Time to loosen the belt a notch

Not on me of course -- my pants are fitting fine thanks to all of this gardening -- on one of my bamboos. Well, I'm not really giving it more room. I'm actually just correcting a problem that I created myself.

The bamboo in question is this Phyllostachys bissetii that I planted next to the driveway a few years back. I've been pretty good with rhizome pruning the ends of the bed and the back (that faces the property line), but I know that rhizomes have been growing under the driveway, and I've been getting more and more nervous about them poking out the other side, or along the end of the drive (which is actually a bit closer). So I've been contemplating a bit of a drastic solution, which I implemented this weekend.


For those of you who haven't been reading my blog for long, or if you're just not familiar with running bamboos, they spread by underground "stems" called "rhizomes". These rhizomes can spread 20' or more from the nearest culm (cane), leading to an "invasion" of your yard, your neighbor's yard, or whatever else may be in the way of the bamboo.

One solution to control the spread is to "rhizome prune", which is essentially cutting all of the rhizomes along the line that you don't want the plant to cross. This works quite well for most species, but can be a problem if you have rocky ground, lots of tree roots, or something undiggable -- like a concrete driveway.

I mistakenly let the bamboo grow right up against the driveway. I should have left a strip that would allow me to rhizome prune, but now it's too late -- almost. To correct the problem I could either:

  1. Cut down all of the culms closest to the concrete, dig out the rhizomes from that area, and keep it clear going forward
  2. Remove part of the driveway

I decided on option 2, because removing chunks of concrete is easier than cutting down a few dozen bamboo culms, right?

Actually, it may be, but I mainly decided against cutting the culms because it would have reduced the amount of growing area for the bamboo. The bed is fairly narrow already (about 3') and I didn't want to take away any of that space.

I've been considering this plan since the summer, and I wasn't sure when I'd ever get to it, since it required the rental of a saw:

I was at a strange Home Depot over the weekend, and it had a tool rental area -- which my local store doesn't have. So I made a snap decision to rent the saw and tackle the project immediately:

My plan was to cut about 1' (30cm) off the driveway, so I started by cutting a shallow line:

I then used a couple of more passes to get the saw blade all the way through the concrete, then made several perpendicular cuts, dividing the strip into blocks:

I had a problem with this one section, as my woodpile was too close and there wasn't enough room to get the saw in there to make the dividing cuts.

I ended up having to move that wood -- how annoying! (It's especially annoying because it looks like I moved a lot of this wood up here for no reason -- it's been too mild to make many fires this year so far. If I have to bring it back down into the yard again... well, I guess it's exercise, right?)

With the cutting finished it was time to bring out my friends the sledgehammer and breaker bar:

A couple of good whacks with the hammer broke the remaining connections between blocks, and the breaker bar allowed me to pry them apart and up. The first piece was the hardest to get out:

It ended up cracking, but it's the only one that broke (at least so far).

What made this a little more challenging is the wire mesh that the concrete was poured over. Those bars are tiny but tough, keeping that one "thread" of connection between each block.

It was mostly prying and lifting after that:

I have no idea how I took this photo while prying this block up.
The cut edges of the concrete were quite beautiful. I posted lots of photos of that yesterday.

After some work, I had made some decent progress:

Since I had to return the tool, I decided not to pry the rest of the blocks out at that time. That's a project for another day, and there's no real hurry.

Lots of concrete dust got sprayed up on the plants:

My shoes are covered with this mud spray too.

I don't know if it is harmful to them or not, but since it's quite ugly I decided to hose the plants off:

The plants look much better when they have clean leaves of course. They'll be healthier too, although I don't know how much photosynthesis and transpiring they're actually doing at this time of year. Better safe than sorry though.

I'm feeling better too since I've gotten this project rolling, and I'll soon have these rhizomes back under control.

I'll take a look at the rhizomes themselves and finish this project up next weekend -- weather permitting.


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sandy lawrence –   – (February 7, 2012 at 8:13 AM)  

Alan, I never cease to wonder at your endless energy and industry! You're an inspiration. Your projects bring back fond memories for this old gardener of the days when I could tackle without a second thought what is now quite daunting. Thanks!

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (February 7, 2012 at 9:59 AM)  

Hats off to you once again. This is not something I would ever do. I would have removed the culms closest to the driveway, which might have been more laborious than what you did.

Hoover Boo  – (February 7, 2012 at 2:43 PM)  

Hope you wore a dust mask!

I recall a vast clump of bamboo at the Huntington, where the bamboo was coming up with enthusiasm right through the asphalt road.

The Gardening Blog  – (February 8, 2012 at 4:17 PM)  

Yup! If you have to chose then the pavement will always lose! :-) heeehee!! Awesome tool for cutting. I keep forgetting you can hire these big guns to do the big work!

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