The first time I ever saw bamboo was in my parents' vegetable garden.
As a small child – that’s a very long time ago – I fondly remember being drawn to the bundles of exotic bamboo poles.
To my sister and I, they were swords, fishing rods, the frame for a tepee, and anything else our little imaginations dreamed up. To my parents, these simple bamboo sticks were the most practical and affordable gardening accessory.
Of course, the materials and products we use in our gardens have evolved a lot since then meaning we have more choices. But, in spite of the alternatives out there, the humble bamboo stake is still a firm favorite of gardeners everywhere. Let’s take a look at why that is…
What Are Bamboo Stakes?
Bamboo stakes start life as lengths of bamboo cane cut from the bamboo plant.
Foliage stripped, the nodes in the center of each cane are hollowed out. The bamboo poles are then dried for around 6 months. At the end of the drying process, cracked canes are discarded. To help them resist moisture, the remaining canes receive a fine coat of linseed oil. They’re now ready for use as garden stakes.
Available in a variety of lengths, bamboo stakes are measured in feet with 4 ft, 5 ft, 6 ft, and 8 ft being the most common.
The more mature the bamboo plant, the wider the cane. Shorter lengths, cut from younger plants, start from around 6 mm thick for light garden use. Longer canes, or ‘heavy-duty stakes’, often measure up to a super-sturdy 16 mm thick.
Smaller green bamboo sticks are available in shorter lengths for light projects.
U-shaped bamboo hoops are made by heating bamboo and gently bending it into shape before drying. These are available in 3 ft and 5 ft heights.
What Are Bamboo Stakes Used For?
Bamboo stakes can be used everywhere in the garden. Single stakes are great for supporting or separating individual plants. And with a little imagination and a ball of garden twine, there’s a multitude of simple structures you can build to help your plants thrive.
Stop Your Toms from Tumbling
Most standard tomatoes, and even some dwarf varieties, seem to grow way beyond their ability to stand up by themselves. Secured to a single 4 ft or 5 ft bamboo stake with some garden twine, tomato plants will happily grow to their full potential. And they won’t blow over in the wind.
Use a single stake for smaller fruits such as cherry tomatoes and Gardener’s Delight. For large varieties such as beef tomatoes, or larger plum tomato varieties, use a couple of stakes as support. Or put together a simple homemade trellis.
Support Your Saplings
Use bamboo stakes to support saplings and new trees, especially in windy areas. Single heavy-duty bamboo poles make effective tree stakes. And for more support, consider tying two stakes together, or making a simple frame around the tree.
Fruit canes, such as raspberries and blackcurrants, benefit from supporting stakes as they grow taller too.
Help Those Climbers
My first garden memories were of my dad making bamboo stick wigwams as a perfect support for his runner beans.
There’s one of these in my garden right now. When the seedlings first appear above ground it seems impossible that the tiny plants will ever climb to the heady heights of the wigwam above. But sure enough, each day, they climb a little higher.
Soon I won’t be able to see my sturdy bamboo wigwam at all – the whole thing will be covered in leaves. Then flowers. And then lots and lots of yummy beans.
Vine varieties of cucumbers and peas, as well as beans and sweetpeas, love to climb. Help them on their journey skyward by making simple vertical frames or wigwams.
For my peas, I’ve set a horizontal row of 4 ft bamboo poles. I’ve tied them all together using a criss-cross of garden twine. Starting low to the ground, I left some twine trailing. That way it’s easy for seedlings to get their first hand-hold on the frame.
Grow Your Growing Space
Of course, any kind of vertical gardening increases your growing space too. So if you have a small yard or garden, bamboo stakes will be your best friend.
This year I’ve planted my cucumbers in small square planters. I’ve placed a bamboo stake in each of the back corners of the planters. And I’ve attached a bamboo trellis between the stakes with twine. The cucumber’s spiraling tendrils will hang onto the trellis and the fruits will be supported off the ground. It keeps them away from slugs too.
Bamboo Stakes Pros
Here are some of the many reasons I LOVE bamboo stakes:
- They fit in with the style of most gardens
- They’re strong yet lightweight
- They’re flexible and easy to work with
- They’re so versatile and affordable
- You can use them many times over.
- Take them out of the ground, give them a quick clean, and store them in a dry place over winter. They can last up to 5 years. Then even if the end that’s been in the dirt starts to decompose, just cut it off and use the rest of the cane for a smaller job.
- Bamboo is a natural product
- It’s 100% sustainable and biodegradable
- And bamboo needs less water and takes less time to grow than a tree
Bamboo Stakes Cons
I’m a bamboo stake fan – you may have noticed – but what’s the downside of using bamboo stakes?
- As bamboo is a natural product, stakes will need to be replaced, eventually (this depends on how well you look after them).
- Beware of the occasional sharp off-shoot still attached to the cane. Check each cane carefully before allowing little fingers to play with them.
Alternatives to Bamboo Stakes
Let’s look at some other materials you might consider:
Tree Wood and Wood Composite Stakes
Wood and wood composites are popular materials for garden stakes. Wood stakes also look attractive and natural in a garden setting.
Whilst they’re mostly sustainable, thin lengths used as stakes don’t last as well as bamboo because of their cut edges. Wooden stakes often crack and lose strength after one or two growing seasons. Longer lengths are also prone to bowing which can make them difficult to use for some construction projects.
Wooden stakes work well for larger projects such as fencing, tree stakes, and tree guards. But they’ll still need guarding against moisture and they’ll need replacing.
Metal stakes can be easy to install and will often last for several seasons.
But metal doesn’t always contribute to the look and feel of your garden, unless you’re after an industrial look that is.
The cost of buying good quality metal stakes to use in the garden is often higher than that of other materials too. Cheaper products may not last as long. They’re often covered in low-quality paints that crack and flake after only one season.
Plastic has one advantage over all the other products I’ve mentioned, and that’s the time it lasts. But the color often fades in sunlight and can quickly start to look worn. AND we’re all aware of the growing plastic waste problem.
If you have good-quality plastic stakes in your garden already, it makes sense to continue using them. But make sure to dispose of them responsibly when they crack or break. If you’re buying new garden stakes, why not invest in a more sustainable alternative?
How to Use Bamboo Stakes
Here’s a quick video packed with helpful hints on how to use bamboo stakes as plant supports and separators in your garden from Scott at New Garden Road:
Best Bamboo Stakes
Best for Growing Runner Beans
These plants grow tall and get heavy. Using six or more 8 ft bamboo stakes tied in a wigwam shape is a perfect way to support multiple plants.
Here’s a quick video that demonstrates an easy way to make a bamboo wigwam:
We found some nice 8 ft stakes at Cherry Lane Garden Centers.
Best for Tomatoes
4 ft or 5 ft tall stakes are great for supporting all varieties of tomatoes. Simply secure each plant loosely to an individual stake with gardeners' twine. Check and re-attach regularly as the plant grows up the stake.
We found these Backyard X-Scapes stakes at Walmart.
Best for Training Potted Plants
These strong 2 ft bamboo hoops are perfect for training plants in pots or borders. They look great too!
Check out these U trellis hoop stakes at Home Depot.
Best for Making a Natural Tunnel
These bamboo hoops come in a pack of six – perfect for making a natural bamboo tunnel to protect seedlings and tender plants.
See these natural bamboo tunnel hoops at Waitrose.
Best for House Plants
Green plant stakes blend in with plants in your house. They’re thin enough to use in small pots. Use them to support house plants, delicate orchids, younger crops, and floral arrangements.
Take a look at these green bamboo stakes at OrchidSupply.com.
What to Consider When Buying Bamboo Stakes
Before you buy your new bamboo stakes, think about:
- Which plants do you need them for and how big they are likely to grow? This determines the length of stake you need.
- How strong do you need your bamboo stakes to be? Will they be supporting a lot of weight? This determines the thickness of the cane you need.
- How many plants do you want to grow?
- How many plants can each cane support?
- Would a structure such as a hoop or a trellis be useful?
When deciding what size stakes you need, don’t forget to allow for enough length under the soil to support the plant.
When buying lengths of bamboo, consider the cost of each bundle too. For example, it may be cheaper to buy 5 x 8 ft poles and cut them in half than to buy 10 x 4 ft poles.