A Complete Guide to Growing Bamboo Plants…

I bet when you first heard of BAM clothing, you just thought the name was a gimmick like ‘Apple’ or ‘Blackberry’, but you’d be wrong!  Bamboo is used to make clothing, where as I’ve never seen a phone made from an apple…..

So here is all you need to know about growing bamboo plants that helped produce your clothes.

You’ll already probably have seen bamboo in your garden or allotment, usually in the form of thin 6 ft canes that hold your runner beans up.

This is one of the most common uses for the plant in the UK and you won’t see a veg patch that doesn’t use a few canes in one form or the other, this is because they have the perfect properties for it.

Bamboo is incredibly strong, yet flexible and can withstand strong winds and extreme forces without snapping, making it perfect to hold up fragile plants like peas and beans.

If you travel to the far east you will even see thick bamboo canes used to make the scaffolding for high rise buildings!

It’s certainly a sight to see people walking around on the bamboo 4 stories above the ground, who would have thought such a simple plant could help build some of the worlds biggest buildings.

This method of scaffolding has been used for centuries in Asia, where the plant grows in abundance and extremely thick, with some stalks been around 30cm thick.

The first time I went to Hong Kong and saw this the flesh, I was gob-smacked and it amazed me.

The Complete Guide To Growing Bamboo Plants

Did you know that bamboo is actually related to common grass, the sort you have as a lawn in your garden?

Both plants belong to the family Poaceae, which also includes wheat, barley, rice and corn.  If you look at all those plants as they grow you will see the similarities, long slender leaves and straight stems without any fancy leaves like most other trees or plants.

When growing bamboo, remember that it can be a thug in the garden and spread rapidly if you plant the wrong variety.

When you buy your plants, aim to buy a clump forming variety, this should minimise the spread of the plant and give you a more confined and attractive specimen.

There are some beauties out there including black stemmed ones, yellow striped and even sunshine yellow coloured varieties, so don’t think its just green, green or green.

For those with a bit more space, you could be adventurous and have a go at making a bamboo grove.

This method of growing bamboo plants, especially the larger varieties together is gaining popularity in the states where they leave the plants to become more of a wildlife haven, encouraging nesting birds, bugs and all sorts of beneficial wildlife.

In the UK, Robins love to nest in bamboo, as it has the open structure that they like, plus it gives them good cover.

Growing bamboo plants in the open doesn’t have to mean a towering monster that takes over, there are ground cover bamboo which only grow to 5ft high and make a beautiful hedge, perfect to edge the garden or divide your garden into different areas (just make sure it doesn’t invade your neighbours garden, or they won’t be happy!)  With spreading varieties you can use specially made barriers which you sink into the earth around the plants.

The barriers are made of a substance that makes it hard for the bamboo to spread by stopping its rhizomes, the thick, root like structures that new shoots sprout from.
When growing in the open, remember not to grow the plants near any buildings and every spring it is good practise to big 2 ft down around the plant, digging out any spreading rhizomes you don’t want.

If all this seems like too much work, why not grow your bamboo in large containers.
Not only does it stop them spreading and becoming invasive, but it allows you to move them around where you like.

I like to grow black and green varieties in separate pots, then I use them together to  make a living screen on the patio, perfect to give a little privacy and shade during the hotter months.

When growing bamboo in containers, remember to water them 3-5 times a week in the summer and re-pot them every 2-3 years to stop them cracking/splitting their containers.

When you re-pot your plants, its also the perfect time to divide them, this allows you to get more plants for free.  When the plant is out of the pot, lay it flat on the floor and chop the root ball in half so that each clump has lots of stems attached, If you can’t manage it with a spade, you may need to use a wood saw.
This may seem a bit brutal, but your plants will be fine and should come back with more vigour, making for a healthier plant.

The Complete Guide To Growing Bamboo Plants

When you grow your own bamboo, you have the chance to make some great things that will benefit your garden, one of the simplest and most useful is a bug hotel.

These structures are basically short lengths of bamboo all strapped together and placed in a frame that looks like a bird house, allowing them to be hung anywhere in the garden and look attractive at the same time.

These ‘bug hotels’ do what it says on the tin, they attract bugs, giving them somewhere to shelter from the weather and predators.

Even solitary bees and ladybirds will use the hotel, meaning you will get a higher pollination rate on your veg (thus a bigger crop) and the ladybirds will be ready to pounce on any pests that should dare venture into your garden.

Similarly, in other countries they use a large, thick pieces of bamboo as a beehives!

It’s not just bug hotels that can be made from bamboo, many people still use the plants to make their own houses, boats and even bicycles! Yet its the more modern ways of using bamboo that could change the world!

You can get plastic replacements to make food containers and coffee cups from, all made of biodegradable bamboo.

You can even buy plant pots made from bamboo products, meaning you plant the entire pot and it gradually degrades into the soil, feeding the plant in the process.

Replacing plastic products with bamboo replacements allows us to send less plastic to landfill sites and be more environmentally friendly as a society, helping protect the planet for future generations.

As you will already know from the BAM website, clothing made from bamboo is brilliant for exercising due to the fact it can manages moisture away from the body, meaning you don’t get that typical ‘gym smell’ when you get home and unload your gym bag.

Not only that, but the clothing made from bamboo is so soft and comfortable, it has to be tried to be believed.  If you know anyone who has BAM clothing, just ask them about it and I bet the first thing they talk about is how comfortable the clothes are!

Bamboo is also a key ingredient in some new, cutting edge deodorants and medical equipment, allowing us to use less chemicals on our skin, while using more natural and sustainable products.

It really is unbelievable what you can make from this simple plant, bamboo is the future of clothing and much more!

The Complete Guide To Growing Bamboo Plants

With thanks to Rob Smith Winner of the BBC Big allotment challenge, seed guardian and columnist for Kitchen Garden and Garden News for the article.

Find out more at robsallotment.com

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