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uses for bamboo

 
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Bamboo is an under-utilized resource for permies.  It should be an easy material for creating sustainable materials for construction and other uses.  I approximately an acre of the stuff that I would like to use profitably.  Does anyone have any ideas?

Check out the link for some commercial uses.   https://www.guaduabamboo.com/forum/is-moso-bamboo-edible
 
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Location: Missoula, MT
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One use I have thought bamboo might be good for might be as wattle strips for wattle & daub construction. Also I know people will make drinking vessels out of sections of fully mature bamboo. Then of course the shoots are edible.

One fear I have had about planting bamboo is that from what I understand, once you've put in bamboo, you really can't keep it from taking over your place, as it's a grass and it spreads via broken root sections a lot like bermuda grass does. Does anyone know if I'm right? I haven't studied it very closely.
 
pollinator
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Even the most vigorous running bamboo is easy to contain if you have livestock. Sheep and cattle will eat every shoot they can reach, so if you place the bamboo in a pasture, fence off the area you want the grove to occupy, then the livestock will eat any shoot that comes up outside the fenced grove, containing the bamboo's spread with no special effort on your part.  

That being said, different bamboo species have different propensities for spread.  Some bamboo are clumping, spreading only few inches to a foot a year, some are clump-runners, running to establish new clumps several feet from the main clump, some are pure runners,  which can run a distance a little further than they are tall.  Bambusa, Dendrocalamus, and Fargesia are clumpers, Semiarundinaria is a clump-runner, Phyllostachys, Pseudosasa, and Sasa are runners.

As far as uses, shoots for eating, poles for trellises, fencing, crafts, leaves for livestock fodder, shade for humans and livestock.  Running bamboo is unexcelled for erosion control. The grove itself transpires water from its leaves so effectively, it acts like a natural swamp cooler with the air temperature in the grove several degrees cooler than under the shade of a tree.
 
pollinator
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Roland Pittman wrote:Bamboo is an under-utilized resource for permies.  It should be an easy material for creating sustainable materials for construction and other uses.  I approximately an acre of the stuff that I would like to use profitably.  Does anyone have any ideas?

Check out the link for some commercial uses.   https://www.guaduabamboo.com/forum/is-moso-bamboo-edible



But what type of bamboo is it? There are lots of different species and they are used for different things! Some are stronger, bigger more palatable etc than other species.
 
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The fresh shoots are edible. I personally plan to make biochar out of bamboo in the future. I live in Northern Indiana so I will be using black bamboo.
 
pollinator
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For quick garden uses bamboo can be used as cut, and will often be more durable in contact with the ground or generally than most kinds of wood of similar dimension.  For the most lasting uses, as in construction meant to last a long time, it must be selected carefully and cured properly.  The quick version....select canes at least three years old.  Cut and allow to stand in the grove, held up by surroundng bamboo, or else lying elsewhere in the shade, with tops intact until they dry out, then trim.  This is for bamboo to be used whole.  If it is to be split, it is best to cut the canes to size and split as soon as possible, while still fresh.  A machete wielded with some skill will do this, or there are special jigs available to split a cane into four or six pieces.  Then take the whole canes and cut into manageable lengths, or the splits, tie into bundles and place them in water, preferably running water but a pond will do.  Tie the bundles into a raft and weight with rocks, etc. to submerge, or otherwise ensure their submergence and leave for a month.  This leaches sugars and starch out of the canes and makes them less attractive to insects.  Then remove and let dry slowly in the shade before use.  Lie them flat or stand them up so they don't bow and dry that way.  If split pieces are to be woven (a good way to make fence and trellice) do this as soon as they come from the water and they are more flexible.  There are some other techniques for preservation out there, some involving putting the end of the cut cane immediately upon cutting into a bucket of something like boric acid, and the leaves as they transpire suck the preservative up into the vascular system of the cane.
 
pollinator
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I hope there will be more replies, along with some pictures.  I am hoping to use bamboo for erosion control on some steep, degraded hillsides.  And I am hoping to find multiple uses, aside from firewood and animal fodder.  Our first experimental planting was mowed down by an animal already, a pig I think.  I would love to learn more about propagation, when where and how to harvest shoots to eat, and how to prepare them.  Am also curious about the building possibilities.  Is bamboo strong enough to house pigs?  How does it hold up against rot and termites?  How long does it take to grow into usable size, and how many canes do we need?  Looking forward to learning more!
 
pollinator
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Bamboo is great for everything!

Trellises
Fencing
Furniture
Livestock feed, can clean the poles that way
Construction, I hear
Textiles, I hear
Pipes??? I would love to learn how to do that!
Walking sticks
Had a short fat piece that perfectly fit a tennis ball, used it to throw the ball super far for my dogs.
Cups! Or pitchers, made from individual internode sections
Vase-like thing for holding flowers
Wind chimes
I've toyed around with using larger cups for little planters
As mentioned above, makes great charcoal for biochar or filtration
Flooring, but that seems complicated
Roof tiles, cut in half and used facing alternating directions
Those bamboo blinds, made of really thin little poles all woven together
Cutting boards
Cutlery, spatulas, other kitchen implements
Surfboards!
Toothbrushes
Panflute
Other musical instruments

Here's a good article about preserving bamboo with copper sulphate: http://permaculture.com.au/treating-bamboo-using-transpiration/

 
Alder Burns
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The curing protocol I described above is also helpful in preventing whole bamboo from cracking as it dries, which keeps it much stronger for construction purposes.  Done thoroughly, and most importantly, kept in the shade for drying, at least 75% of a batch of canes should dry down crack free.  In building with it always try to tie it together, as any kind of penetrating fastener (nail, screw, bolt, pin, etc.) will tend to create a crack.  There is a certain way to use wire, looped and then tightened with a nail or screwdriver, that I learned at a workshop for this very purpose.  Difficult to describe....I need to make a video or series of photos about it....it is wonderful all around the homestead, especially as a hose clamp!
    In Bangladesh (where I live for 3 years in the '80's) they would use bamboo for all kinds of things.  Well pipes, for one....by knocking out all the sections of a cane with a piece of re-bar till it was a hollow tube, and then sinking this into the clay ground with an ingenious device that used water pressure to loosen the clay at the bottom of the pipe allowing it to sink deeper and deeper by degrees.  Since most wells were only 20-40 feet deep, single canes of tall bamboos were sufficient for this, and being readily available, were simply replaced when they rotted out within a few years.  They would also use it for concrete reinforcement, in place of re-bar.  
     If you heat a split piece of green bamboo in a flame, it will cause the fibers to become flexible and it can be bent right around....clamped in this position, the fibers will stiffen that way as it cools and it will retain the new shape.  All kinds of small useful objects can be envisioned and made with this technique.
 
pioneer
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It doesn't look like anyone's posted here in a while, but maybe this will get a response. We're trying some small-scale urban permaculture projects, and our latest was to repurpose our neighbor's bamboo (he pitches it as yard waste) as a squash tunnel. My cunning husband did pretty good on his first try: https://www.catintheflock.com/2020/05/a-nearly-free-squash-tunnel.html

It has since split in one place, however (top of the arch on one cane). Do you know - if we'd been able to bend the canes when they were freshly cut, would this have eliminated the split? Are there other, easier ways to cure bamboo? We've got more than FT work running a livelihood business, so we're doing this all on weekends/holidays. Thanks!
 
Alder Burns
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Yeah bamboo to be bent is best bent when fresh and green and then it will stiffen in that position as it dries.  For additional strength, especially when using small canes, simply bundle several together.
 
Lisa Brunette
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Alder Burns wrote:Yeah bamboo to be bent is best bent when fresh and green and then it will stiffen in that position as it dries.  For additional strength, especially when using small canes, simply bundle several together.



Thanks for both those tips. We'll see how things go this year as the seeds we planted grow up onto the arch, and then there's always next year...
 
Lisa Brunette
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Here's an update on how our bamboo arch experiment went: https://www.catintheflock.com/2020/08/tragedy-strikes-the-squash-tunnel.html

Bamboo is a useful resource in the garden, but we're not convinced it's the best material for a squash tunnel, at least not in the storm-prone Midwest.

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