Articles: Mowing Cattails with a Scythe
Several people who have ponds overgrown with cattails have written us asking if it's possible to mow the cattails with a scythe. The answer is yes, cattails are easily mown with a scythe. This environmentally sound method of control is recommended by the US Dept. of Agriculture.
Cattail stalks should be cut below the water level so the water enters the stalks speeding decomposition. Pulling uncut stalks out of the bottom leaves pieces of root behind that continue to grow and proliferate making your job more difficult next season.
To mow cattails run the blade under the water at a convenient level. Move the blade in an arc just as you would when mowing grass. The water soaked, succulent stalks slice easily and the water does not offer much resistance to the scythe. A short blade is less cumbersome to maneuver through the water. An 18"/45cm blade works very well and we've used blades up to 24"/60cm; either grass, ditch or bush blade.
Cattail stalks are so soft that you can reach far out with the scythe and pull it straight back towards you, that way getting stalks that are in water deeper than the tops of your boots.
Safety is paramount here, truly. Wear boots, or go barefoot as you like, but be aware that wet or muddy slopes are slippery regardless. Footwear must have a tread that provides a good grip. A sharp, pointed scythe and slippery slopes are a very dangerous combination. Use great caution. We don't want you "Falling on your sword", so to speak.
What if you would like a less expensive way of cutting cattails than purchasing a scythe? If you don't have other uses for a scythe we have found that a sickle attached to a pole of convenient length does an excellent job of clearing cattails and other aquatic vegetation. See the photos. In our application the sickle is held on with duct tape. A jury rig to be sure but fine for our trial. A more secure attachment is to drill three holes through the sickle handle and the pole then use 3/16" stove bolts to hold the two together. If you need to vary the length of the pole using the painter extendable poles work fine. These can be found in most hardware stores. They come in various short lengths and can be attached one to another to make the pole as long as needed. The sections are easily detached from each other to shorten length.