Removing bamboo rhizomes from large area

ECinNCMarch 20, 2014

After three years and hours and hours of cutting rhizomes and culms, we're finally winning the battle to eradicate a huge stand of running bamboo that was probably planted 30 years ago. There's still some in our neighbor's yard which may yet present a problem, but now it's only growing in a few small patches in our yard that we can probably kill off this year. Although it was a nightmare, we've managed to remove most of the rhizomes from existing plant beds so we can finally garden without the frustration of hitting them every time we put a shovel in the ground or having it shoot up through other plants.

To keep it out of the beds, we had to get rid of it altogether since digging and maintaining a trench to control it would have been impossible because of the size of the stand and our forested lot. The problem now is the large area that used to be a pretty bamboo grove is a bare eyesore. There are so many dead rhizomes and hard stumps that it's impossible to plant anything and digging them out by hand isn't feasible because the area is far too large. It's even dangerous to walk in the area because the stumps are so sharp and the ground is very uneven.

Has anyone had success rehabbing a former grove site? Is our only option to remove the rhizomes to get a bobcat and remove the top 6+ inches of soil as well? We would like to do something with the area this year, but if we waited another year or two, would the rhizomes rot enough for us to preserve the soil and more easily pull the stumps up and maybe just till the area to make it suitable for planting?

Thank you in advance.

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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

The remaining rhizomes will last many years. From what you describe, using a bobcat to remove what remains is your only option...and it will get rid of the rhizomes you think are dead, but may not be. I'm not sure why you want to remove the topsoil as well since bamboo can only regenerate from decent size pieces of rhizome, not fragments.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 1:36AM
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eurydice

I am in the same situation, though it sounds like on a smaller scale.

I killed the bamboo by having a garden worker clear cut my ca. 500 sq ft of bamboo (running). Then when the sprouts came back, I sprayed a grass killer on them (bamboo is a grass), and it worked like a charm. It's taken about five years to get rid of new growths from leftover fragments.

The problem, as you noted, is that bamboo is literally as hard as metal (knives and flooring are made from it, after all). The stumps left are killer: I'm always tripping on them.

The only way, I'm thinking, is to use a saw that cuts metal and working from the outside-in, cut the roots to release the stump. And then pull hard.

Or backhoe the whole shebang.

Another detractor: bamboo seriously depletes the soil. If you're lucky enough to get rid of it, you're left with dry dust soil requiring a lot of compost. Horrible!

Running bamboo is an invasive plant. Gardeners and nurseries should require permits to sell or plant it. Sure, it's pretty, but a pest. Kind of like that guy you knew in college ...

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 10:06AM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

eurydice-
Although bamboo is a grass, it's pretty resistant to grass killer. I wouldn't be surprised if you see a lot of small shoots come up in the next year or two. If you got rid of it, good. Just don't count on it being gone using that method. If I were you, I'd get the rhizomes removed to be safe, and to make that area useful again. A field of stumps to trip over doesn't sound like an improvement to me.

I'm also not sure about your "dry dust soil" comment. I've grown bamboo on my property for 10-15 years and many other things grow just fine in proximity to the bamboo. It's also been grown for millennia in Asia and their soil is just fine. Maybe you have a unique growing environment.

This post was edited by kudzu9 on Sat, Apr 19, 14 at 13:04

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 1:02PM
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stevelau1911

After being killed, it will take about 2-3 years for that stuff to rot so if you want to get rid of the rhizome mass, you may need to get a chainsaw, and cut that stuff away in sections for planting something else.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 2:18PM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

stevelau-
In my neck of the woods (Pacific NW), rhizomes last a lot longer in the ground than 2-3 years. I've dug in parts of my yard 5 years after removing bamboo and found rhizomes I missed that were dead, but still tough and woody.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 6:13PM
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