We held our last scythe course of the year on 30th August. As well as cutting grass we cut a large patch of bracken that grows in the Quiet field.
The participants got a lot of satisfaction from cutting the bracken. The stems are stiff and widely spaced and so cut easily, even if the cut material can be rather heavy and tangly to carry to the end of the stroke. The work progresses quickly and the effect of cutting down bracken that is up to 5 foot tall is very dramatic, giving all a palpable sense of achievement.
The bracken harvest is an annual event for us and the cut bracken is put to good use. We find it makes an excellent mulch in the garden. It lasts well over the winter, protecting the soil and suppressing weeds. By the spring it has begun breaking down to produce a dark crumbly layer of organic matter. Any remaining stalks and mulch can be moved aside or planted through.
Currently, some of the bracken is being used to mulch the narrow paths between the raised beds. This keeps down weeds and prevents them from spreading into the beds. It also forms part of our slug control strategy. We find that slug damage is noticeably worse on areas adjoining overgrown vegetation which offers shelter for the slugs. Damage can often be prevented or halted by mowing, mulching or weeding the offending areas.
Phil will also begin bracken mulching under the overwintering Brassicas as they become ready. Most of the Brassica beds are under planted with lettuces. The outer leaves of the lettuces are cropped on a weekly basis for salad bags until they either become shaded out by the expanding Brassicas or reach the end of their productive lives and begin to bolt. At this point the lettuces will be cleared and a bracken mulch will be tucked around the Brassica plants, ready for the winter.
Some of the bracken will be piled up and kept dry to use for animal bedding. It was traditionally used in many areas and, being highly absorbent, is supposed to be excellent for the job. It will be interesting to give it a go as it is always our aim to use resources from the farm where possible.
Just for fun, here are a few photos from our recent trip to Guernsey. Inspired by a workshop the children and I did with Marc Treanor back home in Wales earlier in the year, the whole family decided to have a go at making a sand circle on Petit Bot beach at low tide.
The pattern was marked out with a giant “compass” made from a rope and two sticks. The sand was then raked in some areas to heighten the contrast and emphasis the pattern using a couple of garden rakes. Can’t put down the hand tools even on holiday 🙂