26 July 2012

bamboo mulch

It's been very hot. We had a few days of mid-eighties weather that felt wonderful, and then today it was 99 degrees again. Igh. The plants wilt, and so do I.

So I've been shredding my neighbor's bamboo forest into mulch for my garden. It's quite a project. First I have to cut down the bamboo (she doesn't want it in her yard so I have access to as much as I can use) and haul it over to my yard. Then trim off all the stems with foliage, setting aside the poles (most are over ten feet long). Then the tedious work begins- by the handfuls, I snip the bamboo leaves and small stems into inch or half-inch sized pieces with my hand clippers, over a bucket. It takes two or three days' work to shred about two dozen poles of bamboo down into a few buckets' worth of mulch. (Alas, I don't have a chipper/shredder machine). Here's my older daughter resting on the pile of foliage waiting to be shredded. She says it makes a very nice cushion!
It's great for mulch. In the areas of the garden where I put down two or three inches I've hardly had any weeds at all, and not worried much about watering either as it keeps the moisture in well. It doesn't break down as fast as grass so I haven't had to replenish it under the peppers, broccoli or chard, even though the cut-grass mulch under the tomatoes has already disintegrated to nearly nothing twice now. The water seems to flow through it easier, too; it doesn't mat up like grass mulch can. I haven't had any problems with the bamboo resprouting, as several people warned me against. I think partly because I let the stuff dry out well before it went on the beds, so it was good and dead.

I thought of keeping all the poles and using them to build something, raised beds maybe? or a playhouse for my kids? but then ended up trading them to some lady on craigslist who was building a fence. She gave me a dozen brown farm-fresh organic eggs in return. They were fabulous!
I think it was a good trade.

and the plant seem relatively happy-
beets - very few, but they're holding on
brussel sprouts- still no sign of sprouts!
swiss chard, flanked by broccoli:
my one surviving Rhubarb plant is holding up against the heat with thick mulch
the others died early on before I mulched; you can see the bare area here in front of the bed:
Peppers are the only plants that seem completely happy right now. Lots of tasty peppers, very few bug holes, don't mind going a few days without water. I just planted them a bit too close together but they look wonderful.


Chris said...

Wow, that bamboo mulch is so cool!! And Isa makes it look very comfy :D

River P said...

Well there's a thing! I am surprised and also relieved because all the litrature out there seems to say bamboo is only good for mulching bamboo, nothing else. This is supposedly because bamboo mulch contains growth inhibitors that prevent anything but bamboo growing. This "theory" (not sure if there has actualy been any compound discovered) is often born out in practise as most bamboo clumps are remarkably free of weeds and tree seedlings etc. However shade, but primarily water resources in a clump of bamboo are also pretty much prohibitive for growth of much else besides the bamboo. Plus naturaly shed bamboo leaves form a mat which even if just quite shallow are very effective at keeping weeds down as the flat leaves stick together, it rots down very quickly though in the tropics so it's difficult to know exactly.

So looking at your veg as an experiment, I have to say that this opinion is possibly not entirely true.

I have cause to occationaly bring down very large clumps of giant bamboo and these Im using to make large areas of soil over quite shallow natural stony soil elsewhere. So Im hoping it doesnt turn out to be a dead zone for everything except bamboo. Of course the compounds that prevent plant growth could themselves decompose over time (unless continualy refreshed with fresh bamboo) rendering the the soil perfectly good.

Bamboo chipped pole mulch is also sold as a product in some countries like Australia, for domestic garden use. Im not sure if this is misguided or everyone is wrong.

Looking at your patch it looks like I don't have mulch to worry about (:

Jeane said...

Definitely did not create a dead zone. I used the same mulch two seasons in a row. I would do it again if I had a supply nearby (not on that property anymore).