Small-scale Tillage Equipment

Whether you’re looking to work the soil in a large garden or several acres of farmland, this primer on small-scale tillage equipment will help you get your ground ready for planting.

| July/August 2018

  • tillage tools
    Plows are usually the first implement used to break up land that has previously been sown with a cover crop or land that is fallow.
    Photo by Getty Images/vitranc
  • disc harrow
    A disc harrow being used for primary tillage.
    Photo courtesy John Deere/Frontier
  • moldboard plow
    Moldboard plows work especially well to break new ground or ground that hasn’t been worked for a long period of time.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/onepony
  • rotary tiller
    A tractor-mounted rotary tiller’s PTO-powered tines can make quick work of large dirt chunks, turning them into finer, workable soil.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/FRANK
  • cultivator
    Useful for weeding between rows and shallow tilling, a cultivator is a handy tool to keep around.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/ftfoxfoto
  • cultivator
    Cultivators are most commonly used for shallow soil penetration to pulverize and loosen the soil in preparation for planting.
    Photo courtesy John Deere/Frontier
  • rotary tiller
    Think of the rotary tiller as the big brother to your garden tiller, using your tractor’s PTO to run the tines.
    Photo by Getty Images/Maksym Topchyi

  • tillage tools
  • disc harrow
  • moldboard plow
  • rotary tiller
  • cultivator
  • cultivator
  • rotary tiller

When my wife and I purchased our rural acreage, one of the main considerations we discussed was having the ability to turn some of the open areas of land into small fields to plant either a vineyard or vegetables. As a secondary consideration, I also wanted to plant food plots for wildlife.

There had previously been a 7-acre cornfield on the property and a small hayfield located further back in an open area of the woods. Both areas had become overgrown with weeds and tall grass over the years, and the sod appeared very thick. I knew I had some significant work ahead of me to get the fields back to planting condition, and I was hoping to plant the fields that first year. Because I was new to the process of getting fallowed land back into production, I contacted our local extension service for advice.

An extension agent suggested that if I wanted to plant that year, I should spray herbicide to kill the noxious weeds before tilling. After spraying the fields and waiting to ensure the herbicide had a chance to work, I was left with tackling the job of breaking up the soil in preparation for planting. I had a two-bottom plow that was matched with my small tractor, but I had no idea how to proceed from that point. I needed to learn the process of tillage, as well as acquire some additional equipment.

Whether you're looking to work the ground in a large garden or several acres of farmland, here is a basic primer on tillage and the equipment used with small- to medium-sized tractors.



Defining tillage

The word "tillage" can mean different things to different people based on their personal needs. Tillage can be as simple as grabbing a shovel and a rake to dig, break up, and then smooth over the soil for a small garden plot. You may also incorporate a small rototiller to further amend the soil in preparation for planting. Tillage can also mean the use of tractors and implements to develop and maintain either small or large tracts of land.

In its essence, tillage can be defined as either primary or secondary: Primary tillage usually involves breaking up the soil to a defined depth, and secondary tillage is the process of further refining the soil to make it acceptable for planting.






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