Planting bamboo

I've been doing a lot of bamboo projects this weekend: planting, moving, trimming, more planting. Here's the first of these projects: I'll be planting this Phyllostachys rubromarginata division that I got about a month ago.

This is where I removed those mulberry trees last weekend, and even though I was unsure at the time, I have decided to put this one into the ground here.


Here's a shot of the area again -- it's hard to see what's happening here because of all of the similar leaves.

I need to plant something with larger leaves back here for contrast sometime.

Here's where it will go. I'm going to be doing what I did when I removed the raised bed a few weeks ago and plant this in a berm (mound) instead of digging a deep hole.

This area is weedy, but there are a couple of plants I want to save. Here they are:

An ornamental grass that's struggling back here, and some type of Euonymous. On second though, I'll just get rid of the grass and move the Euomymous about 7 feet back -- I want to keep it here to give the deer something to eat. They love this stuff!

The plant comes out of the ground quite easily:

And here it is in its new home:

...until I decide to move it again in a couple of years.

So with the area now clear:

I'll dig a shallow hole -- just 6 inches or so. I want the bulk of the plant to remain above the current grade (ground level). I hit a couple of roots from the mulberry trees (that are gone except for tall stumps now). They're easy to identify:

It's really hard to get an interesting photo of a hole. It's also very difficult to tell just how deep it is when there's nothing in it.

Looks good, so time to cut the plant out of the pot. Since this pot already has a large slit in it, I'll use that and make my standard "T" cut. I only potted this plant up about a month ago, so I didn't expect much root growth:

There is some -- about as much as I expected. When I removed it from the pot, some of the soil fell out because it had no roots holding it together:

I expected that. So with the plant in the hole it's time for the real work:

I'll need to bring down several wheelbarrow loads of topsoil. What makes this more of a challenge is:

The fairly steep slope from the driveway down here...

...then veer to the right and continue downhill this way. With a heavy wheelbarrow load, this turns into a controlled run, and can be a little scary. Luckily it was dry but I still need to be very careful of slipping or tipping over the wheelbarrow. I would not want to have to shovel that soil back in, just to unload it 20 feet away again.

Incidentally, I've never had trouble bringing heavy loads of stuff down this hill. My problem has been bringing the empty wheelbarrow back up the hill. I'm usually rushing when I do this, and for some reason I lift the wheelbarrow handles up too high. What's happened a few times is the front of the wheelbarrow will stick into the ground while I'm going up the hill, and I'll run right into the 'barrow. I've gotten the end of the handle right in the gut a couple of times. Ouch. I don't rush with the empty wheelbarrow anymore.

Back to the project: after dumping a few loads of a 60% compost/40% topsoil mixture around the plant, it's almost "planted":

I love planting this way! Not having to dig a huge hole is so nice! Soon it is finished:

I do need to mulch this before the really cold weather sets in, but I have a month or two for that.

I may add more soil and expand the berm after a couple of years, depending on how the bamboo is spreading. Note that I'll still need to rhizome prune around this -- the mound is only to define the area where the bamboo will be allowed, and after a few years the mound will contain an interwoven mass of rhizomes.

A little water to settle everything in, and this job is finished:

Notice that I've mounded the soil higher than the plant, as if it's planted in a "bowl".

I did that because I expect the soil to settle a bit, but also to ensure that when I water the plant this year most of it stays over the rootball -- the outer parts of the mound won't have many roots in them until next year.

Speaking of next year, I don't expect much to happen with this plant in the spring. Since this was a field-dug division, although it has a few decent-sized culms it's rhizome mass is minimal. The amount of rhizome is one of the main factors in determining the size and number of shoots in the spring, I don't have high hopes. Then again, this species produces a lot of shoots, so we'll see.

That's one of the best things about growing bamboo: you never know exactly what to expect when the new shoots emerge each spring!

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