Monday, December 26, 2011

The Bamboo Geek answers reader's questions...

The Bamboo Geek (that's me)

I get lots of questions on bamboo, from what to do with the plant during a blizzard -  to how to fertilize it; and every question in between.  So, here are some questions I have received lately and answers to those questions:

Q: Can [bamboo be] over-winterized containerized bamboos in-door[s]?  I left them outside last winter and unfortunately a couple of them to the snow and wind.

Many running bamboo can tolerate extremely low temperatures.  An extreme example is Phylostachys bissettii, a running bamboo that can take temperatures down to minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit.  Keep in mind that this temperature tolerance is an 'in-ground' temperature.  In a container, it is much less tolerant to cold temperature extremes as the soil and root mass can literally freeze up like an ice cube (no exaggeration).  Now, to over winter it, the best solutions are to place it in a greenhouse (if your lucky enough to have one) or to place it under a covered patio or under the eaves near the house which will give the plant some protection.  In a garage is OK for a temporary situation.  You can't leave it there for more than a few days as the lack of light will cause issues for the plant if left unchecked.

Q: Not sure what time of year we feed our bamboo; but a good subject for a future newsletter.

… basic feed?

I'm a gardening simpleton, nothing spectacular or magical - I use a grass fertilizer, usually a 16-16-16 formula starting in April, applying a small handful, every other month through October.  That will usually do it.  I do experiment with some organics as well like work castings, coffee grounds and fish emulsion (stinky, but effective).  I also plan on experimenting with top mulching with seasoned manure (watch the salt content) at some point, I hear it does wonders for bamboo.

…weed and feed?? Is bamboo a weed!?  EEEK!  The 'feed' part is good, but the 'weed' part will kill broadleaf plants, which includes bamboo.  Only use straight fertilizers, no weed and feed.

…Cat Box contents???

OK, I have a friend who has used the urine soaked (not cat feces) litter and has seen great growth for other plants.  In theory, urine has a high nitrogen content.  I haven't personally tried it, but it may be worth experimenting with.  I personally would only experiment in the garden in spots far away from your house as cat urine is very stinky.

Have more bamboo questions?  Send them to me at  Always happy to answer them.


Mad Man Bamboo - Rocklin, CA
(916) 300-6335

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