic,’ would describe it best in a nutshell.

Today I will share some of those key practices that contributed to my garden’s success.

1. Let the leaves fall.

Once the first frosts arrive, browning all of the foliage and causing the plants to go dormant, I rarely remove the stems and leaves from my garden. Instead, I let them stand all winter, decaying in my garden and providing habitat for overwintering wildlife. Once spring arrives, I remove all woody stems and other slow-decaying items, but leave small stems, leaves, old flowerheads, and last fall’s mulch to decay and build up the soil. This creates a rich layer of soil and debris that harbors beneficial microbes and fungi, while retaining water and cooling the soil.

2. Ignore spacing recommendations.

When most people visit my garden, they are stunned at how closely spaced everything is. “You will get more pests and diseases that way,” a university extension agent once told me, but my research has proven otherwise. As long as you have a healthy soil structure high in beneficial fungi, microbes, and organic matter (achieved by mulching and no-till practices), close spacing has the opposite result.

The plants will be taller, water will be lost more slowly, and wildlife will be more present than in a conventionally planted garden. One way I determine how closely to space plants is to observe how large they get with no close neighbors, and then plant them in the garden in a space slightly smaller than their maximum size.

3. Let plants achieve their natural shape.

I know, sometimes plants get leggy or their flowers are too tall to “properly” enjoy, but a garden is not the place for perfection. I’ve noticed that when plants are allowed to reach their full stature without interruption, they tend to become more vigorous every year, almost as if it’s challenging itself to beat least year’s stats. Natural processes work best with as little human interference as possible.

4. Don’t supplement with any type of fertilizer (even natural!).

Fertilizer encourages beautiful, lush growth, right? What many people don’t know is that by using any type of added fertilizer, they are creating more work for themselves. In order to support the extra large leaves and flowers that fertilizer produces, plants demand more water and a sustained level of nutrients to perform well.

As soon as the fertilizer wears off, the plant can’t support the large amount of foliage and flower it had produced and starts having nutrient deficiencies. The only way to prevent this, of course, is by adding more fertilizer and watering more regularly, and no one wants that, right? Especially if the plants would have been more than happy anyway.

5. Mulch every fall.

I’ve already mentioned this, but I mulch once a year, usually in November (although that time varies depending on where you live). By using leaves and needles from nearby trees, the fungi and microbes in the soil are already adapted to break down the particular type of leaves that you add. This means quicker decomposition, and richer soil.

6. Encourage Fungi.

This is one of the most important practices I do. Without fungi, my garden would not be the same. Leaves would decompose slower, diseases would be more prevalent, and nutrient absorption would be more uneven. If you omit fungicides and follow the other points on this list (assuming you’re an organic gardener), fungi should naturally make their appearance.

7. Water only when absolutely necessary.

By watering only when your plants start to wilt, you encourage a strong and durable root system. This in turn, allows plants to search farther and deeper for nutrients, creating a more stable garden ecosystem.

8. Have variation in plant selection.

The more of one species you plant, the more likely that plant is to get a disease or pest. By planting in smaller groups, you discourage pests and allow even the most delicate plants to perform to their best ability.

9. Keep an open mind.

Since everyone has a different climate and unique challenges, there should be no standardized way of gardening that applies to the entire world. If a plant performs well in a certain spot, even if it was accidentally planted there, maybe you’ve discovered its ideal growing conditions.

10. Natives are always an asset.

Since a native plant is fully acclimated to your climate, they will almost always thrive. They even create some of the best ornamental and wildlife friendly additions to your garden. Try some and see! They will quickly become long-standing favorites.

 

Was this post helpful? Let me know your thoughts down below!

Join the Movement to Bring Back Gardening

Join the growing community of gardeners and adventurers seeking to reinvent the world of gardening!

!

!


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Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Is Time An Issue? Take The Ten Minute Challenge With Me!

Apr 27, 2018

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Whew!

Life has been busy.

Between school, keeping up my garden, writing posts, working a part-time job, taking photos, editing the photos… you get the idea.

Since I’ve been so short on time, I took a brief stroll through my garden today to see what was happening. Can you believe that in just a couple of days my whole mid-spring garden has come to life?? There were flowers EVERYWHERE – but a closer look also revealed the same imperfections: weeds, landscape fabric showing through in the paths, erosion problems, mole and gopher excavations that caused the erosion, etc.

 

This got me to thinking: I need to spend some quality time getting my garden back in order.

The Cottage Garden Spring 2018

After a few hours’ worth of work, it looked great! The beds were weeded, paths were mulched, holes filled, and I even planted some ‘Purity’ Cosmos to fill in a bare spot in the back of the Cottage Garden. This just shows that a couple of hours can go a long way!

 

I think that is one of the most common misconceptions about gardening: it takes too much time. That is simply not the case. It can take a good deal of time if you have to care for a huge garden, but it doesn’t have to.

 

People also confuse the time spent working in the garden with the time spent waiting.

 

The time spent working in my garden, for instance (now that it is established), varies from one to seven hours a week. That is all the time I need to sow seed, do a quick pass over the beds looking for weeds, and water anything that is thirsty. Any time after that is extra time I spend enjoying my hobby. It’s not necessary, but it’s worth it to me.

 

The time spent waiting is the time it takes for my plants to mature and flourish. This can be anywhere from a month to a few years depending on what kind of plant we’re talking about and what the growing conditions are like. This doesn’t require you to be there except to help direct the plant’s growth as needed.

Part of my mission (as I’ve repeated many times on this site) is to encourage young and budding gardeners to dig in and get dirty.

I feel that many people are afraid to become a gardener because of the “huge time commitment” involved.

Don’t be afraid.

I didn’t start off gardening for hours a week.

It came over time, and if I can do it, so can you!

Alright, Here’s the Challenge:

Start off by making a commitment, say, 10 minutes a day for six days this week.

If you follow through with it, you’ll have spent a whole hour in nature!

Here are some simple tasks you could spend your time on:

  • Weeding an existing bed
  • Digging a new bed
  • Planting flowers or vegetables in containers
  • Raking leaves
  • Dreaming about your future garden (yes, this is important!)
  • Planting herbs in your garden
  • Sowing seeds

And the list goes on.

Give it a try! You’ll find it liberating to reconnect with nature and become more interested as time goes on.

Seriously!

You can count me in. I’ll even post about it on Instagram each day for accountability. 🙂

Will you take the 10 Minute Challenge with me?

P.S. – Don’t forget to share this post and invite others to take on the challenge!

Is Time An Issue? Take The Ten Minute Challenge With Me!

Apr 27, 2018

Whew!

Life has been busy.

Between school, keeping up my garden, writing posts, working a part-time job, taking photos, editing the photos… you get the idea.

Since I’ve been so short on time, I took a brief stroll through my garden today to see what was happening. Can you believe that in just a couple of days my whole mid-spring garden has come to life?? There were flowers EVERYWHERE – but a closer look also revealed the same imperfections: weeds, landscape fabric showing through in the paths, erosion problems, mole and gopher excavations that caused the erosion, etc.

 

This got me to thinking: I need to spend some quality time getting my garden back in order.

The Cottage Garden Spring 2018

After a few hours’ worth of work, it looked great! The beds were weeded, paths were mulched, holes filled, and I even planted some ‘Purity’ Cosmos to fill in a bare spot in the back of the Cottage Garden. This just shows that a couple of hours can go a long way!

 

I think that is one of the most common misconceptions about gardening: it takes too much time. That is simply not the case. It can take a good deal of time if you have to care for a huge garden, but it doesn’t have to.

 

People also confuse the time spent working in the garden with the time spent waiting.

 

The time spent working in my garden, for instance (now that it is established), varies from one to seven hours a week. That is all the time I need to sow seed, do a quick pass over the beds looking for weeds, and water anything that is thirsty. Any time after that is extra time I spend enjoying my hobby. It’s not necessary, but it’s worth it to me.

 

The time spent waiting is the time it takes for my plants to mature and flourish. This can be anywhere from a month to a few years depending on what kind of plant we’re talking about and what the growing conditions are like. This doesn’t require you to be there except to help direct the plant’s growth as needed.

Part of my mission (as I’ve repeated many times on this site) is to encourage young and budding gardeners to dig in and get dirty.

I feel that many people are afraid to become a gardener because of the “huge time commitment” involved.

Don’t be afraid.

I didn’t start off gardening for hours a week.

It came over time, and if I can do it, so can you!

Alright, Here’s the Challenge:

Start off by making a commitment, say, 10 minutes a day for six days this week.

If you follow through with it, you’ll have spent a whole hour in nature!

Here are some simple tasks you could spend your time on:

  • Weeding an existing bed
  • Digging a new bed
  • Planting flowers or vegetables in containers
  • Raking leaves
  • Dreaming about your future garden (yes, this is important!)
  • Planting herbs in your garden
  • Sowing seeds

And the list goes on.

Give it a try! You’ll find it liberating to reconnect with nature and become more interested as time goes on.

Seriously!

You can count me in. I’ll even post about it on Instagram each day for accountability. 🙂

Will you take the 10 Minute Challenge with me?

P.S. – Don’t forget to share this post and invite others to take on the challenge!

Is Time An Issue? Take The Ten Minute Challenge With Me!

Apr 27, 2018

Whew!

Life has been busy.

Between school, keeping up my garden, writing posts, working a part-time job, taking photos, editing the photos… you get the idea.

Since I’ve been so short on time, I took a brief stroll through my garden today to see what was happening. Can you believe that in just a couple of days my whole mid-spring garden has come to life?? There were flowers EVERYWHERE – but a closer look also revealed the same imperfections: weeds, landscape fabric showing through in the paths, erosion problems, mole and gopher excavations that caused the erosion, etc.

 

This got me to thinking: I need to spend some quality time getting my garden back in order.

The Cottage Garden Spring 2018

After a few hours’ worth of work, it looked great! The beds were weeded, paths were mulched, holes filled, and I even planted some ‘Purity’ Cosmos to fill in a bare spot in the back of the Cottage Garden. This just shows that a couple of hours can go a long way!

 

I think that is one of the most common misconceptions about gardening: it takes too much time. That is simply not the case. It can take a good deal of time if you have to care for a huge garden, but it doesn’t have to.

 

People also confuse the time spent working in the garden with the time spent waiting.

 

The time spent working in my garden, for instance (now that it is established), varies from one to seven hours a week. That is all the time I need to sow seed, do a quick pass over the beds looking for weeds, and water anything that is thirsty. Any time after that is extra time I spend enjoying my hobby. It’s not necessary, but it’s worth it to me.

 

The time spent waiting is the time it takes for my plants to mature and flourish. This can be anywhere from a month to a few years depending on what kind of plant we’re talking about and what the growing conditions are like. This doesn’t require you to be there except to help direct the plant’s growth as needed.

Part of my mission (as I’ve repeated many times on this site) is to encourage young and budding gardeners to dig in and get dirty.

I feel that many people are afraid to become a gardener because of the “huge time commitment” involved.

Don’t be afraid.

I didn’t start off gardening for hours a week.

It came over time, and if I can do it, so can you!

Alright, Here’s the Challenge:

Start off by making a commitment, say, 10 minutes a day for six days this week.

If you follow through with it, you’ll have spent a whole hour in nature!

Here are some simple tasks you could spend your time on:

  • Weeding an existing bed
  • Digging a new bed
  • Planting flowers or vegetables in containers
  • Raking leaves
  • Dreaming about your future garden (yes, this is important!)
  • Planting herbs in your garden
  • Sowing seeds

And the list goes on.

Give it a try! You’ll find it liberating to reconnect with nature and become more interested as time goes on.

Seriously!

You can count me in. I’ll even post about it on Instagram each day for accountability. 🙂

Will you take the 10 Minute Challenge with me?

P.S. – Don’t forget to share this post and invite others to take on the challenge!

Battling Invasive Bamboos

Mar 4, 2018

BLOG

the

Lately I’ve been having some plant issues.

Major issues.

The giant bamboo in my backyard (some of which exceeds 50 feet tall) is galloping into the neighboring woods at an astonishing 20 feet per year. Wherever it grows, it creates a monoculture. My neighbor planted it in the 80’s as a novelty way of distinguishing the property line and providing some privacy. Now, about 35 years and two acres later…well, you get the idea.

Bamboo allows little to no light to penetrate the canopy.
Bamboo allows little to no light to penetrate the canopy.

One mistake on researching the right species to plant has cost our neighbors (and us) countless hours chopping, digging, and burning the culms (stems), which sound like fireworks when they burn due to the hollow stems. Every time we burn, there’s at least one neighbor who comes down to inquire what the “gunshots” are from. Since I’m an entirely organic gardener, I’ve never used herbicides as a remedy for the nuisance bamboo. I have, however, been considering using herbicides sparingly if spraying will ultimately cause less damage to the environment than allowing a destructive plant to destroy the ecosystem. I’m still deciding on the best course of action.

Bamboo surrounding a pine in my backyard.
Bamboo surrounding a pine in my backyard.
Bamboo creates a monoculture wherever it grows.
Bamboo creates a monoculture wherever it grows.
A closer look reveals a network of surface roots.
A closer look reveals a network of surface roots.
Here's some perspective: the trees are well over 100 feet tall.
Here’s some perspective: the trees are well over 100 feet tall.

Bamboos where introduced in the late 19th century as a horticultural novelty. People liked the unusual, tropical look they provided and their ability to form large clumps in a relatively brief period of time. Unfortunately, some species spread faster than people thought, and soon, became naturalized throughout the United States.

The offending species are mostly from the genus Phyllostachys and Sasa. Phyllostachys are the bamboos that most people think of, with large culms in a rainbow of colors. The giant timber bamboo that I am currently battling is Phyllostachys bambusoides.

This species can be well behaved if you have thick, clay soils heavy in nutrients and moisture. If your soil is sandy and poor, like mine, they will spread like wildfire in their endless search for the prime growing conditions.

Sasa is a genus of smaller, scrubbier bamboos that are usually less than 10 feet tall. I’ve seen entire woodland floors swamped with Sasa palmata, displacing the native ferns and sedges and eventually killing the trees they surround. Bamboos in the genus Sasa are endless wanderers. No matter what your soil conditions are like, they will always march forward, and are nearly impossible to eradicate.

Here’s the million-dollar question: “If they are as tough as you say, how do I ever eradicate them?”

 

I've made a sizable dent in the bamboo forest (with help from my neighbor's tractor!).
I’ve made a sizable dent in the bamboo forest (with help from my neighbor’s tractor!).

Although I’m by no means an expert on managing invasive species, I have experimented with various methods on my own stand of bamboo and have found only two viable options. The first effective (and organic) way of controlling them is by hard manual labor – cutting the stalks down to ground-level and continually weedeating and removing any new shoots that emerge. This method works if you have the time to do a twice-weekly cut of any emerging shoots. Eventually, the roots will become starved and die off.

This method might be effective if you have the time, patience, and grit to overcome a tough infestation of bamboo, but what if you’re like me and don’t have the time? Well, at that point you’re about out of luck. Using an herbicide might be the only effective solution to permanently eradicate it. Like I’ve said before, if using an herbicide will be the least harmful way (better than leaving it) of removing a stubborn bamboo, it might be worth it to choose the lesser of two evils.

I want to end by saying that not all bamboos are bad. Many are amazing assets to the landscape, providing interesting colors, forms, and textures to the garden. Just make sure and do the research before you plant!

Does anyone else struggle with bamboo issues? I’d love to chat in the comments below about eradicating bamboos, or better-behaved cultivars to grow.

P.S. If getting rid of an invasive bamboo is not an option, you may as well utilize the resources it provides! Bamboo leaf litter decomposes into some of the richest soil around – use it to mulch your garden. The stems make excellent (environmentally friendly) stakes for the garden, not to mention most bamboos have edible young shoots. As you can see, even though some species may be invasive, they could also be turned into an asset!

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Battling Invasive Bamboos

Mar 4, 2018

Lately I’ve been having some plant issues.

Major issues.

The giant bamboo in my backyard (some of which exceeds 50 feet tall) is galloping into the neighboring woods at an astonishing 20 feet per year. Wherever it grows, it creates a monoculture. My neighbor planted it in the 80’s as a novelty way of distinguishing the property line and providing some privacy. Now, about 35 years and two acres later…well, you get the idea.

Bamboo allows little to no light to penetrate the canopy.
Bamboo allows little to no light to penetrate the canopy.

One mistake on researching the right species to plant has cost our neighbors (and us) countless hours chopping, digging, and burning the culms (stems), which sound like fireworks when they burn due to the hollow stems. Every time we burn, there’s at least one neighbor who comes down to inquire what the “gunshots” are from. Since I’m an entirely organic gardener, I’ve never used herbicides as a remedy for the nuisance bamboo. I have, however, been considering using herbicides sparingly if spraying will ultimately cause less damage to the environment than allowing a destructive plant to destroy the ecosystem. I’m still deciding on the best course of action.

Bamboo surrounding a pine in my backyard.
Bamboo surrounding a pine in my backyard.
Bamboo creates a monoculture wherever it grows.
Bamboo creates a monoculture wherever it grows.
A closer look reveals a network of surface roots.
A closer look reveals a network of surface roots.
Here's some perspective: the trees are well over 100 feet tall.
Here’s some perspective: the trees are well over 100 feet tall.

Bamboos where introduced in the late 19th century as a horticultural novelty. People liked the unusual, tropical look they provided and their ability to form large clumps in a relatively brief period of time. Unfortunately, some species spread faster than people thought, and soon, became naturalized throughout the United States.

The offending species are mostly from the genus Phyllostachys and Sasa. Phyllostachys are the bamboos that most people think of, with large culms in a rainbow of colors. The giant timber bamboo that I am currently battling is Phyllostachys bambusoides.

This species can be well behaved if you have thick, clay soils heavy in nutrients and moisture. If your soil is sandy and poor, like mine, they will spread like wildfire in their endless search for the prime growing conditions.

Sasa is a genus of smaller, scrubbier bamboos that are usually less than 10 feet tall. I’ve seen entire woodland floors swamped with Sasa palmata, displacing the native ferns and sedges and eventually killing the trees they surround. Bamboos in the genus Sasa are endless wanderers. No matter what your soil conditions are like, they will always march forward, and are nearly impossible to eradicate.

Here’s the million-dollar question: “If they are as tough as you say, how do I ever eradicate them?”

 

I've made a sizable dent in the bamboo forest (with help from my neighbor's tractor!).
I’ve made a sizable dent in the bamboo forest (with help from my neighbor’s tractor!).

Although I’m by no means an expert on managing invasive species, I have experimented with various methods on my own stand of bamboo and have found only two viable options. The first effective (and organic) way of controlling them is by hard manual labor – cutting the stalks down to ground-level and continually weedeating and removing any new shoots that emerge. This method works if you have the time to do a twice-weekly cut of any emerging shoots. Eventually, the roots will become starved and die off.

This method might be effective if you have the time, patience, and grit to overcome a tough infestation of bamboo, but what if you’re like me and don’t have the time? Well, at that point you’re about out of luck. Using an herbicide might be the only effective solution to permanently eradicate it. Like I’ve said before, if using an herbicide will be the least harmful way (better than leaving it) of removing a stubborn bamboo, it might be worth it to choose the lesser of two evils.

I want to end by saying that not all bamboos are bad. Many are amazing assets to the landscape, providing interesting colors, forms, and textures to the garden. Just make sure and do the research before you plant!

Does anyone else struggle with bamboo issues? I’d love to chat in the comments below about eradicating bamboos, or better-behaved cultivars to grow.

P.S. If getting rid of an invasive bamboo is not an option, you may as well utilize the resources it provides! Bamboo leaf litter decomposes into some of the richest soil around – use it to mulch your garden. The stems make excellent (environmentally friendly) stakes for the garden, not to mention most bamboos have edible young shoots. As you can see, even though some species may be invasive, they could also be turned into an asset!

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Battling Invasive Bamboos

Mar 4, 2018

Lately I’ve been having some plant issues.

Major issues.

The giant bamboo in my backyard (some of which exceeds 50 feet tall) is galloping into the neighboring woods at an astonishing 20 feet per year. Wherever it grows, it creates a monoculture. My neighbor planted it in the 80’s as a novelty way of distinguishing the property line and providing some privacy. Now, about 35 years and two acres later…well, you get the idea.

Bamboo allows little to no light to penetrate the canopy.
Bamboo allows little to no light to penetrate the canopy.

One mistake on researching the right species to plant has cost our neighbors (and us) countless hours chopping, digging, and burning the culms (stems), which sound like fireworks when they burn due to the hollow stems. Every time we burn, there’s at least one neighbor who comes down to inquire what the “gunshots” are from. Since I’m an entirely organic gardener, I’ve never used herbicides as a remedy for the nuisance bamboo. I have, however, been considering using herbicides sparingly if spraying will ultimately cause less damage to the environment than allowing a destructive plant to destroy the ecosystem. I’m still deciding on the best course of action.

Bamboo surrounding a pine in my backyard.
Bamboo surrounding a pine in my backyard.
Bamboo creates a monoculture wherever it grows.
Bamboo creates a monoculture wherever it grows.
A closer look reveals a network of surface roots.
A closer look reveals a network of surface roots.
Here's some perspective: the trees are well over 100 feet tall.
Here’s some perspective: the trees are well over 100 feet tall.

Bamboos where introduced in the late 19th century as a horticultural novelty. People liked the unusual, tropical look they provided and their ability to form large clumps in a relatively brief period of time. Unfortunately, some species spread faster than people thought, and soon, became naturalized throughout the United States.

The offending species are mostly from the genus Phyllostachys and Sasa. Phyllostachys are the bamboos that most people think of, with large culms in a rainbow of colors. The giant timber bamboo that I am currently battling is Phyllostachys bambusoides.

This species can be well behaved if you have thick, clay soils heavy in nutrients and moisture. If your soil is sandy and poor, like mine, they will spread like wildfire in their endless search for the prime growing conditions.

Sasa is a genus of smaller, scrubbier bamboos that are usually less than 10 feet tall. I’ve seen entire woodland floors swamped with Sasa palmata, displacing the native ferns and sedges and eventually killing the trees they surround. Bamboos in the genus Sasa are endless wanderers. No matter what your soil conditions are like, they will always march forward, and are nearly impossible to eradicate.

Here’s the million-dollar question: “If they are as tough as you say, how do I ever eradicate them?”

 

I've made a sizable dent in the bamboo forest (with help from my neighbor's tractor!).
I’ve made a sizable dent in the bamboo forest (with help from my neighbor’s tractor!).

Although I’m by no means an expert on managing invasive species, I have experimented with various methods on my own stand of bamboo and have found only two viable options. The first effective (and organic) way of controlling them is by hard manual labor – cutting the stalks down to ground-level and continually weedeating and removing any new shoots that emerge. This method works if you have the time to do a twice-weekly cut of any emerging shoots. Eventually, the roots will become starved and die off.

This method might be effective if you have the time, patience, and grit to overcome a tough infestation of bamboo, but what if you’re like me and don’t have the time? Well, at that point you’re about out of luck. Using an herbicide might be the only effective solution to permanently eradicate it. Like I’ve said before, if using an herbicide will be the least harmful way (better than leaving it) of removing a stubborn bamboo, it might be worth it to choose the lesser of two evils.

I want to end by saying that not all bamboos are bad. Many are amazing assets to the landscape, providing interesting colors, forms, and textures to the garden. Just make sure and do the research before you plant!

Does anyone else struggle with bamboo issues? I’d love to chat in the comments below about eradicating bamboos, or better-behaved cultivars to grow.

P.S. If getting rid of an invasive bamboo is not an option, you may as well utilize the resources it provides! Bamboo leaf litter decomposes into some of the richest soil around – use it to mulch your garden. The stems make excellent (environmentally friendly) stakes for the garden, not to mention most bamboos have edible young shoots. As you can see, even though some species may be invasive, they could also be turned into an asset!

The Monthly Newsletter

Join the growing community of gardeners and adventurers seeking to connect with each other and expand their gardening know-how!


!


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Submit

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.