Sunday, December 27, 2009

Managing a bamboo grove

There are a couple of bamboo groves within a two minute walk of our house, one of moso, and the other of madake. Both of them are a real mess of half-fallen dead wood which forces all new growth to grow up at the same slant. As a new soft culm forces itself up through the tangle of dead wood, it suffers damage which is then subject to attack by insects and other rot. And although the grove persists, each bamboo fails to reach its fullest size, and none of it is usefully straight.

I've been wanting to do something about it for a while, and I've been gradually cutting out the dead wood from the moso grove to make charcoal with. Recently, having decided to complete my bamboo fence with the easily manageable madake, I began to tackle the dead wood. Hacking it into pieces with my bill-hook/machete thing is a very violent activity, and showers of rotten bamboo come crashing down from on high. Luckily, most of it is pretty light so it doesn't hurt much if it lands on your head.

By the time I've smashed up great swathes of dead wood and cut out the mature culms that I want for my fence, it's generally too dark to stack the cuttings tidily. But unless I do that, the new growth will no doubt be as twisted as ever. So I guess at least part of the New Year holidays will be spend sorting and stacking dead sticks.

It occurs to me that chickens could be kept in a well managed bamboo grove. The cuttings could be used for fencing all around parts of the grove, the trees would give the birds some protection from the weather and predators, the birds would be able to find quite a lot of insects to eat, and they would provide the trees with fertilizer. A few berry and seed-bearing plants around the edges would bring more insects and provide the birds with more nutrition. It seems like an interesting idea in theory.

Addendum:
I've finally found out who owns the grove. When I was in there tidying up the other day, a mikan farmer with storehouse next to the grove hailed me through the trees to offer me several sacks of mikan. I took the opportunity to ask if he knew whose land it was, and he told me that it belongs to a doctor who lives on the other side of Matsuyama. He never visits apparently. Absentee landlords, the old problem...

4 comments:

JJ said...

Speaking of machetes and billhooks, MacheteSpecialists.com has a ton of different types of machetes from all over the globe for sale for use by campers, hunters, gardeners, farmers, etc..

Rod said...

I don't normally allow commercial comments, but MacheteSpecialists.com is a very informative site.

And as I've been swinging my old familiar tool, I've often wondered if a kukri or machete would make the work go easier.

Thanks JJ.

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.

C said...

Thanks for this - I've just become the owner of a bamboo grove, and the day after I bought the land Hurricane Irene blew half of the bamboo over. I've been wondering what to do and this is just what I needed.