Spring means: rhizome pruning!

I'm a little ahead of myself as spring is not actually here yet, but late winter is when I prune the rhizomes on my bamboos. This must be done at least once a year (better if I do it a second time in the fall though) in order to keep the bamboos from taking over the garden and my neighbors' yards.

My large bamboos all have a mulch-filled trench around them in order to make this task easier, and the mattock is my tool of choice to find and cut those escaped rhizomes. The tool is actually resting in the trench in the above photo.


The trench now contains a mixture of soil and mulch now (very loose soil actually) after a few years of digging and refilling. It's nothing like digging in my heavy clay soil, but is not exactly easy.

This is what I'm looking for:

The boards that make up this corner of the box are not in good shape...

...but I love that photo! Note that most of the rhizomes escape on this side, and are less than 6" (15cm) below the soil surface.

It's unfortunate that the first task of the year in the garden is such a physically demanding one. Frequent rests (as I'm not yet in "garden shape") give me time to enjoy the bamboo above me:

The heavy snow we had during the week bent these culms down (as seen here) but they mostly bounced back. A couple of snapped culms and a few that are still hanging low:

I'll either prune those off or tie them up into the main "bundle".

Speaking of misbehaving culms...

...obviously I forgot to cut these escapees off last year. I don't remember why I left them -- maybe I was going to dig and pot them up? That plan has just been replaced by "cut them down".

Sure, some rhizomes are out in the lawn, but since they're not connected to the main plant they won't do much:

I'm sure I'll need to knock down some shoots in the lawn, but these won't spread any further if I ensure they don't produce any leaves. I could try and pull or dig these out, but I'm not really up to that task yet, and it's not strictly necessary.

Each of my bamboo plantings provides a different challenge, but the Phyllostachys atrovaginata may be the most tiring to prune:

Not only does the planting have a fairly large circumference (so it can get nice and big) but it produces quite a few rhizomes that are pretty thick compared to other species:

I'll post more on rhizome pruning later this week, maybe tomorrow. Today it will feel like spring again so I'll get a couple more hours of work in out there.

I feel a bit like this after pruning for a couple of hours, but it's so great to get out into the garden again!


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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (February 29, 2016 at 10:52 AM)  

Great post on a topic of interest to many people. I think your approach is a great alternative to a traditional rhizome barrier, which is costly to install and lulls people into what often is a false sense of security.

Mark and Gaz  – (February 29, 2016 at 12:42 PM)  

Great post Alan, on what still is the best way to maintain and contain running bamboos!

outlawgardener  – (February 29, 2016 at 5:46 PM)  

Pruning the runners seems like it's a constant battle sometimes. Interesting how sore one gets after the first real workday back outside!

Alan  – (February 29, 2016 at 6:13 PM)  

Gerhard: that's a great point! Plus rhizome barriers are not possible where there are established trees or on a slope.

Mark/Gaz: Thanks! It really is the best way even though it takes a bit of effort.

Peter: That's a good soreness though, isn't it? Do you have just the one bamboo planting, or more than one?

Renee  – (March 1, 2016 at 8:51 AM)  

That looks like a lot of work, but those pictures of the bamboo against the blue spring sky look totally worth it!

Anonymous –   – (October 3, 2017 at 10:07 PM)  

I bought a house and bamboo must have grown like crazy. I am trying to get rid of it. I am finding the people before tried too. I am finding rocks, dirt, plastic more rocks, they tried covering it up. Shoots keep coming up and I use a pick and get the roots. I'm to old for this. How do I get rid of it?

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