Trellising with Bamboo

Bamboo can be an invasive plant, but it’s also an eminently sustainable material with countless uses. Here at Southern Exposure, we frequently use bamboo in our trellises, combining it with a wide variety of other materials.

For pole beans, (whether snap, asparagus, lima, or runner beans) we tie bamboo poles, with the branches removed, to our T-posts to add to their height. Then we tie netting to the poles. Stubs of bamboo branches can give your twine something to hang onto, ensuring that the netting doesn’t fall.

For malabar spinach, we put in one T-post for every two plants, then put a tomato cage made of concrete reinforcement wire on each T-post, then tie two stalks of bamboo, each about 7 ft tall, with the branches still attached, to each cage.

Each bamboo stalk is situated roughly over a malabar spinach transplant. The malabar spinach winds around the tomato cage and around the bamboo branches as though they were a seamless unit.

For Mexican Sour Gherhins, a new, experimental crop for us, we put a tomato cage in the ground (the store-bought, cone-shaped kind), then leaned four bamboo branches against it, so that the base of each branch was next to a Gherkin transplant. We tied the branches to each other above the cage, then tied them to the top of the cage as well.

These trellises blew over in the wind a couple times, so we used a post driver to pound a sturdy, unbranched bamboo pole into the center of each little trellis, and tied the post to the branches. Then the trellises stopped blowing over. Now the Mexican Sour Gherkins can safely wrap their tendrils around the bamboo branches.

For some of our edible gourd trials, we’ve built loosely latticed bamboo trellising. We started with T-posts and concrete reinforcement wire tomato cages at wide intervals. We strung long, branchless bamboo poles horizontally through the cages, then added vertical, branched bamboo tops at frequent intervals, then tied the vertical bamboo to the horizontal bamboo.

Of all our bamboo trellises, the simplest one to make was the one we use for the wild passionfruit (maypops) that grow next to our barn. I simply gathered bamboo scraps from our other trellising projects, leaned them against the second-story barn porch and against each other, and then tied the tops of the tallest pieces to the porch railing.

If you or your neighbor has a bamboo grove, it probably needs to get reigned in regularly. The byproduct of this reigning in can be used for many styles of creative trellises, far beyond those described here. However, remember that very young bamboo stalks (those that have just leafed out) are not strong. Use older stalks for trellising. Our bamboo stalks develop a chalky surface texture as they mature. Also, while you can pound bamboo stalks directly into the ground, this method takes more effort than pounding T-posts, and it’s only effective for small trellises or relatively lightweight vines, with posts at relatively frequent intervals.

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