The bamboo gives and the bamboo gets

After the snow melted in our recent "heatwave", I was checking out one of my bamboos that was bent to the ground in the snow, just to see if there was any damage. I didn't see any problems -- no bent or broken culms or branches. I did notice something interesting though. First, a little setup...

Since I removed the one bamboo from the raised bed this summer, this plant is the bamboo with the densest foliage right now, and that makes it an ideal shelter for birds during the cold weather.


There are times when I was walking by or just standing to look at this bamboo, and I heard birds pretty much right at or slightly above head level. I wasn't able to see anything though which was a little surprising, as although the growth is dense, it's not impenetrable:

Truthfully, I didn't spend too much time looking, as the last thing I wanted was a wren to come bursting out of the bamboo right in my face. Still, I heard them so I knew they were in there somewhere.

Now I know for certain that they've been spending quite a bit of time in there, taking advantage of the shelter and protection that the bamboo provides. How do I know?

Dark mulch reveals much in this case.

Maybe I should have included a warning at the top of this post for "more sensitive readers" -- not everybody is a big fan of bird poop I'm sure (especially if you're reading this while eating). Sorry about that.

I am a big fan of the droppings in this case, as it's free fertilizer for the bamboo! There may end up being a pretty respectable amount by the end of the winter, giving the plant the extra nutrients it needs during shooting season in spring. Plus it's organic!

They say that chicken manure is one of the best organic fertilizers you can get, but have you ever priced it? It's pretty expensive, unless you can produce it yourself. Since I'm prohibited from raising chickens by our subdivision bylaws, this is the best I'll be able to do in the bird-produced fertilizer area. (Of course, I'm not doing anything except observing. The sparrows and other small birds are doing all of the work.)

It seems like it might be a never-ending cycle too: the birds roost in the bamboo, fertilizing it with their droppings, which causes the bamboo to grow more vigorously, producing more shoots which make it more dense, which attracts even more birds, and so on.

Now if I could just get the rabbits and deer to "do their business" under the bamboo too, I could really reduce my fertilizer bill...

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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (January 2, 2011 at 11:23 AM)  

Alan, excellent post! I love what you said about the never-ending cycle. So true, and yet often we don't think about it. I can't wait for our bamboos to be big enough to provide habitat for birds.

Alan  – (January 2, 2011 at 1:59 PM)  

Gerhard -- you probably have parrots, peacocks, and birds of paradise in your yard, right? ;-)

(Just guessing based on all of the exotic plants you can grow there!)

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (January 2, 2011 at 4:04 PM)  

Sorry, no parrots. I do see birds of paradise for sale in nurseries but have not actually seen a mature specimen in any yard around here. We had a giant b o p (Strelitzia nicolai) for a while but it would freeze back in the winter and look bad for so many months out of the year that I finally gave up.

Now, San Francisco and the coastal areas to south, that's a different story.

Alan  – (January 3, 2011 at 8:29 AM)  

I meant the bird of paradise bird, not the plant. =)

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