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Volume 16, Issue 41 - October 9 - October 15, 2008
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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Frank Gouin

Beat Back Bamboo and Kudzu

There’s only one way to root out these invasives, and the striking hour is near

Everybody wants to know how to get rid of these two pests. Since this article first appeared in Bay Weekly two years ago, I have received e-mails from all over the country including Canada. My research has since been published in The Wall Street Journal.

Both bamboo and kudzu are easy to control — providing you apply the proper material at the right amount and at the proper time of year. Both of these species grow so rapidly during spring and summer that they are impossible to kill with herbicides until their rate of growth slows. As with any chemical weed killer on perennial plants, the chemical must be carried to the roots. For both of these species, this happens only in late fall.

In the case of bamboo and kudzu the best time to apply an herbicide is late October thru early November. By then, top growth has ceased and all of the soluble foods produced by the leaves are being translocated to the roots.

For controlling bamboo, especially if it is a tall-growing species, killing begins in the spring. Cut the plant to the ground in the spring; then allow it to grow undisturbed all summer so that there is ample foliage to be sprayed.

If the bamboo is a short-growing species, you do not need to cut it back in the spring.

For controlling both bamboo and kudzu, spray the foliage thoroughly with Roundup on a bright, sunny day. Repeat the treatment in 10 to 14 days. Apply enough only to wet the foliage, as drenching the plants is a waste. Wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves, and follow the application directions closely.

Do not disturb the plants all winter. In the spring, you may get regrowth if you have missed a few plants, in which case repeat the procedure again next fall.

I have found no other means of controlling these weeds. Allow Kudzu to continue without control, and it will become impossible to control in the future.

One of those many letters

Q My wife and I have an ongoing dispute. After reading several of your columns, my impression is that Roundup is a fairly safe weed killer. My wife says no way and found that it is highly toxic — to people, pets, fish, etc.

We are going to attempt to eradicate kudzu from the bank behind our house, which leads right down to Saltworks Creek. So once and for all, do you recommend using Roundup at the base of the roots? If you know of a more environmentally friendly, natural way to keep the kudzu from returning, please publish it. 

–Mike Paredes, Annapolis

A I have conducted testing with many herbicides, starting with Agent Orange in the 1950s. Phenoxy compounds of that sort remain active when they enter the soil. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, becomes inactive in contact with the soil.

Roundup should not be used near open water or near streams. However, when sprayed on non-food crops as directed, it is a very safe herbicide. When applied to kudzu this time of year, there is little chance of residual problems.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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