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Rhizome Barrier Installation Guide

Root barrier installation to contain a running type bamboo

Rhizome Barrier Installation Instructions

Please read and follow these directions carefully. Although installing root barrier takes a bit of work, if done correctly it will require very minimal maintenance and reward you with many years of well-behaved bamboo.

For containing running types of bamboo we have found that polypropylene rhizome barrier works better than any other material, such as sheet metal or concrete. Concrete cracks and has a rough surface on which the rhizomes can get a purchase and break through. Sheet metal requires several seams and will rust, leaving the way open for bamboo “escapees.” Wood is not strong enough and will rot.

If you are planting a clumping type of bamboo, installing barrier is unnecessary and can actually cause maintenance problems down the road. For further information on the special maintenance needs of clumpers, see Containment & Control.

Our polypropylene plastic barrier comes in various widths and thicknesses; what is recommended for your situation depends upon a number of factors. If you have soft sandy/loamy soil, are installing on a steep slope or are planting certain species of bamboo (especially aggressive runners or giant timber types), we will recommend a deeper and sometimes thicker rhizome barrier. Please ask our staff what is best for your situation and for special instructions if your site is on a steep slope or has sandy/loamy soil.

One of the advantages of this thick but flexible barrier is that you can create a screen or grove of bamboo of any shape. It is most effective when enough space is provided for your particular species of bamboo. Speaking in broad generalities, for small to mid-sized bamboos, define an area that is no narrower than 2 feet wide (4 feet is much better!). Allow even more space for larger species. Trying to confine your bamboo to a very small area makes for unhealthy, stunted bamboo that can become root bound very quickly and put unnecessary stress on your barrier. Generally, the larger the area provided, the happier your bamboo will be.

We also recommend leaving a minimum of 12 to 24 inches of space between the edge of your barrier and any existing structures such as fences, buildings, or sidewalks. This allows for maintenance access, which you will need to prune, check your barrier edge and to maintain your structure if the need ever arises.

When you install your barrier, it is important to leave 2 inches protruding above ground level. Bamboo rhizomes sometimes come up to the surface and then dive back down again, hopping over the edge of the barrier. For this reason we recommend you check around the entire edge of your barrier once or twice a year and clear any leaf-litter or soil build-up. Once cleared it is easy to spot and cut any rhizomes before they escape over the top and get established.

As a service to our customers we offer barrier at close to cost when over $250 of bamboo is purchased. We offer 30 and 36 inch deep barrier in both 60 mil and 80 mil thick. For lightweight jobs such as groundcovers or the lining of boxes, 24 inch by 40 mil thick is also offered. All barriers are made of 100% post consumer recycled content.

Basic Instructions:

Begin by digging a narrow, exactly vertical trench around the perimeter of the area in which you wish to keep the bamboo contained, avoiding sharp angled corners if possible. If using 30″ polypropylene rhizome barrier, the trench needs to be 28” deep; for 36” barrier, the trench should be 34” deep, etc., so that 2” of the barrier remains above ground.

Insert the barrier into the trench, making sure it remains vertical (no angling in or out). Minimize the number of seams if possible and be sure to overlap the barrier 12 inches where the two ends meet (or at any seam). Be sure there is no soil in between the overlapped layers. Use our strapping system to secure the barrier seam, as illustrated. This system is basically just 2 metal straps sandwiching the overlapped area and bolted securely. It creates an effective seal and prevents the rhizomes from doing an “S” curve through the seam.

Back fill the barrier, being sure to maintain the vertical orientation and 2 inches of barrier above ground level, then pack the soil as firmly as possible. You want to make this area as inhospitable as possible, so using heavy clay soils to back fill, especially in the bottom half of your trench, is ideal.

Now you are done and can plant your running bamboo screen or grove within the contained area with ease of mind. May you and your bamboo flourish!

If you have questions, please feel free to call us.