Category Archives: Bamboo in the garden

Bamboo maintenance, harvesting, and storage

Bamboo sculpture competition 2016

bamboo sculpture, bamboo competition, bamboo contestThere is another bamboo sculpture contest being organised by the Bamboo Society of Australia.  The entries will displayed and judged at the Brisbane International Garden Show in October 2016.

Three prize categories are on offer. First prize is $3,000. Entry fee for non-members is $100. Alternatively, you could take out a yearly e-membership for $20, enter the competition for $75, and have access to years of current and back-issues of the Bamboo Bulletin. The Bamboo Bulletin offers stacks of information about identifying, growing, maintaining, and using bamboo.

The Bamboo Society of Australia will have a booth at the Garden Show. This is a fine opportunity to quiz some experts about growing bamboo.

See you there!


Everyday bamboo – Japan

toygirlBamboo is an integral part of material culture in Japan. Nearly everywhere you go in Japan you see examples of bamboo uses in the landscape, architecture, art, craft, kitchens, bathrooms, gardens… By turns beautiful, intricate, functional, and sometimes, just simplicity itself. This week I’m sharing a few examples of ultra-simple bamboo solutions for take away food, barriers, fencing, ritual cleansing, dividers, gates, borders … let’s start with toys. toy

Surely, this must be as simple as it gets to keep kids amused using bamboo. (Compare the bamboo toys available online). These were made at a school in Hachioji. The girl certainly looks very pleased with them. (Thanks, Chris). On a complexity scale, next may be the taketombo. Here’s a YouTube demo. Learn to make one here.

Near the entrance to temples in Japan, temizuya, or chōzubachi, often use bamboo as a means of keeping the water scoops in easy reach. This one is in Ueno Park, Tokyo. cleansing ritual, bamboo

At a Sunday flea market in Kyoto these bamboo skewers solve that pesky issue of the meat sliding around on a round skewer.

bamboo skewers

This ultra-simple barrier keeps the larger stones where they belong in the sublime gardens of Ōkōchi Sansō in Arashiyama.

bamboo barrier

bamboo fencesbamboo fencesFencing in Japan can be elaborate. It can also be minimal and uncomplicated. These fences act primary as barriers in temples in Kyoto and Arashiyama.

bamboo frameCross sections of large bamboo culms make an eye-catching wall divider in a Tokyo restaurant. (Thanks again, Chris). bamboo branch gateA few bamboo branches sandwiched and lashed with a couple of small bamboo poles vastly improves this otherwise ordinary gate in a temple in Kyoto.

Everyday bamboo shall continue…

Bamboo compost bin

After the inspirational  and motivational inaugural Bamboo Sculpture Competition in Mullumbimby recently, I got to thinking about how to use bamboo to age my current compost bin contents. I trawled through endless Google images seeking my simple solution. And it really was simple. The image to the left is what I based my compost aging bin on.

bamboo compost bins, bamboo

The original inspiration – simplicity itself

bamboo compost bin, bamboo

My version, replete with compost

First I set some bamboo stakes in a square to guide my stack and keep it more or less square. Then, I harvested several small culms of obvious age. The design I had in mind only had small gaps between the rails, so the compost would stay inside. The harvested culms were then sawed to length, and I started stacking – with a bit of tie-wire here and there to hold things together as I went. I’m rather pleased with the result.

bamboo compost bins, bambooMy research also took me further. I was surprised to discover some very sexy bamboo compost bins (pails, for some) – the ones that live in your kitchen, before the contents make the trip to the outside bin. The research also provided another revelation – bamboo charcoal deodorisers for compost bins. (I lead a sheltered life). Who leaves their compost in the kitchen that long?

Bamboo skirts on trees

bamboo skirtNear where the Takano river joins the Kamo river in Kyoto sits the ancient Shimogamo shrine. The main approach to the Shinto shrine is along a wide path through the Tadasu no Mori (the ‘Forest Where Lies are Revealed,’ or the ‘Forest of Correction,’ depending on who you ask). This woodland of broad leaf trees is, apparently, quite rare in modern Japan. Some of the trees are up to 600 years old. And a few of these trees have bamboo skirts.

bamboo skirtsInvestigations into precisely why some of these ancient trees wear skirts revealed little. It seems the bamboo skirts are providing some kind of protection to the trunk of the tree: one local thought that it may be protection from disease. I saw only three trees under bamboo, but I did not fully explore the 12 hectares of national historical site listed forest. The shrine and the forest are of such renown that you will find items such as jigsaw puzzles, mugs, books and prints celebrating them online.

The only other instances of bamboo skirts on trees that I found online were academic studies detailing experiments to prevent Nipah virus infection in local populations who harvest and consume date palm sap. The bamboo skirts act as a barrier to fruit bats, also fond of the sap, that transmit Nipah virus by contaminating the raw sap with their saliva.

bamboo skirts on trees, Shimogamo shrine, Tadasu no Mori bamboo skirt path1Bamboo skirts aside, the Shimogamo-jinja and Tadasu no Mori is a lovely place to visit should you find yourself in Kyoto. One of my visits coincided with a market day. Numerous local craft stalls at the market had attracted quite a crowd. And still, the place was quiet and subdued. Lovely.


Bamboo yam sticks

bamboo yam sticks, treated bamboo

Yam farmers in Trelawny, north-west Jamaica are increasing yields and saving money by using treated bamboo poles as yam sticks. The bamboo yam sticks used in Trewlawny have a number of additional side struts that promote extra lateral growth and assist in anchoring the vines as they climb. The farmers save money in two ways: less bamboo yam sticks are needed with the side struts in place, and the treated bamboo lasts longer.

The use of treated bamboo for yam sticks has the potentially far-reaching consequences of reducing deforestation, and thereby enhancing groundwater conservation. In recent years, cutting down young forest trees for yam sticks has produced record rates of deforestation in Jamaica. This practice is unsustainable. The young forest trees only last for about two years or less as yam sticks, but take at least five years to regrow.

Treating bamboo

The Jamaica Gleaner reports that the treatment process is simple. “Dried bamboo sticks are placed in water in a ‘tank’ made from blue tarpaulin, framed with lumber; this is allowed to ferment, removing the starch and other substances. The process takes 30 days and the water is changed every seven days.”

bamboo yam sticks, treated bamboo

Comments on the article from readers indicate that for yam farmers in St Catherine, in the south-west of Jamaica, the use of bamboo is nothing new and they don’t bother with the ‘treatment’. Rather they, “cut the bamboo [on a] ‘dark night’ when the moon shines the least,” to achieve a similar insect-repelling outcome.

Vegebamboo veggie bambooI use bamboo in the vegetable garden. With a ready supply of bamboo on hand, I don’t treat the bamboo for the garden. It lasts for a few seasons and I cut some more.

In summer, a frame for a shade cloth canopy is created by hammering star pickets into the earth and ramming large diameter bamboo culms over the star pickets. In the winter, our main vegetable growing season here in the tropics, bamboo is mainly used to support cucumbers and encourage pumpkin vines to grow in the desired direction. The top end of the smaller bamboos, branches intact, are also useful to stop birds stealing seedlings. Are there any creative uses for bamboo in the vege garden you’d like to share?

Bamboo flowering

bamboo flowering, bamboo

Bamboo flowers

The phenomena of bamboo flowering is shrouded in myth and misconceptions. After news items about from two different countries about flowering bamboo appeared in the past two months, I decided to research the issue further. Here is what I learned:

Most bamboo does not flower often. There are three different flowering patterns for bamboo: annual, sporadic, and gregarious. Which pattern is followed is determined by the bamboo species.


Very few species of bamboo flower annually. The seed from annually flowering bamboo is rarely viable.


Sporadic flowering occurs irregularly and is usually confined to a certain geographic area.


Most of the 1,500+ species of bamboo flower gregariously. The timing is regular. Depending on the species, it may be once every 20 to 120 years. All the plants within a particular species across the world will flower, usually within a year. Many of the plants will die.

bamboo flower, bamboo flowering, bambooThe consequences of mass bamboo flowering can be disastrous for local populations of people too. From Wikipedia:

The death of the bamboo plants following their fruiting means the local people lose their building material, and the large increase in bamboo fruit leads to a rapid increase in rodent populations. As the number of rodents increases, they consume all available food, including grain fields and stored food, sometimes leading to famine. These rats can also carry dangerous diseases, such as typhus, typhoid, and bubonic plague, which can reach epidemic proportions as the rodents increase in number.

The reasons so much bamboo dies after gregarious flowering episodes are unknown. There are theories, of course. Two dominate.

  1. The bamboo expends so much energy in the flowering that stress kills the plants.
  2. The parent plant is creating an optimal environment for the seedlings to survive by freeing up light and water resources.

Bamboo culms age prematurely during the flowering process. They become brittle and are not suitable for building or crafting. If you observe an impending flowering event, you might consider harvesting the bamboo beforehand.

Has any of your bamboo flowered?


Bamboo shoot recipe – Prawn and bamboo shoots in coconut curry

I asked Liya Das for some Primal and Paleo-friendly Indian bamboo shoot recipes. Here is the first one: 

Special guest post from Liya

Do you have a special corner for spicy food? If yes, then Goan food is bound to blow your mind away! Goa, a small state in the west coast of India is synonymous to coconut, spices and seafood. So when these aspects come together in one single dish, the outcome is nothing short of magic. Bamboo shoots make an interesting addition to the entire ensemble as well and turn this Goan curry into an ultimate gastronomic indulgence.

While tinned bamboo shoots can be used in this dish, but nothing compares to the crunchiness and delicate flavours of the fresh shoots. The narrower shoots are packed with maximum flavours and when not processed properly, they can ruin a dish with their bitterness. So make sure to peel off the hard, outer layers and soak the tender part in water overnight to get rid of any unpleasant flavors. However, if you can’t wait to enjoy your bamboo shoots, boil them in salted water, drain and soak them in fresh, cold water for at least half an hour before using.

Once processed properly, the bamboo shoots are ready to blend with the spicy flavors to please your taste buds. The coconut milk mellow out the spiciness to some extent and teams up with the marine flavors of the prawns to create mouth-watering result.

So run off to the recipe to taste a slice of India with this classic Indian curry.

Prawn and bamboo shoots in coconut curry

bamboo shoots, recipeServes: 4-6

For the spice paste:

  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4-7 cloves
  • 1 cm cinnamon stick
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 4-6 dried red chilies
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar

For the curry:

  • 450 g prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • One large pinch salt
  • 3 medium fresh bamboo shoots, diced
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp dried coconut
  • 2 green chilies
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • Few fresh curry leaves


  • To marinate, sprinkle the ground turmeric as well as a dash of salt onto the prawns and stir them all together until well coated; set aside to marinate for half an hour.
  • Meanwhile, toss all the spices for the paste into a dry, hot skillet and fry for several minutes until they start spluttering and give out a spicy aroma.
  • Tip them into a blender along with rest of the paste ingredients and pulse them into a smooth paste; set aside until necessary.
  • For the curry, heat coconut oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and throw in the chilies as well as onions.
  • Saute for a while until they soften and stir in the dried coconut.
  • Scatter the curry leaves on top and saute over moderate heat for another 3-4 minutes or until the onion caramelise and the coconut gives out its characteristic aroma.
  • Stir in the tomato chunks and cook for another 5 minutes, while stirring often.
  • Scrape out the prepared spice paste into the pot along with few splashes of water.
  • Stir them all together to mix well and bring the mixture to a simmer.
  • Continue to simmer for 5-7 minutes and throw in the chopped shoots.
  • Simmer further for another half an hour over slow flame, while stirring at times, until the mixture nearly dries out.
  • Pour in the coconut and bring it to near boiling temperature over moderately high heat while stirring often.
  • Dump the marinated prawns into the curry and reduce the heat back to low.
  • Simmer for 6-8 minutes or until the prawns turn pinkish, indicating that they are cooked through.
  • Turn off the heat and let the curry rest, covered, for 5-10 minutes to allow the flavors to develop further.
  • Serve hot with hot cauliflower rice (or just steamed rice) and have fun!