Although bamboo makes a great screen, certain varieties of bamboo can be VERY invasive. My neighbor planted some about 15 years ago so I wouldn’t spend all my leisure time standing at my kitchen window looking into her backyard. At the time I asked her if she encased it in anything when she planted it right up against our shared fence. She assured me that they knew what they were doing and that it was in a metal something-or-another and wasn’t going anywhere and … well the rest of what she said wasn’t very nice so I won’t repeat it.
It only took a couple of years before her tunnel-drilling bamboo had powered its way under the fence and my Arborvitae hedge and about 8 feet into my yard right under an area where we were going to put down a brick patio so we could BBQ and eat with a view of my vegetable garden. I cried and swore and dug the giant snake back as close to the fence as I could. Then I went to the bamboo store and bought 30″ bamboo barrier which is a thick roll of heavy plastic barrier that I buried along the fence behind the Arborvitae on my side. I had previously lined most of the rest of my side of the fence with sheet metal to try to keep her raspberries from tunneling into my garden.
The barriers have helped, but did not solve the problem. We abandoned the idea of having a patio near the vegetable garden that could be ruined by tunneling bamboo the size of my wrist. I also felt so uncomfortable anywhere near her property after she had been so incredibly unfriendly that we ended up building an outdoor eating area on the other side of our house well away from our neighbor. Here is a link to my beloved screened porch. Over time her bamboo spread even beyond my barrier and as you can see there is even bamboo growing between the fence and the barrier now.
Since there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about the bamboo situation, and being angry about it just ruins my day, I have decided to make the best of it. Every year I ‘harvest’ all the bamboo that comes up on my side of the fence. I usually just cut it up into 2′ – 3′ garden stakes, but this year my brother-in-law gave me three pole bean sprouts. It took me a couple of weeks to figure out where to plant them since my vegetable garden was already all planted, and then it finally dawned on me that I could use some of the really tall pieces of bamboo and make a bamboo T-Pee in my wine barrel planter near my driveway. Something architectural with found items. Does gardening get any better than that?!
I loped the bottoms off three bamboo poles so they were each 8′ long. When I cut the leafy branches off the bamboo stalk it leaves rather sharp little areas that end up being great for the climbers. They make good little vine footholds.
I pushed the fattest base/bottom ends of the bamboo down into my freshly dug planting soil a good foot or so right up against the inside edges of my 28″ diameter wine barrel making sure to try to keep the tops about the same height. I tried to space the bamboo poles as evenly as I could and if the pole already had an arch to it I used that to my advantage by making it arch toward the center point of the pot.
Then I got up on a ladder with some jute garden twine and tied the three tops of the bamboo poles together about 8″ down making a sort of T-Pee. I had to do the tying & pole spacing a couple of times because I didn’t end up liking the way it looked the first time. Since the poles each have their own unique arc I had to fudge the spacing a bit to make it look like it wasn’t leaning. I used the bumps in the bamboo to help anchor the twine so the poles wouldn’t slide out of the position I liked for my bamboo tower. Then I wound and tied and wound another way and tied again until it seemed like it would hold.
Then I planted my three pole bean starts at the base of each of my (free) bamboo poles.
I also had a volunteer tomato plant that was growing in my vegetable garden from a tomato gone to seed from last year. I was going to toss the plant in the compost pile since it didn’t produce well last year, but I don’t have a compost pile right now so I was going to put it in the yard debris bin, but the pole bean project left me with a nice wide open space in the middle of my wine barrel pot so I trans-planted the tomato there and propped it up with one of my short (free) bamboo poles. Even if the tomato gets shaded out it at least it had a shot at making some tomatoes this year.We helped the little vines get started wrapping around the bottoms of the poles, but then they pretty much figured it out and lived up to their name.The planting all happened in late May. Fast forward two months and I had an official winner in ‘The Race to the Top’.
I took this photo today — three months after planting the little starts. It has been a warm and dry summer. The tomato is fruiting despite the shade and the tower filled out really nicely. I’m really happy with how my free bamboo pole bean tower turned out.
There are even a handful of beans growing with lots more flowers so there should be more beans in the weeks to come.You can see the branch notches on the bamboo pole. It is so cool how the beans twine their way up. Totally a Jack & the Bean Stalk kinda thing. I’ve never grown beans before so I’m really marveling at the coolness of it all.So as I was taking pictures today and admiring the awesomeness and feeling quite proud that one of my projects actually turned out, I noticed a little ‘problem’. There are beans at the very tippy-top of my tower which is about 9 feet high. So in hindsight, I suppose that for the harvesting process I probably made the tower a little bit too tall. This would definitely be a case of form over function. So I would say that the height you make the poles should depend on whether or not you want something really tall and cool to look at, or if you actually want to be able to walk up and pick the beans 😉