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Growing Bamboo For Production – a quick guide

IMG_7922Bamboo is quickly becoming a must have for everything from non-woven fabrics to composites, food to forage. The problem is there isn’t enough bamboo planted at this time to fill that need. Manufacturers are scrambling to lock in raw materials for current and future use. Bamboo grows fast and harvesting can begin in less then 7 years and sometimes as soon as 4 years. The harvesting can then continue annually for decades.

Bamboo grows in many climates and there are over 1600 varieties currently known. This versatile grass gives off up to 35% more oxygen then an equivalent stand of trees. It also is excellent at soil remediation and could potentially be used for toxic site clean up.

If you are in an area that is tropical like Central Florida or South Florida then clumping bamboos are the best choice. If you are in a colder region then running bamboos will be required. Both have great options for structural and bio-mass producing plants. It is very important that you pick the right plant for your area and your intended use.

What will I do with my bamboo? There are two main options for utilizing bamboo one is poles and the other is bio-mass. Think tiki hut construction vs particle board. One involves using whole culms that are treated and dried. They can then be made into lumber, or used in construction, art, and manufacturing as poles. The second option involves chopping up the plant material for use in composites like plywood, clothing, and paper type products.

In the first case the plant would need to be a variety that has a good structural density and is straight. There are applications that could require specialization such as plantations that make curved bamboo culms. These could be used in bicycle or furniture manufacturing. The second involves a fast growing plant that produces a large quantity of material. Of course left over pieces from the poles could be used for bio-mass as well.

In Central Florida we have some good options. One is Bambusa ventricosa or Buddha Belly. It’s common name comes from the bulging nodes that the plant will produce when grown in bonsai like conditions. When planted in the ground this fast growing bamboo can get over 55′ tall with culms that are a bit over 2″ in diameter. This plant can be used for both poles and bio-mass as it is very structural and grows rapidly. Other options include Bambusa oldhamii and Bambusa malingensis.

Bamboo requires water and fertilization. They are heavy feeders and to get optimal growth they should have a regimen of irrigation and fertilization. This being said I am a firm believer that sites should be chosen well for planting. Clumping or tropical bamboos do well in low sites even ones that might hold water for short periods of time. High and dry requires a lot of water which might not be the best solution for bamboo especially with growing concerns about the future of our water supply. In northern regions running or temperate bamboos require well drained soils and will not tolerate standing water. As always we want to be careful of mono cultures and look to see how bamboo can be incorporated into existing farm production or re-forestation projects.img_0313

As the bamboo industry begins to blossom in the USA processing facilities will evolve to process the material. At this time they are not available but there are plans for some to go online in the near future. These processing facilities will be the buyers of the bamboo poles and a grower could contract with them to both harvest and process the plant when the time came. This is the important part because it will be when you get paid!

It takes between 5 and 7 years for tropical or clumping bamboos to be ready to harvest. This depends upon the size of the plant initially and the rate of growth. The first harvest will be small and will happen during the dry season. In Florida harvesting is best done between February and April. This is when the plants hold the least amount of moisture and so will be naturally more resistant to insects and funguses. Every year the harvest will be at this time and then the new growth will come after in the summer months. The time frame may be a bit altered for running bamboos since they tend to shoot earlier.

The bamboos can be harvested every year until the plant goes into flower. Flowering of bamboo is cyclical and each cycle is different for each plant. Some plants don’t flower for 80 years or more. The longevity of the grove depends on where you are in that cycle. The confusing part IMG_7977is knowing when that will happen. Unless your plant came from seed there isn’t a guarantee on it’s lifespan. You might be buying a plant that has 50 years to go or 10 years to go it’s unknown. For this reason it is important to diversify the planting so that there is less risk.

When a bamboo flowers it will produce seed and it puts all of it’s energy into this process until the plant dies. This can take a few years and can generate lots of potential seedlings but the original plant is rendered useless and a new grove has to be started. The biggest risk therefore is how long will the plant live before going to seed. Sometimes a person will know when the plant flowered because they grew it from seed or bought it as a seedling. This is ideal because you will have a good idea how many years are left in the cycle.

That being said you can diversify your grove by getting different clones of the same plant and by planting different varieties. The bamboos quickly pay for themselves and turn a profit so having several varieties online can help when one type goes into flower. Also when that happens you will have potentially a enormous amount of year one plants that will now be available to you and be highly prized in the market place for new groves.

As we move into a new realm of manufacturing and farming in the US it is important as always to be well informed and work with people who have experience in the field. Bamboo is part of our developing future and I encourage you to research it further or contact me for additional information.

Happy Bambooing 💚

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Compost Tea – feed yourself by feeding your plants

Finding viable organic alternatives to commercial fertilizers is crucially important in a world where tens of thousands of chemicals have been added to our environment in the last fifty years.  These chemicals are either directly applied to our food or make their way into our food system via water and air.  Luckily finding easy and alternative methods to feed our food and rebuild our soils can be as easy as brewing tea and bamboo is a great place to start.  Feeding plants minerals is crucial to growing nutritious food.  You are what you eat.


First let’s do an overview of how bamboo feeds itself.  The bamboo plant strategically begins on day one to build the perfect place for itself to live.  It does this in several ways.  It starts to build a massive root system that is comprised of both large structural roots and smaller feeder roots.  These roots spread and eventually fill every square inch of dirt approximately one foot deep.  This is true for both clumping bamboos and running bamboos.


Clumpers or tropical bamboos (mostly, there are some non-tropical clumping bamboos) start from a central point and radiate out in a circle.  Runners or temperate bamboos shoot a straight line out in multiple directions then systematically fill in the space back to the original planting.  This allows the plant to eventually control all of the nutrients in the top layer of soil where typically most of the nutrients are concentrated.  At the same time it eliminates most of the competing plant material.  Some tap root plants like trees can survive because they grow down and so only minimally compete with the bamboo.  Otherwise a bamboo plant will slowly kill off all other growth in the surrounding area.


Bamboos have shallow root system and this makes them vulnerable to drying out.  Tropical bamboos shed up to 80% of their leaves every year.  Temperate or running bamboos shed significantly less but still manage to create a dense ground cover of leaves over time.  The bamboo leaves create a perfect mat that traps moisture allowing the bamboo root system to grow to the surface of the soil as well as a mulch that prevents seeds from easily growing.  It also forms the perfect environment for mycelium to grow.  One of the important benefits that bamboo gets from mycelium is that they help to feed the plant more efficiently by optimizing the nutrients and available moisture in a way that the bamboo can best use it.


(On a side note.  Bamboo and mycelium create such a power house environment for soil rehabilitation that they would be well used for cleaning contaminated soils.)


Simply lift a layer of bamboo leaves and you will witness the webby mycelium growth.  The leaves very slowly break down with the help of the microorganisms, which in turn feeds the bamboo with the nutrients that it needs.  Recycling itself back into itself.  The root system follows the path of many grasses in which it grows and composts and overtime creates a new more organically rich soil content.  In these ways bamboo alters dramatically it’s living environment to best suit it’s own needs.


Bamboo leaves can be used to feed other plants as well.  Old fallen leaves can be raked up and used as mulch.  Bamboo leaves are thin yet tough.  Their high silica content makes them slow to break down.  this results in a weed barrier that is quite effective.  Chipped wood and other mulches create air pockets that allow the soil to dry out more rapidly, thus making the growth of mycelium more challenging, and they also encourage insect activity especially ants.


Bamboo tea can be made from the leaf litter, the green leaves, and/or the smaller branches.  You can even use the shoots.  The more woody the material the more it will need to be broken down.  This can be done by grinding it into smaller pieces and by heating it for a longer period of time.  Making compost tea for plants is the equivalent of juicing for humans.  The nutrients are immediately available to them.  The tea can be applied topically in a spay application or poured onto the soil.


Bamboo compost tea can be used by itself of in conjunction with other ingredients.  Bamboo leaves have a high sugar content when green adn will ferment quickly, usually 24 hours or less.  The brown leaves from the ground will have less nutrients but the sugars have broken down and do not ferment as rapidly.  Bamboo can be added to other ingredients to create specific blends.  Just be sure if you are using branches or culms that you cook them for longer since they require more heat to break down the nutrients.


Green leaf bamboo compost tea can be made by putting leaves into a bucket and filling it with hot water.  Let it sit in the sun for the day and then apply when the water has cooled.  No need to strain the leaves!  The plant is getting lots of silica which helps it to build a strong cellular structure.  The difference in growth will be impressive!  Adding the leaves to the soil adds minerals especially magnesium and manganese.  By grinding the leaves or branches you can create a mulch that is feeding your plants with minerals over a longer period of time.


Topical applications can help to strengthen the plants natural immunity and make it less susceptible to insect or fungal attacks.  Bamboo itself has an amazing resilience to disease and insects.  This strong immunity can be passed on to other plants through the use of compost tea.


Most people are not far from a bamboo plant or perhaps drive past cut bamboo put out as waste.  Utilizing this resource is a great way to increase the mineral content of your food or to simply grow healthier plants.


Add bamboo into your life, your pet’s life, and your plants life.  You will be stronger for it!

Happy bambooing!

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Black Gold – Bamboo Activated Charcoal Food Grade

Natural air purifier..bamboo charcoal | Earth Elements | Pinterest         I have to say that bamboo charcoal is just such a wonder substance it’s hard not to sound over the top when talking about it.  It’s long past the point where it’s in all of our vehicles, every bag or purse, and the bathrooms.  My kids all know how to use it and advise their friends.  So lets go through some fast and fabulous ways to use the Black Gold.

It’s all about surface area.  Charcoal works through surface area.  The charcoal binds to toxins and pulls them from the body or water and holds them in place.  The more surface area there is the more area there is to bind to.  The process is called adsorption quite different from absorption.  Absorption is what a sponge does, water is taken into the sponge.  Adsorption is where the atoms adhere to the surface of another material in this case charcoal.  Charcoal does this electrostatically which in general means it adheres to substances poisonous to life.  Activation of charcoal increases the surface area so that one tsp of activated charcoal can have up to one football field of surface area.  The structure of bamboo allows for more surface area when creating charcoal because of the system of tubes that make up the culm of the plant.  In addition Black Gold is ground to a fine powder which further enhances the potency.  That is the basics so now onto it’s numerous uses.


To whiten and brighten teeth dip your toothbrush into an coconut oil or toothpaste and then into the charcoal powder.  Carefully polish each tooth with the mixture with circular motions.  This is a bit easier with an electric brush but certainly not necessary.  It is very helpful to have a smaller head on the toothbrush so that the polishing can focus on the tooth.  Don’t panic your mouth will be black and so will your teeth.  In fact I usually do it at night because it naturally rinses out over night and is gone by morning.  I usually swallow the oil and charcoal mixture after brushing just to get all of the benefits.  The charcoal is abrasive and will polish the teeth.  This can be done up to once a week at first then back off to every other week.  The enamel on the teeth is important and you don’t want to damage it by using abrasives too much.  Upgrade with oregano oil

Detox / Food Poisoning

Charcoal is phenomenal at removing toxins from the body and has been used in drug and alcohol overdoses for years.  There are two different ways to go about using it for getting rid of toxins including heavy metals.  One is take 1-3 tsp per day a couple of days a week.  The other is to do the same thing but everyday for up to a month then stop for a couple of months and repeat.  I tend to do both.  I like to switch up my nutritional supplements using them a lot for a while then switching to another supplement then coming back maybe for a few days and so on.  Charcoal can be dehydrating and it is important to drink a lot of water when taking it.  Start with 1/2 tsp to see how your body reacts then work up to 3 tsp.  Some people experience constipation and using soluble fiber like Bamboo Leaf Tea or chia can help.  Chaga is also a great tea for helping with digestion and works best as a tea.  Again don’t panic the charcoal will flush through your body so your bowl movements will be black.  I have used charcoal for food poisoning many times and it works!  The best way is to take 1/2 tsp as quickly as possible.  Take another 1/2 tsp in 15 min if the nauseous feeling has not subsided.  You may also throw up which is the body’s way of getting the toxin out.  I have a sensitivity to MSG and if I eat something with it in it I can feel the effect within 10 min.  I will then take charcoal and within another 10 minutes all of the symptoms have subsided.

Sore Throat

Mix one tsp of charcoal and a pinch of sea salt in 1/3 cup of warm water.  Use this to gargle with.  Soar throats can be viral or bacterial and charcoal has been shown to help with both.  It alleviates pain and helps to reduce inflammation.  Upgrade with oregano or basil essential oil.

Bloating / Digestion

One of the best known uses of charcoal is with digestion.  It works wonders on everything from stomach aches to gas.  As a side effect it also alleviates bad breath which is usually stemming from the digestive track.  Mix 1 tsp with water or food and this will help rid your body of the toxins in your digestive track.  Upgrade with peppermint or ginger essential oil

Hangover Cure

Alcohol and fried food make for the worst combination in your system.  While avoiding overindulgence is best charcoal is here to help.  Take 1-2 tsp at night and then repeat again in the morning.  Lots and lots of water will be required to flush out the system because the alcohol, bad food, and charcoal are all dehydrating.  This really works!  I had plenty of customers at my Sunday market who would stop by in the morning to get their fix after a late Saturday night.

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Insect Bites

This is my kids favorite use.  We love to go barefoot and live in an area where there are lots of biting ants.  We keep a small container handy at all times with this mix:  1 tsp charcoal, a few drops of oil or coconut oil, and enough water to make a paste.  You will need to add water as the mix will dry out over time.  This can be applied with a finger or a q-tip.  If you put a band aid on it the charcoal won’t stain your clothes ect. plus it keeps the moisture in which activates the charcoal. This can also be used for snake and spider bites as well as bee stings and leaches.  For snake bites or many ant bites make a charcoal bath by mixing 1/4 cup of charcoal per gallon of water and immersing the area affected.  This will draw out the toxin.  Upgrade with lavender, tea tree, and/or clove essential oil.

Gout / Broken Bones / Sprains / Inflammation /Joints / Organs

Poultices have been used for thousands of years because they work.  Charcoal has been shown to work externally even on internal problems.  It can detox an area of the body and reduce inflammation.  The simplest way to make do this is mix the charcoal powder and water together so that it is a paste and not too watery or it won’t stick to the skin.  I like to add a bit of oil to keep the mixture moist.  Charcoal works when it is moist so this is important.  This basic recipe can be upgraded by adding in essential oils, clays, teas, and other healing remedies.   Coat the area of skin with the paste and then cover with wet paper towels or wet napkins.  Wrap the area in plastic wrap or towels to keep the moisture in.  This can be applied to the feet for detoxing as well as the face for acne.  Leave the mixture in place for 1-8 hours and repeat as necessary.  This will both reduce any pain as well as aid in healing the body.  Upgrade with frankincense, tea tree, clove, or eucalyptus essential oils.

Acne / Skin

Charcoal is great for ridding the face of acne or other blemishes.  Charcoal soaps are an easy face remedy for acne and I make mine with that intention.  To make a mask mix 1 tbs of charcoal with 1 tbs of aloe vera gel, add water if needed.  Apply to the face and leave on for 5-30 min.  Wash off with warm water and apply aloe directly to the skin for a moisturizer that won’t clog the pores.  To upgrade this add turmeric powder or clay to the mix, then a floral water or tea like Bamboo Leaf Tea or chamomile, and finally an essential oil like lavender and frankincense for normal skin, geranium, chamomile, and jojoba oil for dry skin, or tea tree or juniper berry for problem skin.  Be very careful applying essential oils to the skin they can burn especially on the face.  Tea tree and juniper berry are the harshest so start with one drop and test it before putting the mask on.  Charcoal can be used to make an organic eyeliner by making a simple paste of charcoal and water.  Just like the Egyptians used to do.


Air Freshener / Moisture Control

Charcoal is the best for getting rid of unwanted odors and moisture.  This can be used in the refrigerator or freezer, or in a closet.  It can be reactivated by placing the charcoal in the sun for a day.  After several times of doing this simply add it to your favorite plant or lawn for an upgraded fertilizer.  Plants love charcoal!  Upgrade with your favorite essential oil.



Mix 1 tsp of charcoal with water to make a paste an upgraded version of this includes aloe vera.  Another way is to apply the charcoal paste and then cut aloe so that the gel part is exposed on one side and the skin on the other.  Use this as a bandage over the charcoal paste and leave in place for as long as possible.  For large areas a cold water bath with charcoal can be made.  Lavender is the essential oil used most for burns.


Cuts / Infections / Ulcers / Boils

If the wound is wet or weeping the charcoal can be applied dry and let the moisture of the wound absorb it otherwise make a simple mixture using water.  Clean the area and redress 1-3 times a day.  Charcoal has been shown to reduce and often eliminate infection.  When we are in Costa Rica any scratch or open area of skin quickly gets infected.  We have learned to immediately apply a charcoal paste to all cuts ect. to avoid the inevitable infection and aid the body in healing quickly.  Upgrade with lavender or tea tree essential oil.


Hair Detox Rinse

I don’t recommend this for light colored hair.  Charcoal can be added to shampoo or conditioner for an upgraded hair detox.  Sprinkle a small amount of powder into the shampoo or conditioner and leave on for 1-10 minutes.   Rinse thoroughly.  Another version is add 1/4 tsp, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, and 4 cups of water, mix and apply to the hair.  Rinse.  Upgrade by using teas in place of the water.  Bamboo Leaf Tea is great for this application.  This works well for stripping chemical or other build ups on the hair such as those from well water.



Charcoal is a must when trying to get a handle on candida.  The charcoal will aid in both reducing the growth of yeasts in the gut and help to eliminate the toxins from die off of yeast.


Alternative Methods to Take/Use Charcoal

Charcoal is a powder and so has a tendency to get everywhere.  Place the powder in a cup and add a small amount of water slowly so the powder doesn’t blow out of the cup.  Try to get the mixture to the back of the throat so that the powder doesn’t stick in your teeth.  (It will come out with brushing and rinsing or just over time.)

Mix the charcoal in a pudding like substance such as a chia pudding, yogurt, applesauce, or smoothie.  Charcoal can be added to baked goods or foods as long as you are ok with them turning black.  Great for a Halloween detox.  

Poultices are really effective especially a bit warm.  Mix charcoal 1 to 1 with flax see meal or chia add 1/4 cup of warm water and let gel and apply to area.  Bread, oatmeal, four, corn meal can all be substituted as a binder for the poultice.  Upgrade with aloe gel.

Bathing in charcoal is a great way to detox the body or just a problem area.  Mix 1-2 cups in a warm bath and soak for as long as possible.  The clean up is worth the results!  Upgrade with your favorite essential oil.

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