Bamboo box: plant removal!

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I build planter boxes for bamboo. In fact, I just built one a couple of weeks ago -- am I building another one already? Nope. This past weekend I removed the bamboo from one of these boxes.

These planters are an experiment for me, to see not only how large I can grow a bamboo plant in a big container, but also to see how long the plants can thrive before they become so rootbound that they must be divided. I wasn't expecting to remove a plant already, but here's what it involved.


The first question you may be asking is "why?" -- why would I remove a plant that is just starting to gain some size, and is becoming an integral visual feature in this part of my garden? (These first two photos were taken from the deck)

The answer is that I want to put a different species here -- one that I'm not already growing. The plant in the box right now is Phyllostachys bissetii, which I already have growing in another spot in my yard. With other species outgrowing their pots, I need to optimize my plantings -- no species of large bamboo gets two spots in my yard!

The longer I wait, the harder this will be to remove, so it's time to get it out!

The only "tricky" part of this is that the rubber liner is stapled to the boards:

I pulled all of those staples out (why did I use so many?), then started removing the lag screws:

Here's the first side off:

And here it is with all four sides and the liner removed:

Now it's just the simple matter of wrapping my arms around the rootball and carrying it out of here... um, right.

Although there are some comic book characters who could do this, I have never been exposed to exotic particles, irradiated spiders, or space radiation so I'm stuck with my puny human abilities -- and lifting 200lb (90kg) plants is just not possible.

I still thought I could cut down the rootball size a bit and get the plant onto my dolly and then wheel it out, so I got the saw out...

... cut the plant free...

...tilted it up onto the dolly...

...then watched the whole thing rotate down the hill, falling off the dolly.

If this had been a flat area of ground I may have been able to position it correctly, but I had to give up and split the plant into two large parts:

That took a lot of work, as the center of the plant was a division from an established bamboo, and those old, woody rhizomes were not easy to cut.

Still, I made it happen, and got the pieces out.

Oh, I forgot to mention the large castor bean plant blocking my access path:

Fortunately this plant also got blown over the other day, and it just would not stay upright anymore:

So I had no problems with pushing it all the way over to the ground, moving it out of my way. I then cut it down, as I'm being ruthless with the soon-to-be-frost-killed annuals this year.

So the plant is gone and I was left with a mess:

I decided to put the box back together and was going to plant the replacement bamboo, but realized that this planter box is not as level as I'd like it to be:

I need to decide if this box settled since last year, or if I built it with a slight downhill slant. I guess it really doesn't matter though, as I want it to be level. That means I'll probably need to dismantle it again, remove the remaining soil and the pavers that form the bottom, create a more stable and level base, then replace the pavers, rebuild the sides, staple the liner back in, and refill with soil.

On second thought, maybe it's fine the way it is. It's not too slanted...


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scottweberpdx  – (October 26, 2012 at 10:21 AM)  

Hahahahahaha...that sounds like me at the's kind of sad how I usually just decide I'll live with something that's not QUITE right...only to be annoyed by it for years to come :-)

Steve Lau  – (October 26, 2012 at 12:16 PM)  

It looks like those boxes force bamboos to grow their roots and rhizomes much deeper than they would in the ground. I've dug hundreds of field divisions, and I've never seen a rhizome go any deeper than the height of the shovel head, but yours seem to go 2-3ft deep all the way to the bottom of the raised bed.

Matthew  – (October 26, 2012 at 12:26 PM)  

Good job, Alan! Now the suspense is killing me, wondering what boo you're replacing it with! :)

Alan  – (October 26, 2012 at 2:16 PM)  

Steve: the original division was a very thick mass of rhizomes, maybe 18" deep, so some of those rhizomes started out toward the bottom of the box. I've also seen that with raised beds the bamboo sends rhizomes along the walls just as readily as along the soil surface. Plus the rhizomes need to go somewhere when they hit the sides!

Nance  – (October 26, 2012 at 8:17 PM)  

sigh . . one project always leads to two more. I am enjoying your posts! The only bamboo I ever nurtured was in a jar of water on my desk.

Beth Gellman  – (October 26, 2012 at 9:53 PM)  

ha, that was a funny link. The HULK! i don't get what you doing with the big block chunk you split in half. where is it going?

Alan  – (October 27, 2012 at 6:10 AM)  

Beth: the two big divisions found a new home in somebody else's garden.

Nance: the "Lucky Bamboo" you have in water on your desk is not actually bamboo, but Dracaena sanderiana. Most bamboo can't grow in water like that, although the cut canes look nice in a vase of water for a little while. :-)

Nance  – (October 28, 2012 at 7:51 PM)  

Alan! you made me squeal . . . False Advertising! lol and your key words . . . "for awhile". for sure!

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