No job is too big when you have the right tool. Although when you’re dealing with the fastest-growing plant on earth, it’s easy to get intimidated. Luckily, there’s a handy arsenal of tools out there that can make your bamboo chores way more manageable.
Once a bamboo grove is mature and well-established, it requires very little to keep on flourishing. But in order to keep your bamboo looking good, and to prevent it from spreading out of control, you’ll need some good tools and regular upkeep. For aesthetic purposes, annual pruning with garden shears and a handsaw is helpful. But with running bamboo, the most important job is to contain those vigorous roots. And the right shovels and saws will make the task of removing unwanted roots so much easier.
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Saws and clippers for pruning bamboo
It’s fun to watch your bamboo culms take off and reach for the sky. But eventually, you’ll probably want to cut some of them back. In an older grove, for example, it’s important for both health and appearance to go in and cut out the oldest canes. After several years, they tend to lose their color and begin to crack.
Sometimes it also helps to thin out some of the lateral branches, depending on the species of bamboo. For bamboo varieties with especially interesting culms, like a striped species or square bamboo, it’s nice to show off the unusual culms by pruning off all the lower branches, below 3 or 4 feet.
To thin your grove, harvest mature poles, or remove an old, unattractive cane, use a small wood saw like this Ergonomic Folding Handsaw from Coher, available from Amazon, and cut as low to the ground as possible.
For pruning the side branches, a sturdy set of garden shears, or secateurs, works great. You’ll end up using these often, all over the garden, so invest in a quality pair like these 8″ Professional Bypass Shears from Gonicc. They easily slice through branches up to 3/4″ thick.
Shovels for digging around bamboo
When it comes to digging around your bamboo, those relentless roots and rhizomes can be a challenge. But these days it’s easier, thanks to the Root Slayer family of shovels from Radius Garden.
With carbon steel blades and handles, these heavy-duty shovels and spades will stand up to even the most tenacious bamboo root. Best of all, you can use the serrated edge on the side of the shovel blade to saw through that underground logjam. The 45″ Root Slayer Shovel and the 39″ Root Slayer Nomad are just perfect for digging up bamboo. The inverted tip makes them great for removing all sorts of weeds as well.
Power saws for eradicating bamboo rhizomes
When a bamboo plant has been around for years and years, or you’re dealing with a massive timber bamboo, you might need to bring in some heavy artillery. When roots and trunks are more than a couple of inches thick and crowded together in a tight cluster, a little handsaw just might not be enough.
This is a job for the reciprocating power saw, more commonly known by the brand name, Sawzall, manufactured by Milwaukee Electric Tool. They have a Cordless Hackzall on Amazon that can do some real damage. But despite the brand name recognition, the bestselling reciprocating saws today come from Dewalt, Black + Decker, and Makita.
The 120-volt Dewalt Reciprocating Saw has a 12 amp motor and plugs in with a heavy cable. Blades are sold separately.
The 20-volt cordless Reciprocating Saw from Black + Decker is also a very popular model. This saw comes with a blade, and you can always purchase additional blades in more sizes. This is probably our favorite saw, as the cordless tool has big advantages when working outdoors.
Makita also makes a Recipro Saw that runs on 12 amps and 120 volts. It comes with two blades, one for metal and one for wood. It also plugs in.
Barriers for containing bamboo roots
If you want to avoid a ferocious entanglement with a mess of sprawling roots from a running bamboo plant, your best defense is to be proactive. Bamboo Shield makes the best barrier against the underground menace.
Their rhizome barriers come in a few sizes, for tropical or temperate conditions, and harder or softer soil. In most cases, you’ll want Bamboo Shield’s 30″ deep barrier that’s 80 mil (2 mm) thick. In wetter and warmer climates, or in sandy soil, you may need to dig deeper and plant a 36″ deep barrier with 100 mil thickness.
Take a look at this in-depth article on Bamboo Root Barriers to learn more about how they work and how to install them. Another method is to Dig a Containment Trench around your bamboo grove. We have a great article about that, too.
Knowledge is the best tool
If you’re into bamboo and keeping your garden looking vibrant, you might want to read more of our articles on bamboo maintenance. Check out these popular highlights from our blog.