The grove over the last few weeks has been coming into new leaf. Here, from a photo taken a fortnight ago, you can see the bare new culms, topping the older ones which have shed some of their old green for the spring burst.
You can also see again how the awkward transition to mature grove is hard on the late-adolescent culms of a previous year. Having poured their energy into sending up newer and bigger culms, many will soon lose their light.
I complain. But, really, it’s exciting.
It should be clear, if you’ve read previous posts, that I know nothing about horticulture or bamboo in general. I’m besotted with moso, and fostering moso on my land is what I do. This means I work in isolation, and have developed my own ideas about what works. As to whether I’m right, clearly I’m right about something, because I have a large and healthy acreage of moso, with culms to rival those of Asia. However, I’m in the position of the American businessman who knew half of his advertising did not work – but he did not know which half. A portion of what I am doing is unnecessary, but I don’t know which portion. By adhering to certain policies, I’m getting results: this year saw zero wind damage and only a few animal attacks on huge new shoots. I’m not game to change the formula.
My belief is that moso should not be started on rich flats or even on very “permacultural” swales. It should not be planted out in cleared ground, however sheltered. Strong light and direct heat are the enemies of new shoots and culms. Browsers, wallabies above all, should be repelled by keeping fresh blood-meal on all accessible new shoots, even if there are thousands to be tended. Possum-friendly branches of nearby trees should be cut off, and such trees may need to be possum-proofed, perhaps by heaping spiky bunya pine branches around the trunks. Someone may ignore all these cautions and succeed, but that is how I think on the matter.
This brings me to lantana. It is an official pest in Australia, and should be eliminated. I have no gentle or “natural” solutions to the problem of lantana in pasture or bushland. However…
On the right you see a wall of lantana, on the left you see pioneer moso of this year, which has used the lantana for protection and insulation. Now that the lantana’s useful role is fulfilled, I have trampled down its brittle stems all around my new culms – using this highly specialised equipment:
That’s a wooden plank, used for lantana surfing. I chuck it on to the lantana, then jump aboard to crush the stuff. I have done acres this way.
Does the lantana come back? It does, but providing one continues to walk about the grove and bruise the new leaves, it gradually dwindles to an inconspicuous ground cover which cannot flower or fruit. It is best described as a flimsy bully, throwing out abrasive but fragile stems to ward off intruders. However, it is also an ideal companion plant, and has very few real defenses when trampled or “surfed”: the only thing that stops me clearing quickly is the presence of other woody weeds like tobacco, privet, cassia and cockspur, which are not nearly as brittle and surfable as lantana. [CAUTION: Only lantana is a useful weed in this regard; the sooner you get rid of wild tobacco, privet etc the better. Also, let me repeat: Lantana is an official pest, and I’m only suggesting it may have some unexplored value as a ground-cover and companion plant in very limited circumstances.]
If you do your surfing right, and with follow-up control, an impassable thicket of lantana will look like this in an amazingly short time, without any digging, cutting or poisoning: