When due to wind and frost the dry canes have lost all their leaves, the reed is ready to be harvested. Frost is indeed a big help for the harvest: Once the damp soil or the water are frozen, the reed areas are easily accessible on foot or with the harvester.
In the past the reed was harvested using sickles or scythes, a method that can still be found today. A skilled reed cutter can harvest and tie between 15 and 20 bundles per hour.
Nowadays, however, harvesting machines are the common choice. The mowing machine allows to cut the reed in rows and can be operated by just two people. In larger marshland or lake areas also Saiga harvesters with balloon tyres are being employed to reap the reed stalks. These amphibious vehicles have the advantage of preserving the soil and the subterranean part of the reed – the rhizome – by reducing the pressure applied on them.
After cutting the reed, the stalks are gathered into bundles of 1.2 m length. Shaking and combing them out cleans them from the residues of leaves and plants as well as from too short stalks. By butting the bundles on the ground the stalks become flush with each other, so that they can be tied together to bundles of 60 cm diameter with help of a band and an iron ring. Then the reed bundles are left outdoors, piled up in pyramids. This form allows the rain to run off and helps the wind to dry the reed and to carry away the remaining leaves.
When the harvest is over, the individual reed bundles are packed to packages of 50 or 100 and made ready for transport.