I can’t tell you how much I love bamboo. Its inherent strength and versatility win me over every time. Just thinking about it now puts me in a balmy, tropical mood. The rustling sound the leaves make in the slightest breeze, the deeply resonant knocking noise as the canes gently bump their neighbours, and that’s just while it’s growing. Don’t get me started about the evocative sounds that echo from a bamboo wind chime, flute or pan pipes. I could go on about these etheric wonders four hours but instead will suffice to tell you how we use nature’s largest grass here on The Better Ridge.
To begin with, there are the obvious uses – stakes and frames for young plants to climb up, tepees for children to play in, scarecrow cross-sections, poles to attach shade cloth to for temporary shade for plants or chickens, flag poles and clothes hanging rails, not to mention erosion control and soil stabilisation.
But at the moment, we are using our recent harvest to make lattice privacy screens. We use a pole saw to cut the outermost stalks in our clump and gather up the haul. From there we have an excellent system involving two adults and at least one child, a block of wood, a machete (or heavy meat cleaver) and a pair of secateurs.
Once we have decided where the lattice is to go, we measure the lengths of poles that are required and cut a ‘yardstick’. This is placed on the ground in front of the chopping block and each stalk is measured against this and cut to length. The second adult then uses the secateurs to remove the leafy stems. For lattice and trellises, we leave an inch two of stems attached to the pole as they are great holds for climbing tendrils to attach to and make easy brackets on which to place lattice cross members.
The child (or children if they are cooperating) then take each pole in turn and grade it according to thickness and length and create neat stacks or, alternatively, play stick-fighting ninjas, javelin throwing and/or tepee club-house building!
When the adults are allowed access to the piles again, we lay out the lattice cross-sections on the ground and secure them with wire, twine, homemade rope, or in a pinch, cable ties.
Once the lattice has been securely joined, we drive star pickets into the area we want to fence and attach the screen to them. This saves us having to try and hammer the bamboo directly into the ground (which, just for the record, usually ends up splitting one or both ends of the pole). Then hey presto – you have a great screen ready for growing creepers on or, if you have made the poles close enough together, ready for instant privacy (great for when you are building a house and have an outside shower!).