Bamboo is a grass that, like other members of its family, is fast growing--making it an environmentally friendly and sustainable material. In addition, its peculiar growth habit creates hollow, sealed chambers (called culms) along the shoot, which reinforce and give strength to the stem. This makes bamboo both lightweight and strong--the perfect combination for garden support structures.
Lash short pieces of small diameter bamboo to long heavy bamboo poles to make two "ladders." Kathy LaLiberte, writing in "The Innovative Gardener," suggests using natural jute twine.
Make a third, shorter ladder the same way. Assemble the whole thing into a flat-topped arbor by fastening the short ladder section across the tops of the two upright long ladder sections. (It will look like an inverted letter "U.") Hold the whole thing firmly in place by sliding the hollow bamboo legs over scrap pieces of metal pipe hammered in the ground. Vines planted at the base on either side will grow up and over using the ladder rungs as support.
You can build a sturdy trellis for climbing plants by lashing 1-inch bamboo poles together in a grid pattern. Lay all the vertical poles on a flat open space on the ground, then top with more poles horizontally placed, and tie them together at each junction with heavy twine. (Alternatively, you can drill holes and bolt them together.) Fasten the finished grid between large bamboo posts planted firmly in the ground of the garden bed. (So that the vines will have support, be sure to place the bottom of the trellis section no more than 6 inches from the soil surface.)
Drill holes all the way through three long bamboo poles a few inches from the end; lash them together with heavy cord. Spread out the legs over the bed where you intend to plant peas, cucumbers, or other vines. Lash smaller pieces of bamboo crosswise between legs to provide climbing rungs.
Plant Stakes and Row Markers
Pound individual bamboo poles into the ground to support tall, single-stemmed plants like sunflowers. Tie the stems near the bottom of the pole to start, and add ties as the plant grows. Tie strings between two stakes driven into the ground to mark rows before seedlings emerge, or use the same idea to provide light support for weak-stemmed, smaller plants.
Windbreaks and Screens
Drill holes 6 inches from the tops and bottoms, and again at centers, of several bamboo poles. Lay all the poles on the ground and run wire or nylon cord through the holes to fasten them together into a screen. Stand the screen upright and fasten between sturdy posts set in the ground to create windbreaks or privacy screens in your garden as needed. Roll and store the screen at season's end.