Getting Rid of Bamboo

ronfurgJune 11, 2010

Bamboo is evil incarnate and when things settle down in the great beyond I'm going to inquire of the Creator the same thing about bamboo as about mosquitos -- WHY? I own a like house about 1/2 mile inside North Carolina from VA. In a moment of ultimate naivetI planted a couple of stalks of bamboo near the house to add a little green and provide a little shade. Dumb, dumb, dumb! Seriously, things were just fine for about 12 years. Just a few stalks and they seemed to remain localized. Then, wham-o. The bamboo started taking over the house. Worse, it started taking over the septic system and the roots infiltrated the system. The bamboo must have thought it was in bamboo Nirvana. Hundreds of dollars later there is still a possibility I'll have to install an entire new system which, because of trees covering the potential drainage field, will cost tens of thousands of $$$$. Sad. I appreciate all the suggestions on this site. I'm starting a multi-pronged attack starting with photosynthesis deprivation followed, probably, by the application of salt or the vinegar solution, and then covering with root barrier and a thick layer of dirt. I'll also be praying for the Creator's mercy in dealing with His pesky invention.

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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

This is a perfect example of how bamboo gets a bad rap. Letting running bamboo go for 12 years without rhizome pruning is a recipe for disaster. Also, I've never seen bamboo rhizomes go deeper than about 12" so I wonder if it really did something to your septic; is it possible something else has grown roots into it?

All you need to do is cut it all down, water it, and keep chopping it down until it exhausts itself. The root barrier, the layer of dirt, the salt and vinegar will do little or nothing to control it. And destroying the soil with vinegar and salt application is not a solution.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 12:22AM
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I think you should spend more time using your head and less time criticising and second-guessing your "Creator".

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 6:16AM
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You should never plant anything without knowing it's growth habits beforehand.

Common sense will go a long way if you do research on what you plant. A bad rap indeed. Even a tree will need trimming at some point, but there's no need to panic. As mentioned above, simply cut the new culms/shoots down as soon as they emerge and the plant will die...yes, it will take a little work, but since nothing was done for 12 years, then that can be expected.

It may seem like a huge task, but after the first few days of cutting down the new shoots, the number of new shoots will begin to decline, just don't stop until the job is done, or the bamboo may continue to grow.

Good luck and let us know the final outcome.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 10:37PM
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Bamboo isn't evil, nor is it a foundation plant which you would know if you had done your homework. Bamboo is never a problem, the problem is the ignorance and neglect of the land owner. Don't blame the plant, blame the planter.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 11:05AM
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Post a free ad on your local craigslist it will be gone before you know it. And you won't have to do anything but backfill the holes. Very easy.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 10:34PM
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As the postor has already realized the mistake of their wayward planting, I myself view their post as an extremely humorous story in a day and age when most can no longer laugh at themselves.
This is the kind of material that stand up comedians thrive on.
Thank you Ronferg for sharing your story. I have learned by your mistake.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 7:18PM
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WOW! and I thought my people over on the rose forums could get angst ridden over their plants.

I can relate to ronfurg. When I first moved into my house ten years ago I sought out and planted four different bamboo varieties for different parts of the yard. I researched enough to know I wanted clumping bamboo and not the running kind that could make enemies of my neighbors. All was well until the bamboo took over everything. None of my fruit trees would grow because of all the shade that the bamboo would create. Although I still have a soft spot in my heart for bamboo, trying to get rid of the stuff after it has lived out its usefulness for me has been liken to dealing with crab grass in my rose beds. I'm so frustrated, after hours upon hours of digging and cutting and using every other conceivable tool in my arsenal, that I fear I'll loose it one of these days and douse gasoline onto the stumps and light them on fire. With my luck, however, I'd probably set the house on fire along with a neighbor or two's house for good measure!

My two cents: cut ronfurg some slack. No one begins a garden knowing everything about a plant and its nature unless they were a garden enthusiast to begin with (which I can vouch I was not when I planted all that damn bamboo). Good luck ronfurg and know that if you see me moving into your neighborhood I probably ran away from the angry mob that used to be my neighbors and I will definitely NOT be planting bamboo in my new yard.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 9:48AM
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Everybody makes mistakes with plants.

It got too big, was planted too close to the house, is ruining my sewer/septic system, is going to cost hundreds or thousands of $$$ to remove, etc... what an evil plant!

Yes, why are *trees* even around? (Wait, did you think I was talking about bamboo?)

I've never once thought "that bamboo is going to fall and destroy the house and kill somebody", but I think that about huge old trees all the time. I think bamboo gets people more worked up because it exposes the problems in 10 years instead of the 100 years that trees need to become a problem.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 11:06AM
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The problem with ronburg's spittle-flecked rant was not his initial ignorance. The problem is that his rant is factually and substantially incorrect. In your rush to his or her defense, you seem to have overlooked this.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 8:15AM
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You mean to tell me that you know more about ronburg's experience than ronburg him/herself?

The only place I can see an assumption is in the notation about the septic tank, however, contrary to kudzu9's statement I have dug up bamboo roots (rhizomes) at greater depths than 12" in my attempt to remove bamboo, so that brings that accepted truth into question.

My point was that it seemed like everyone's passion for bamboo was blinding them to the person's problem and instead of just offering advice people jumped down this person's throat over his/her warranted opinion (and if bamboo has costs you money in its removal, than your angst towards the plant is warranted) that bamboo is a distant cousin to the anti-Christ. Let's face it, bamboo is not for everyone and every place much like I've learned that roses, although not impossible to grow in the south, aren't for every gardener.

If you disagree, than, that's great, we agree to disagree. The forum rules don't state anything to the converse.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 8:29AM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

I agree that these forums are a place where reasonable people can disagree. I still think he's wrong on a couple of points -- and his plan to deal with his problem by messing up his soil is something I thought I should warn him about -- so that is why I posted. I also wanted to use it as an example to others about the consequences of not maintaining bamboo. But he's free to state his opinion.

I do want to point out that I didn't say that bamboo never grows below 12"; that's just my experience growing about 80 kinds of running bamboo over many years. In your own experience/situation, are you talking about runner or clumper roots, because it seems like you said you planted clumpers. If so, I'm curious about how it took over your yard. I know that big clumpers are hard to remove because of their large and dense rootball, but they also stay in one place. Did this growth occur over many years? I know you're in a much different growing climate from me, but I am curious about what is going on with your situation. Thanks.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 1:32PM
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As I stated I tried out four different types of bamboo. I say four because although I tried a fifth, black bamboo, it is the only one that DIDN'T survive (albeit the one I DID want to have survive).

Of the four types of bamboo I have in my yard, the white bamboo (the names I use are not technical and are the ones given by the gentleman that sold me the bamboo) is the only one that managed to stay somewhat localized. The common yellow and common green bamboo are the ones that have progressively widened their spreading over the course of six years. The "Cuban Bamboo" is beginning to show signs of this as well and could easily be classified as a giganta bamboo, so the effects are more pronounced even in the earlier stages of its spreading.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 3:11PM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

Thanks for responding. There are about 1200 species of bamboo in cultivation, and several hundred that are commonly grown in the U.S. Without the scientific names, I can't tell what you have ...other than to say that they all sound like they were runners, not clumpers. That explains why you had the experience you had, and why you might be unhappy about that. If you had planted clumpers, they would have gotten taller, but stayed in one place and expanded very little. In your Zone there are many beautiful tropical clumpers that I wish I could grow, but we're a little too chilly in the winter to keep them alive.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 2:45AM
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No, I am saying that I have a superior grasp of reality, in general, than ronfurg. The only other plausible explanation for his or her bizarre tirade that I can see is that ronfurg is being deliberately misleading -- possible, but I have no evidence for it.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 5:51AM
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Romfurg has all my sympathy. Good forum folks but a distinct lack of actual ADVICE ON HOW TO GET RID OF THE STUFF.
I moved house some 15 yrs ago and the bamboo was already in place. Having no idea what "rhizome pruning" is I obviously never did any and now it is taking over the small garden. I am only an amateur gardener so I need HELP. Having spent the last week, about 24 hours in all, digging out roots I have hardly dented it (but I do seem to have lost half a stone in the process - hooray!). So, is there an easier way to actually GET RID OF THE STUFF???

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 8:32AM
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The easiest way is to cut down every culm (cane), then wait for new shoots to come up (you may need to water if you're in a dry area). Then once the new shoots grow, let them get tall, then chop them all down again. Then repeat this process. This could take a couple of years, but the idea is you're trying to deplete the rhizome/root system of all energy. Once that's done, the rhizomes will die and the plant will be gone. The dead rhizomes will still be in the ground.

The other way that is faster but involves much more work is to dig out all of the rhizomes. This can be a huge amount of work.

Some combination of the two methods may be needed, as it may not be practical to get every rhizome out of the ground, and the ones you missed will put up shoots next spring (or whenever it usually shoots).

Rhizome pruning is just cutting off any rhizomes that go out of the area you want them to. Use overlapping shovel cuts, use a mattock, etc.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 3:28PM
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A little harsh on ronfurg, no? One of the problems with things like bamboo is that the current owner of a property may be an avid gardener and know all about the plants on it. When that person moves, dies, gets too old to take care of the plants, those plants become everyone else's problem. And since most people are not avid gardeners, they have no idea what to do.

And maybe the first person was willing to do some work, but received wrong information, which is why I'm on this particular forum. My neighbors hired a contractor to help them design their yard. He planted bamboo for them. Four years on, they're screaming about it. They trusted him and had no idea that the bamboo would take over their yard. The contractor may have thought he was planting some clumping bamboo or more likely, just had no idea himself. And of course he's nowhere to be found any more.

Now the problem. People in some states talk about twenty or thirty feet of bamboo as if it's a feature in their gardens. In brownstone Brooklyn yards are 20 feet across and 50 feet deep. That means my neighbor's problem is now mine. Because it is legal to sell those plants in NYC, I have to spend my time ensuring that I don't get bamboo growing in my own yard. Doesn't seem fair. Our other neighbors, who are in their 80s, are unable to spend the time and effort so their little garden will eventually disappear. That doesn't seem fair either.

In New York, you are liable if you have an underground oil tank that leaks into your neighbor's yard, you are liable if your tree drops a limb on their property and causes damage to their home, and you should be liable if your plant destroys or invades their garden to their detriment. So you get sued. Then you sue the people who sold the plant to you and eventually those people are sued often enough that they stop selling it.

All that takes a long time and it's not very efficient. I don't want to sue my neighbors - I like them. And I don't want my other neighbors to lose their garden. I just want to help get rid of the bamboo forever.

Bamboo isn't the only plant like this. I've spent five years trying to destroy Japanese knotweed. Wisteria can be a horror, and I've got some woody plant coming up all over that seems to be guided by a sinister intelligence. It has roots that go down perhaps 24 inches and they seem to lie dormant for years before sprouting because they look very well-established when I dig them up. Now we have the bamboo.

We were going to use Roundup but I'm gathering that's not a good solution? Getting a backhoe or Bobcat is out of the question - there's no way to get those into the back yard. And putting in a 30 inch concrete perimeter isn't an option either.

So how to kill it forever without using power equipment or concrete?

And if there is a kind of bamboo that is known not to run and that will behave and stay in place in NYC, recommendations would be appreciated.


    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 12:22PM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

First, don't confuse the habits of bamboo with knotweed or wisteria, which can regenerate from fragments. Also, bamboo typically don't have deep roots. If you chop off the rhizomes of invading bamboo -- which will probably be 4"-10" below the surface -- and dig out any root balls and culms that have come up, the plants will not re-grow from small pieces left in the ground. It can be hard work, but a pickaxe is a pretty good tool for accomplishing this. Once you have removed any growth that came into your yard, you can either chop along your fenceline once or twice each year in order to truncate any new rhizomes, or you can trench down and install a hard plastic product known as bamboo barrier.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 1:32PM
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Thanks for the feedback. I realize it's not like those other plants. My point was only that I've spent a lot of time eradicating those and now I've got a new problem all because of what's most probably an innocent mistake. And the installation of a plastic barrier is sensible, but in reality it means I have to rip out most of my roses and garden because they're along the fence that would require the barrier.

I don't want to get into an argument here - until I perused this site for a while I honestly never imagined that people would actually LIKE bamboo, but now that I know that, I'll try to be careful. But since I can't install a barrier w/out major work, which includes taking up some concrete, then do I really need to patrol a few times a year? If it's only once or twice, I can probably live with that, but don't the rhizomes or whatever is happening grow much faster than that?

Also, the neighbor who originally planted it had no idea of the work it would require. He's spending a lot of his free time cutting back things that he wouldn't have planted had he been informed better. So since we're in Sept now, are you suggesting that maybe we can dig it all out, watch for new growth in the spring, and perhaps be done with it?

Again - they're decent people and just wanted something like lilacs, daisies, or mums. And would be happy with some grasses or bamboo that would stay confined to a three or four or five foot area, in case anyone knows of something like that.

Anyhow, thanks for the suggestion!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 11:42PM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

If you dig it out -- plants and rhizomes -- and your neighbor does, too, that should be the end of it. If you inadvertently leave some pieces of rhizome in the ground, they will either die or reveal themselves next year by putting up a few little leafy sprigs or shoots, and you can dig those out, too. As for dealing with your roses, etc., if you have a rhizome that runs under the plant, you can usually just sever the rhizome on both sides of the plant, remove those parts, and leave the chunk under the plant undisturbed where it will likely die.

If your neighbor does not remove all of his bamboo, or does not rhizome prune or install barrier, you will occasionally have more rhizomes sneaking into your yard, and you will have to do your own rhizome pruning. I have about 60 species of running bamboo growing in my yard, and I rhizome prune once or twice a year. Sometimes I find nothing, and sometimes I find a rhizome that has gone 6' in a year. It all depends on a number of factors.

As for non-spreading bamboo, there are many -- they're called clunpers -- but I'll let you get your running bamboo issue dealt with before giving you more advice on non-invasive species of bamboo.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 2:02PM
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Hi Rosesinny,

I'm one of those bamboo lovers too. ;) I'm prompted to post for the first time in this forum by your story. I understand living in the city and the desire to have my one special little garden space , that is my solitude after a busy day. In fact that is exactly the reason the first bamboo came to live here and the reason I have increased my amount of boo.

First it was to hopefully shade my house from the late afternoon sun from the West and screen my bathroom window. Twenty five years later I can say it was one of the best things I've ever done. The summer heat is now tolerable inside.

Then new neighbors arrived and they decided to practicably live on their previously unoccupied back balcony. More boo.. problem solved there.

Then another neighbor got on my nerves. They added a back deck and sat out there for their phone chatting, beer drinking, dinner eating and spent the entire time staring at me, since I was the only interesting thing around and my garden is the center of the block. That one took a large transplant and lots of fert and water !

Next the folks in the back clear cut the entire two backyards and installed a parking lot ! More boo. I think I'm done now. lol.

What has happened is all the city sounds are beautifully muffled, no matter what time of day I'm out, and even rush hour traffic is really quite tolerable. Interestingly the front of my house , farther from the traffic is much louder and the air harder to breath during the daytime on weekdays. Never would have thought things would change so much , all those years ago when I planted that first little rhizome.. no culm or pot.. just the promise.

So I suggest you consider what things will be like when and if your neighbor does remove the bamboo. With it coming in seeking the water your giving the roses, you do have a possibility there, if it's something you like the looks of. Bamboo is the nursery is pretty expensive, and depending on the variety you have coming to visit, you might be surprised . Next time your at the local garden store, go back and check the price tags.

You could install bamboo barrier to stop it coming into the rose bed proper, but leave enough there to gain a bamboo wall of your very own. I have found the bamboo barrier page of my favorite bamboo nursery for you and will add it at the bottom here. See the second picture down on the left ? That's what I had in mind, since your already needing to dig anyway. You might be able to do a few sections at a time too, depending on how things are laid out. Or what about a nice curve , fitting in with what you have planted now? It certainly doesn't need to be the whole back of the fence space now. One can always set it free to a bit larger area later on if things change. Just one more option.

Bamboo is not the bad guy some seem to believe it to be. If it was the planet would be completely covered by now. Oh, and an interesting fact : bamboo produces 35% more oxygen that a similar sized tree.

The trick is to understand what bamboo does , what it wants, and then control has been easy for this grandma. You don't have to be young and strong, except for getting things set up right in the beginning. Mine are in raised beds with solid edges , since bamboo roots are fairly shallow. I control where I want it to grow as I water each summer. Looks funny though.. I water the next area I want new culms to appear the next year, while I water the rest of the plant . I did have a corner get broken on the wood of the largest bed, not repaired yet. When my boo tries to sneak out and I see a culm coming up during shooting season , I just step on it, which kills that shoot. Then later when I have the time and energy, I know where to go back to and chop a little piece out. Doing this yearly it's never been a problem. Yes.. little old ladies can control boo too.

Hum ? maybe that's why the neighbors were so interested in what the crazy old woman down there was doing.... watering a bare patch of ground.

Perhaps if you want a little more input as to how to go about controlling your boo guest, you could add a picture or two. The guys would be better able to help make things easier for you. I'm sure this is still all a bit vague being so new to the idea. I imagine it would have been for me anyway, back before I had hands on experience.

Hi to all of you regular posters too. :)

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 4:17AM
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Oh, and what's with the OP ?

If he had bamboo getting to his septic tank..his problem is with the people that installed the tank improperly..and dangerously, much to shallow ! That's a health and safety violation.

Also, forgot to add my name to my first post:
I'm Pam, a granny that loves bamboo.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 4:34AM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

Nice story...thanks for sharing.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 1:53PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

"Some old school excavators will try to justify a deeper excavation for freeze protection. In several years of occasionally hard freezes in central Washington State (we see 25 below on rare nights), I have never seen a sewer line freeze that was built at the proper slope however shallow. Tanks too are safe from freezing even when placed slightly above ground such as under a deck. Water lines however are buried at 3 to 4 feet in northern areas to prevent freezing. Sewer lines and septic tanks follow a different set of rules than water lines because septic system lines are seldom deeper than a foot or 2 below grade."

I have heard all kinds of crazy things about how deep leach fields need to be. Bet in hilly, rocky, coastalish areas which don't get too cold they're bound to be more shallow than in Fairbanks.

Here is a link that might be useful: Septic Site

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 3:49AM
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I moved into a house over 20 years ago, that already had a giant bamboo threatening to run me out of town. To get rid of it, I cut it down, then waited for the new shoots to appear, which they did all over my driveway! After the initial cutting, though, the solution was simple: bamboo is a type of grass, so grass killer on the new shoots knocked them down in a couple of days. Every time a new shoot would appear, I sprayed it and in a few weeks the problem was solved. Just a note, if the herbicide you try doesn't stick to the leaves, it's not gonna kill the plant. Oh, and when the new shoot comes up, wait for the leaf to open all the way before you spray.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 12:33AM
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catboy - What do you mean by "when the new shoot comes up, wait for the leaf to open all the way before you spray"? Bamboo shoots will grow to almost their full height before the branches and leaves start appearing.

Is it possible you had Japanese knotweed instead of bamboo?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 8:14AM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

I'm with you on your analysis. catboy's description doesn't match with bamboo growth behavior, and grass killer is not particularly effective on bamboo.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 12:19AM
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I have a question. I didn't make the mistake of planting bamboo. My neighbor did. I now have shoots popping up throughout my yard as far as 25 feet from where the original plant is. He planted the bamboo as a screen next to his pool on his side of a fence. Is there anything I can do to stop this plant from growing in my yard other than killing it completely? My kids can't even run through a sprinkler in the yard because the shoots are everywhere and hurt when stepped on.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 9:25AM
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You can use a shovel to cut a line at the edge of your property. You'll cut all of the rhizomes that are coming into your yard, and if you then keep removing all of the shoots that come up in your yard the severed rhizomes will eventually die. This is called "rhizome pruning" and is really something that the neighbor should be doing -- it shouldn't be your responsibility. You'll have to repeat this every year.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 12:03PM
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I'm up north in the Boston area. I never realized this stuff would grow in a winter climate. As much of a nuisance as it is it is pretty remarkable stuff (until it starts taking over your yard). I've even seen it used in South East Asia as staging/ scaffolding on some pretty tall buildings. It's just really strong. After a very cold winter I'm looking for an alternative / backup fuel source. Has any body tried this stuff in a wood stove or fireplace. I'm thing that since it grows so redily and I have to keep cutting itthat maybe I can lower my fuel bill a bit

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 5:57PM
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It burns quite quickly and if you don't cut the internodes, it will pop or explode as it heats up.

Burn some outdoors first then decide if it is right for your fireplace.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 10:13PM
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I use wood as a heat source for a large house. I believe that if you used bamboo that you would need to stoke the fire every hour instead of every four to six hours.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 3:22AM
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