How To Plant Bamboo
Knowing how to plant bamboo correctly, will help you establish a healthier crop and improved productivity on your bamboo farm or plantation.
Spacing between Bamboo Plants
The size and physical dimensions of the bamboo species to be planted is an important factor to determine the planting density. Higher densities (closer spacing) are suitable for smaller-sized bamboos, and lower densities (more spaced out) are suitable for larger-sized bamboos.
If the bamboo plants are spaced too far apart, the plantation will suffer from canopy exposure, loss of soil moisture through evaporation, and competition from weeds and other vegetation. An excessively dense plantation will lead to bamboo plants competing amongst themselves for light, space, soil moisture and nutrients.
When you know how to plant bamboo, the plantation will have a steady stream of culm production. The following spacing guidelines may be followed:
- For medium-diameter, thick-walled species, 5 x 5 meters spacing is optimal. This requires 400 clumps per hectare, or 160 clumps per acre. This spacing is good for species such as Guadua angustifolia, Dendrocalamus asper and Dendrocalamus brandisii. Under well-managed conditions it can go up to 6 x 6 or 7 x 7 meters.
- For smaller species, 4 x 4 meters spacing will be sufficient. This requires 625 plants per hectare.
- For larger species, such ass Dendrocalamus hamiltonii, the spacing can be 7 x 7 meters, or 205 plants per hectare. For Dendrocalamus giganteus this can even go up to 10 x 10 meters, or 100 plants per hectare.
- Smaller 3 x 3 meters spacing (1,100 plants per hectare) will also work, if the primary goal is soil stabilization.
- If the objective is to plant bamboo for erosion control along riverbanks or to protect an area from landslides and avalanches, the spacing can also be 3 x 3 meters or even 2.5 x 2.5 meters. In such cases, bamboo can be mixed together with appropriate, fast-growing timber species as well.
How to Plant Bamboo with the Bund and Trench Method
The bund and trench method involves digging trenches and heaping the dug out soil in order to plant bamboo on 1 meter wide and 50 centimeter high bunds.
Bunds and trenches should be prepared well in advance to stabilize them before planting the bamboo.
The bund and trench method has several advantages. Bamboo planted on bunds with a base of well-worked soil, turned over from the trenches, will thrive. In the following years, more soil can be dug out of the trenches and heaped or mounded around the bamboo clumps. The trenches can also be used for irrigation, or for preparing organic compost.
How to Plant Bamboo by Triangular Spacing?
For commercial bamboo timber plantations, staggered planting in a triangular grid is recommended. This involves digging pits in alternating rows in the same line, with the row in the middle consisting of pits placed at the center point of the preceding row.
This allows for optimal exploitation of the plantation area, and maximizes the distribution space available to each bamboo clump. It also guarantees an equal distance between rows of plants, which can be used for intercropping and organic composting production, and allows for easy passage.
How to Plant Bamboo in Pits?
After clearing the land and before digging the pits, the bamboo plantation area should be measured and marked with sticks from the point that will be the center of the pit.
The pit should be wide and deep enough to ensure that the roots of the bamboo plants have sufficient space, and are not restrained in their search for moisture and nutrients. It is best to prepare the pits before rainy season, and the dug out soil exposed to weather conditions.
As a rule of thumb rule: the larger the pit, the better the growth of the rhizomes. Offsets and rhizomes should be planted in pits measuring 60 x 60 x 60 to 100 x 100 x 100 centimeters. For seedlings and branch cuttings, the size can be reduced to 30 x 30 x 30 or 45 x 45 x 45 centimeters.
How to plant bamboo in pits:
- A few days before planting, thoroughly turn the soil in the pit.
- Remove competing weeds and vegetation within a radius of 50 centimeters around the pit.
- For a pit size of 60 x 60 x 60 centimeters, mix the soil with approximately 5 kilograms of farmyard manure (FYM), 100 grams urea, 100 grams super phosphate, and 50 grams muriate of potash. Nitrogen in the ammonium form increases water uptake, resulting in faster growth.
- Place the plant vertically in the pit, ensuring that the roots do not curl.
- Level the pit with the mixed and enriched soil.
- After planting, irrigate with 12–20 liters of water, depending on the current climatic conditions. This will provide the needed moisture to the rhizome and roots, and compress the loose soil around the plant.
- Repeat the watering the next day, moderating the quantity of water if necessary. For the next 10 weeks, continue to irrigate if there is not enough rain, initially at daily intervals, extending later to once in three days.
Bamboo Irrigation and Intercropping
We are planning to plant about an acre of Guadua bamboo seedlings on our land on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua . We will need to irrigate through the dry season for the first and possibly the second year. I am currently evaluating my options for irrigation and would appreciate any feedback.
The Bund and Trench method of planting would be the cheapest way to irrigate.
A drip system is fairly easy to set up, easy to operate and is the most water efficient.
Sprinklers would give me good coverage but cost a little more. They would also be as easy to operate as drip but require more water pressure.
I'm considering planting crops between the seedlings for the first couple of years and that would certainly affect my watering needs.
With our seedlings 5 to 7 meters apart how much space could I actually use for vegetables and how long before the bamboo would require that space?
Would the proper use of sprinklers for the first two dry seasons help my bamboo spread faster?
Stephane from Guadua Bamboo replied:
In terms of rainfall affecting the growth of Guadua Bamboo please see this article about the optimal climate conditions for bamboo farms under the chapter: precipitation.
Intercropping can easily be performed during the first 2-3 years of the newly planted bamboo plantation (at 5m x 7m spacing), of course each year you'll have less and less space. 5 years after planting the Guadua plants should have formed a dense plantation.
Once you've planted the bamboo, what kind of maintenance is necessary after each year? I heard that you're supposed to cut off the lateral growth of the bamboo and only leave the center columns. You're also supposed to eliminate the weaker center columns.
Would you confirm this? Any other suggestions or things to consider? Once the plant is bigger, does it require plain sunlight or is partly shade also acceptable?
Stephane from Guadua Bamboo replied:
Maintenance depends on the age of development. In the first year the most important aspect is to keep the clumps absolutely free of weeds. In later years you can eliminate dead/dried culms and trim the lower branches. Trimming branches is not absolutely necessary but since they can have very nasty thorns (Guadua for example) it's best to cut off those branches for easy access to the plantation.
Every bamboo species is different some species require full sun, while other like partial sunlight or shade. Always specify which bamboo species you are referring too.
Guadua Bamboo Planting Layout
I am planning my mini Guadua farm on a half acre and some things I need to know are: If you start with 25gal pots of Guadua, how much distance should you space them apart?
What is the estimated diameter of the clump after 5 years, and is there an average number of culms that come up each year or am I right to expect that the number of culms will increase each year?
I'm Trying to make a rough estimate on the diameter, length and number of culms I can harvest after 4 years.
Stephane from Guadua Bamboo replied:
Guadua can be planted at 3x3 meters up to 10x10 meters depending on the objective of the plantation. For riverbank and soil erosion it is recommended to plant closer together at 3x3 m, for biomass purposes 5x5, and for the production of large diamater stems 10X10 m would be the most appropriate (theoretically). However, spacing Guadua angustifolia that far appart wouldn't be economically feasible. Therefore, the optimal spacing for a commercial Guadua bamboo plantation is 6x7 m, which forms the perfect balance between producing large diameter poles and the shortest possible time to produce reasonable revenue from such plantation.
To plant the bamboo seedlings, clear the area around the seedling from all possible weeds and vegetation in a radius of 50 cm and dig a hole of about 40 cm wide and 30 cm deep. Since the rhizomes grow just under the surface, it's best not to plant them too deep. The area around the plant should be kept free of weeds at all times!
You should also turn the soil a little so the ground is lose and the rhizomes can spread easier. Mix some dry manure with soil and put it in the hole before planting the Guadua seedling to stimulate its growth. Not too much though or it could burn the roots! It's best to plant any bamboo at the start of rainy season, or at least irrigate them daily for the first year.
After 5 years you can expect culms of 4" in diameter. How many, depends on climate, and soil conditions. Guadua is not a traditional clumper but an "open clumper" so it can spread quite a bit. But remember, mature Guadua culms of average 4"-5" in diameter can only be harvested approximately 9 YEARS after planting, not 4 or 5 years after planting, that's the year where they appear not the year they can be cut.
Planting Bamboo in The Philippines
We are planning to have a bamboo plantation to support our growing industry here in Cotabato Province, Mindanao Island, Philippines, my question is, what is the ideal spacing for bamboo plantation that would pose as a problem in harvesting in the future?
Presently, we have a hard time "pulling down" a bamboo pole even in a single clump... is ten by ten meters spacing profitable enough? What is the ideal spacing for riverbank plantation?
The spacing depends on the type of bamboo you plan on planting. If you were planning to plant the giant “Mindanao” ( Dendrocalamus asper - clumping type ), 10 meters spacing is ideal.
My plantation in Benguet Province, Luzon Island has a spacing of between 5 and 7 meters depending on the terrain, which is mountainous. It is also estuarial (surrounded by rivers, streams and creeks). But I make it a point not to plant too close to the river, due to typhoons.
On relatively flat terrain, a 5-meter spacing is too close. You would have to “cut your way through”! 7 meters is the minimum. 10 meters is better, as there is less competition for nutrients in the soil. Also, a mature grove could grow up to 5 meters in diameter.
As for profitable... personally, I treat the bamboo groves as if they were my children... the money will come... one day... I hope. I try not to think about this too much. What is important is that my children are happy and healthy.
Big, tall trees are also worth keeping... just plant the bamboo some distance away from them. When a typhoon hits, the bamboo poles at least have something to lean on. Other varieties worth planting are La'ak and Bayog.
Growing Guadua Bamboo together with Fruit Trees
Does anyone have experience mixing Guadua bamboo with fruit trees? Does bamboo harm fruit trees in any way via the (rotting) leafs? I know that there might be impact as to the shade the bamboo gives.
Does anyone have experience regarding the planting distance that has to be considered when planting bamboo near a fruit tree?
Stephane from Guadua Bamboo replied:
When planting Guadua bamboo together with fruit trees, I would recommend to maintain a 10 meters spacing between them. A Guadua clump might occupy all that 10m space in 15 years or so.
Bamboo leaves are very rich in nutrients and are therefore an excellent organic fertilizer. Fallen bamboo leaves are also a good "mulch" since they prevent weeds from growing near the clump.