The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

River cane

River caneThe last new perennial we're trying this year is river cane (Arundinaria gigantea.)  This native bamboo can be used for basket-making, trellises, and even for dinner.  (The young shoots are edible, although not quite as tasty as some Asian species.) 

Rather than coughing up the $30 per plant many nurseries are charging, I dug up five wild plants from a friend's property.  Most folks recommend planting a rhizome barrier around your bamboo, but I think we may use our shoots quickly enough that a barrier won't be necessary.  I hope I don't live to regret this decision!

This post is part of our Splurging on Perennials lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Try just using natural barriors. Mine growes nicely bordered between the river a branch creek and old growth forest. It does grow into the woods but at a much reduced rate. With no barrior, I think you may be asking for it to take over. It sounds like you have great conditions for it to grow and it can be very difficult to control. Love that chicken tractor redneck humor.
Comment by Erich Fri Oct 30 12:46:36 2009
Good point about natural barriers! Honestly, I wouldn't mind it if it took over the powerline cut --- I've read that it makes good forage for livestock, and we're considering turning that area into pasture someday anyhow since it has to stay open.
Comment by anna Fri Oct 30 15:57:19 2009
We have 40 acres of open pasture and mixed woods. When my parents first bought the place, 30 odd years ago, I don't remember seeing any cane at all. However, when we inherited the place about 5 years ago, cane had grown in thickly everywhere down along the creeks, and I do mean thick! We were quite concerned about it completely taking over our 15 acres of woods, actually. BUT, I read about how the southern Indians and Scots used the cane to graze their cattle in winter, and how those cows came out "swamp fat"! Well, we tried grazing it, and I have to agree that the cows did come out fat and sassy. Now, we're actually having to try to protect the cane, and keep it growing through the summer and fall so it's stored plenty of nutrients for spring growth and so that it's available for winter stock feeding. ;)
Comment by catherine Mon Sep 13 11:23:00 2010
I'm thrilled to hear about your experience. That makes me even more inclined to get our patch going for winter forage! I wonder if even our chickens would get something out of the greenery in the winter?
Comment by anna Mon Sep 13 16:49:37 2010
I'm curious to know if your River Cane ever took off? I've been looking at the possibility of using different bamboo types as supplemental winter fodder for sheep and/or cattle.
Comment by mitsy Fri May 11 18:51:09 2012
Mitsy --- We've tried planting cane twice, and both times they've perished. I'm getting the impression they're not good to transplant, and that I'm going to have to go to more extremes if I want to add them to our farm.
Comment by anna Fri May 11 20:04:54 2012

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