Should I rake my fern patch before they start to grow?


I am wondering if I should try to gently rake out my fern patch before the ferns start to grow. Some cites suggest only cutting back the spent seed pods – never rake. It is a rather large patch. Perhaps I should just leave things alone and let the spent material fertilize the area around the ferns. 


Jonathan Foster, Home Horticulture Outreach Professional

I wasn’t able to find any strong extension or university sources for this, which bumps me down to the next categories we consult, which are reputable professional gardens and then gardening magazines. I’ll share what I did turn up.

The Brooklyn Botanical Garden is decidedly anti-rake in the fern bed–“Rakes, hoes and feet do not belong in the fern garden. Surface roots, tightly coiled croziers and developing fiddleheads are too easily damaged. Leave a place to walk, and remove by hand winter-burned evergreen fronds and any other garden debris before the fiddleheads begin to unfurl in spring.”

Fine Gardening Magazine agrees with this advice –“Raking is not advised because it may damage crowns and growing tips.”

It sounds like your fern beds may be larger than my own, so this advice might not be what you were hoping for. But I will add that I always hand tidy mine in the spring to remove the largest debris and leave the rest there with the mulch.

Best of luck, and happy gardening.