Go Green With Bamboo

Bamboo has been a central part of many cultures throughout history. This is especially true in Asian countries. Chinese farmers may have lived in bamboo houses, sat in bamboo chairs, and eaten food stored and prepared in bamboo containers. They would have used bamboo mats for flooring, beds, and covers. Sandals would have been made from bamboo and hats woven from split bamboo. The farmer’s livestock would have been in bamboo cages and pens and other bamboo enclosures. Bamboo shoots made up part of the farmers diet and meals were eaten with bamboo chopsticks. A fisherman might use a raft made from bamboo with bamboo ropes and sails of bamboo mats. Tools would have been made from bamboo or used bamboo as handles. Bamboo would have been used for musical instruments, irrigation pipes, water wheels, – a vast number of things.
Today things have changed but bamboo is still used in the same way in many cultures. Hundreds of new uses have been found for bamboo and no other plant has impacted so many cultures in so many ways over such a long period of time.All kinds of constructon is done with bamboo. Domes, tea houses, roof tiles, gutters, chopping boares ladder, concrete reinforcement, scaffolding, pergolas, temples, gazebos, shade pavilions, garden trellises, baskets, towers, churches, barns, pig pens, fish traps, piers, retaining walls, chicken pens, play structures, ladders, shelves, etc. We could go on for a long time. But today something new is happening. Bamboo is being seen as an important part of the “green” solution to climate change as well as being a quickly renewable resource. In the last several years bamboo flooring has literally flooded the hardwood floor market. It is advertised everywhere and there are many different types and looks. I’ve had many inquiries about bamboo as a raw material for flooring. Bamboo cloth is being used to make shirts, socks, yarn, towels – even diapers. The cloth has a feel of silky cotton. It is a type of rayon made from the raw material of the bamboo canes. Bamboo has been used in the construction of furniture for centuries. New materials such as bamboo laminates and bamboo plywood allow new designs that depend of the inherent strength of bamboo wood. Bamboo has always been used for building construction but inspired architects are designing beautiful homes, pavilions, and outdoor displays that play on the versatility of bamboo as a building material. New ways of attaching bamboo poles together have improved the strengths of loadbearing joints and made it possible for people to assemble then without special skills. Who knows where the next bamboo revolution will happen?

Because bamboo is such a great renewable resource, most anything made from bamboo is by it’s very nature “green”.
Organic Bamboo
I’ve been an advocate of organic gardening since 1971 when I read a book titled “Malabar Farm“. I subscribed to “Organic Gardening” and when we moved to our farm the first thing I did was plant a huge garden using all natural fertilizer and pest control. This became not just a practical method of growing plants but in fact a philosopy for living. I’ve strayed a few times over the years (usually in a panic) but was never happy using chemicals that killed not only a particular pest but everything else (and maybe me) as well. With education and experience I’ve found that most pest problems can be solved without the use of deadly pesticides, fungicides, etc.

Organic growers are the exception and nurseries commited to organic methods are hard to find. Most nurseries use a host of chemicals, saturating their plants, soil (and themselves) with chemicals that kill indiscriminately and end up in our water, air, and soil. I’ve taken delivery of plants that smelled so strong of pesticide that I feared to touch them. If you’re concerned with the health of our planet, like we are, ask questions, educate yourself, and try to make wise choices.

At our bamboo nursery we make every effort to avoid toxic chemicals for pest control. At times we are required by the state agriculture department to administer certain pest controls but we try to minimize this as much as possible and we always search for safer methods. There are a multitude of products and methods for the organic gardener. We remove all soil from new bamboo divisions and repot in a non-soil potting mix. (primarily composted bark, peatmoss, and sand). All bamboo plants are grown on a tough ground cover fabric with a lining of plastic underneath. This keeps many pest at bay, especially ants. New bamboo plants that we purchase are quarantined until we are sure they are not infected in any way. We use insecticidal soaps, dormant oils, and natural pesticides such as pyrethrium based products. We use tons of mulch each year to build the soil and control weeds. We’ve also had good results in the greenhouse with beneficial insects. Of course using compost to grow healthy plants plays a big part in our organic program

Basic Composting

Any household can make their own compost. You need three things, carbon rich materials (brown and dry stuff), nitrogen rich materials (green stuff, manure, coffee grounds) and a little top soil. Here are more examples of each Carbon rich materials include things like straw or hay, fall leaves, dried weeds and plants from the garden, and dry grass clippings. All these are “brown” materials. Nitrogen rich materials include green lawn clippings, vegetable and fruit peelings, barnyard animal manure, and coffee grounds. These are “green’ materials. You’ll need a space about 3 feet by 3 feet. Start with a layer of straw, dry leaves, or shredded cornstalks. Top this with a layer of barnyard manure, green lawn clippings, or some other nitrogen rich material. You should spread a little top soil over this and start another layer of brown material, then green and a little more soil. Try to keep the ration of brown to green at about 3 to 1. Build this pile up to about 3 feet tall. It’s probably a good idea to water the layers as you build the compost heap. You wil need to keep the compost moist (not wet). You should occassionally turn the pile, mixing materials from the outside of the pile with the stuff in the middle that is starting to break down. A garden fork is the best tool for this job. If you see steam rising from the middle of feel warmth, that’s a sign the pile is heating up, breaking down the raw materials. It will take a few weeks to a few months to break down completely. This depends a lot on outside temperature and moisture. One of the best composting solutions I’ve seen was one my brother-in-law used. There are three, side by side boxes or stalls, each about 3′ by 3′ or maybe a little smaller. Fill one of the stalls with compost material as described above. When it comes time to mix, use a fork or shovel to move it over to the next bin. This mixes it and now start a new compost pile in the original stall. When it’s time to turn again, shovel the middle over one more stall and shovel the new pile into the middle. At this point the oldest material is ready to use and you will be getting more every few weeks.

I try not to be extreme about this but many of these chemicals may be dangerous to ones health and we should all use caution when dealing with them, either as the producer or consumer. If you’re concerned with the health of our planet, like we are, ask questions, educate yourself, and make wise choices.