Building A Bamboo Fence
Master gardener Paul James shares step-by-step instructions for building a bamboo fence.
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Master gardener Paul James defines a dull garden space with a customized bamboo fence (figure A).
"Although I'm relatively pleased with the way my gardens look, I'm always thinking of ways to improve certain areas, especially those that are a tad troublesome for such reasons as bad soil, poor drainage, way too much sun," says James.
One such problem space is this long, narrow planting strip at the end of his driveway, adjacent to the house (figure B). The awkward dimensions of the space, which is 24' long and only 1' or so wide, makes it tough to grow plants of any real size. Additionally, the area doesn't get much sun, which also limits the plant possibilities. "I've tried various planting schemes in the past, but quite frankly, I've never been all that happy with the results," says James.
At the moment, there are a few little plants that James picked up on sale last fall and a bit of sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) growing in the bed. "I'll be the first to admit that this bed is just plain ugly (figure C)."
Another problem with this garden bed is that it blends in with the other bed behind it and as a result lacks definition. To create a distinction between the two beds, James decides on a bamboo fence. "Bamboo is my favorite building material, and I think it will complement a number of plants growing nearby, more than half of which are of Asian origin."
Materials and Tools:
five bamboo sections for the posts, 3" to 4" in diameter
19 sections of bamboo for the cross boards and supports, 1" in diameter
waxed twine for joining bamboo
five 24"-long sections of rebar
Drill a pilot hole all the way through the post at each marked location (figure E). Although bamboo fences are traditionally joined using some type of rope or twine, they're occasionally joined using nails, screws, or the technique used in this project, which is to drill holes in the posts and slide the crossbars into the holes.
Bore out the holes using a keyhole saw attached to a drill (figure F). They come in very handy for projects like this, and they come in several different diameter saw blades. Place the bit in the pilot hole (figure G), which is drilled to keep the bamboo from splitting, and slowly increase the power (figure H). Be sure that you drill all the way through the post, and continue to drill until all five posts are finished (figure I).
Secure the posts in or rather on the ground by hammering 24" lengths of rebar into the ground (figure J). Although bamboo is relatively rot resistant, it doesn't last all that long when in contact with the ground, so you don't want to bury or cement them in the ground the way you would install a cedar post.
Place each post over the rebar (figure K) pushing the post firmly so that the rebar goes through the diaphragm of the bamboo.
The diaphragm is this joint (figure L), which, unlike most of the hollow interior of bamboo, is solid.
For those that are tough to install, use a wood rasp to enlarge the diameter of the post hole (figure N).
To stabilize the fence so that it doesn't fall down in high winds, use a specially designed bamboo saw to cut the ends off of four 1"-diameter poles at roughly a 45-degree angle (figure P).
Use a waxed twine made especially for bamboo to secure the supports in place (figure R). For bamboo purists there are several centuries-old knots for tying bamboo, and if you are so inclined and wish to stick to tradition, you can find them in books and online.
However, James uses a slightly modified version of a classic knot that creates an x-shape on the visible portion of the pole (figure S).
Once your fence is complete, James suggests adding smaller diameter bamboo poles to create a different look such as this (figure U).
Dress up the bed instantly by adding some empty pots or a container plant--like this bonsai juniper (figure V). As temperatures change, James plans on planting an undulating line of evergreens with varying heights to mimic the shifting heights of a mountain range viewed from a distance.
You can purchase bamboo from various sources online, through catalogs or you can grow your own. And remember that bamboo doesn't necessarily reference an Asian design style; it grows throughout the tropics as well.
Steve Watson and the Don't Sweat It crew do some fence and gate mending as part of a high-speed home makeover.