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

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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