A Late Bracken Harvest

What to do if you’re running low on animal bedding? Go out and harvest more!

The bracken on our farm needs controlling, but it is also an incredibly useful resource.

Amongst other things, we use it for cattle bedding. When the autumn harvest began to run out, Phil and I took a late cut from a scrubby corner.

Despite a winter of rain and wind, there is still plenty of useful material left to gather.

And the scythe is the ideal tool to cut this collapsed mess!

How to Cut Bracken with a Scythe, Feb 2020

Bracken – a dominant plant

Bracken is well known for being an invasive plant that, over time, dominates surrounding vegetation.

One of the strategies that it uses to achieve dominance is self mulching. Over winter the fronds collapse and cover the ground. But the plant is remarkably persistent and only slowly breaks down. This mulching effect kills out any competing plants, so strengthening the bracken stand.

It also means that there is still bracken available to harvest, even late in the winter. The video above shows how we go about cutting what appears to be a collapsed and tangled mess!

Breaking Bracken’s Hold

We have found that cutting and removing the bracken annually helps break it’s dominance. Compare the two photos below – one is from the area we just cut, the other from another field where we cut and remove the bracken every autumn.

Bracken stand on Cae Hir in Feb.

This bracken stand is not cut annually. There is very little other vegetation surviving under the thick bracken mulch.

Bracken stand on Cae Tawel in Feb.

Removing the bracken annually allows grass and other plants to establish amongst the bracken. Over time we have found that this weakens the stand. It is less dense, less vigorous and does not encroach onto new areas.

Annual cutting and removing has not eliminated the bracken altogether, but then we don’t want to do that. Bracken is a useful resource for us.

For more information on how we cut, manage and use bracken, see this post.