The Power of Bamboo (video)

Geoff Lawton inside a protective wall of bamboo

Bamboo. A lot of people love it. A lot of people hate it. Where are you on the bamboo bandwagon? Are you a lover or a fighter?

Well, I remember my father making me cut out a line of running black bamboo with a blunt spade which had taken off down our suburban street and was on its way to engulfing our neighbour’s backyard when I was a young lad of fifteen. The plant had raced down the footpath and was on its way to cutting through our neighbor’s driveway, heading off on a carefree adventure. My job was to cut out the rhizomes and stop it in its tracks. For a young lad without muscles, this was a form of mental torture and child exploitation, working in summer in the hard clay pan soil. The rhizomes were like heavy steel. I never wanted to see bamboo in any incarnation again let alone cut through it again. That was my resolve.

Then I met Geoff Lawton who just loves the stuff, in all its many variations. He had a cunning plan to use this stuff creatively.

That’s what this video is all about.

Trailer only – watch the full video here!

“There will probably be a howl of protest from some people when they see what you’ve done here.” I warned Geoff when filming this Permaculture strategy on camera. Should we share it with his students or keep it quiet? Will you tell the authorities who will see you as a dangerous subversive type, diverting the course of a river if you do this on your own land without state permission?

Geoff had decided to use bamboo as a living hedge on his farm. The idea was to trap sediment captured from land upstream during flood events and have all that lovely loamy soil, sand and mulch deposited straight by Nature onto his farm – for free.

No backbreaking work. No trucking in soil. No labor involved. Just careful design. After all, a flash flood is a natural event that occurs regularly and if your farm is adjacent to a natural stream, why not grab some of that lovely stuff and have it deposited exactly where you want it to go? Where’s the harm in it?

That’s clever design.

After all, it was all heading downstream and out to sea anyway. Should a clever permaculture designer take advantage of Nature’s bounty and divert some of that goodness their way – or should they just sit powerlessly on their hands and wave it all goodbye. Lost forever.

Thorny question. What would you do?

By now you know that Geoff is not that sort of guy. Rebuilding trashed environments around the world is what he has done for many years. Whilst the authorities usually sit on their hands and then wave them about in panic, Geoff keeps his eyes on the prize.

So back to the video.

If you are a regular permaculture type of person, I know you’ll love bamboo and want to see all the ways that Geoff Lawton uses this amazing plant on his farm. It’s not grown by accident to be ornamental. It has to earn its keep. If it’s not useful – what’s it doing there? Log onto and watch the full length video.

We shot a lot more on bamboo than is featured here. If you want more, leave a comment below. There may even be room for a Part Two video on this subject.