View Full Version : Need rototiller advice

Bob Cleek
04-02-2005, 01:35 PM
Okay, maybe this post will get lost among all the rants and raves in the bilge, but I didn't have the gronicles to put a non-boat post in Resources/Product Search.

I need to deal with some tilling here on the farm. We just moved here and have a couple of acres of real good dirt, sandy loam. (Also a 1500 square foot former cabinet making shop, which is why I got the place!) I'm thinking that I need to do a bunch of rototilling to get the veggie garden in. I also have a lot of pasture to mow. I've got a Husky tractor, but it is really nothing but a riding mower with no PTO. Good for what it is, but that's it.

So I go looking for a rototiller and I come across the BCS walk behind tractors. Their 722 model looks about right and takes a bunch of accessories besides the tiller. It will power a chipper and a variety of brush cutters and plows. A pricey item at around $2,500 with the tiller attachment, but from what I've seen, a quality piece of equipment.

So, anybody got any thoughts on this subject. I'm absorbing all the data I can find on the topic. Anybody got one? Anybody have a better option?

Thanks for your advice!

04-02-2005, 01:42 PM
Almost any cheapo tiller will do for a modestly sized veggie patch. How big is the veggie garden and how much will you ever use all those nice accessories?

Gary E
04-02-2005, 01:45 PM
What you did not say is how much you expect to use it and how many acres you will till. If your intent is a reasonable size garden, rental is the eazy solution. On the other hand, if your gona be a farmer, then buy what does the job.

We used to have a reasonable size garden, aprox 60 ft x 100 ft, that was a 1/2 day job with a rental, the other 1/2 day was used by the fellow across the street.

04-02-2005, 02:14 PM
Troy-bilt is (was?) damned good stuff! I've aspired to owning one for years. However, since the parent compnay went bankrupt in 2001 and the Troy-bilt name was taken over, I wonder if the quality and service are the same...


Chris Coose
04-02-2005, 02:55 PM
Used Troy Builts are best.
They are easy to take care of and most owners do a good job of it.
Buy replacement tynes while you are at the shop.

Bob Cleek
04-02-2005, 03:57 PM
I expect to set up a garden of maybe 30 by 50 feet for openers. Over time, though, I figure I'll be putting in some fruit trees and such. (Gotta put in a bunch of 'chokes, too!... choke country here.) The responses so far echo my concern... is it really overkill? I'm not going to use it for more than tilling and perhaps get the brush cutter attachment. Chipper, maybe. I'd guess I'd be using it several times a year, unless I have to till lightly between rows for maintenance purposes. I've also looked at the Husqvarna rototiller, which at $700 is a lot less dear. It doesn't do anything but till, though. I've never really been much of a fan of renting any equipment that I'm going to be using over a period of time. I figure that the rental costs pay for one in a few years. (I have been known to rent chainsaws to cut up lead keels, though... when I knew I'd be abusing it plenty! LOL) It won't be a commercial application, that's for sure!

BTW, my research on Troybilts, which is where I started, and what I had some hands-on experience with, revealed that they went under and were bought out. Still using the tradename, but they aren't the same animal at all. People with the old ones seem to have some trouble finding parts.

Sam F
04-02-2005, 04:27 PM
Originally posted by Bob Cleek:

People with the old ones seem to have some trouble finding parts.Very sorry to hear that! I have a 1979 Horse and all I've ever done to it was buy tines and a couple of tine shaft seals. The thing still has the original sparkplug. It started the other day, after sitting all winter, with just 3 pulls on the starter rope.
It's an awesome piece of equipment.

04-02-2005, 04:30 PM
My two bobs worth is to rent for a patch that size Bob,depending of course on the quality of the gear your hire shop has.I used to grow vegs on a small commercial basis and used a couple of Howard hoes but since that has finished I find it easier to rent ...at least it starts every tiime and I don't have to fix it !

As an aside I really don't like the modern hoes/tillers with high speed blades.I reckon you can do a lot of damage to your soil if you use them more than very occasionally.My old Howard Jnr was great ,very slow tines and weighed a ton.What do you think about that Donn ...as our resident gardener?

[ 04-02-2005, 05:31 PM: Message edited by: PeterSibley ]

Andrew Craig-Bennett
04-02-2005, 04:50 PM
Bob, I believe you may find that a spade, a fork and a hoe will do the job and keep you healthy, and that they will not take much more time than faffing about with an infernal combustion gadget, for the area you are looking at.

04-02-2005, 04:54 PM
Spoken like an Englishman ! :D

04-02-2005, 05:03 PM
Donn, I've seen nice sandy loam converted to something not much better than sand by overuse of the dreaded high speed tiller.The other point from my experience is that the slower tine speed produces a coarser tilth & doesn't germinate as many small weeds.I think its better in a vegetable garden where many of the seeds are large.

Your last bit of advice is best,use a fork.Thats all I use these days.

04-02-2005, 05:16 PM
Agreed smile.gif

04-02-2005, 06:04 PM
Hi my Cleek
I have grown up in a gardening faily many of whome worked for nurserys.
for the origional break in my dad used a two wheel walk behind tractor with a single bottom plow.
later on he used a 4 horse front tine tiller anually in the spring when it broke down after many years he bought a front tine MTD 4 horse used it once and and gave the MTD to me and got the repaired origional back because it was so much easyer to use because it was more solid and heavyer. I bought a 5 horce rear time sears I wish I had got the 9 horse but they don't sell those any more.

I got a multispeed front tine tiller and have put a 10 horse tecumsa and latter after I wore that out a 8 horse brigs and straten I love the very heavy tillers because it digs in deep and will run its self acrost a garden plot ( just got to watch that it doesn't jump out of its hole and go crusing off to get into trouble. the main problem is the axel for the transport wheels had bent

front tines are best for tearing up weeds because it cuts the vegitation aginst the ground. they also cut deper in my experience

the rear tine cut from below and doesn't destroy the plants an much as they turn it over and bury them they fluff the ground better than the front tine.

I would get a 6 or 8 horse rear tine were I you
I tend not to weed after the garden is growning and take what I get.

what kind of shape are you in? rear tine tillers are easyer but I fing meself with one hand on the engine and one on the handle to give traction to the driving tires

one thing I don't like is the tillers I have seen till two areas devided by the center area where the gear case comes down I would like an uninterupted sets of tines so part of the till path is not missed I think honda once built a tiller like this with chain drive on the outside and a sorta middle tine placement with the transport wheel kicking up out of the way so that durring use only the tines touch the ground.

I used a hydrolic driven BCS from a rental place and was not impressed. it was too heavy to manover and I think it had water in the hydrolic fluid
good luck
ps the reaso the 10 horse tecumsa wore out so quickly was their was no dust shield and every 45 minutes I had to clean out the air cleaner filter. when I put the briggs on I added a platform that protects the engine fron the dirt thrown up by the tines wish I had made it bigger to protect the opperator. ps the exazust on the briggs point staight back so I had to put a sheild on it to devert it side ways. the tecumsah exazust pointed straight forward as dows the origional briggs on the sears rear tine.

04-02-2005, 06:08 PM
For what you're talking about, I think Andrew is right. Once you have it turned over once, so long as you feed the soil regularly, hand tools should work fine. You may want to consider a broad fork for deep tilling once the soil is good and loosened up. Otherwise, my favorite tools at that scale are my hoe, shovel, and rake.

My neighbor Eliot Coleman is working on turning a recently wooded area into market garden. We use the same compost salesman, who tells me that Eliot bought about 140 yards of well-composted cow manure last fall. (There's nothing like being able to subsidize your farming with your book, television, and lecture circuit income.) And before that increase, he was working on 1 1/2 acres of growing area, so I can't imagine that he's spreading this stuff out that much. I suspect that Eliot is just leveling the ground a little, pulling the big stumps, and paving it with compost. No further tillage necessary. Our compost man sells for $37,50/yd plus gas to deliver it in a 4 yard F-350 dumptruck, which is a pretty good deal (About $175/load). I don't know if there's any similar deal in your area. You may want to look about.

I think I saw one of those BCS 722s in Uncle Henry's this last week for $100, and a matching mower for $100 more. (www.unclehenrys.com) I don't know what shape it was in.

For pasture mowing, start with lending it to a neighbor to graze something on (or get your own "edible pet"), and look for an older tractor with a sickle bar mower. You'll never put enough hours on a new tractor to make it pay. For comparison, at the end of my street (inconvenient to you, I know) there's a tractor that could be an early Cub Cadet or a late IH Cub (not certain, but they're the same thing) with turf tires and a belly mower. It's said to have a former life mowing baseball fields at U Maine in Orono. It's going for $2000. Not cheap, but compare that to a new riding mower at Home Despot or any other new tractor. You probably want a sickle bar mower or bushhog for doing pastures though.


Bob Cleek
04-02-2005, 09:14 PM
Mmmmm... Maybe I'm outta shape, but I sure don't relish spading and forking 1000 square feet of garden! Maybe I'll rent something this spring and think about it. BTW, no shortage of "compost" around here! I have access to all the horse and cow exhaust I can haul away. Chicken exhaust too... BIG chicken raising operation nearby.

There seems to be two schools of thought. One urges not tilling and the other the opposite. Maybe I ought to buy my veggies in the supermarket and stick to boats! LOL Good food for thought growing here, though.

04-02-2005, 09:51 PM
Dear Mr Cleek
their was no insult intended in my earlyer post I happen to be 43. I am a gofer and jack of all trades. otoh I weigh 300 pounds and my back was killing me. the asprin and ibprofin have kicked in now not to mention laying down for some hours

have you thought of hireing the tillling done? if I were closer I'd proable do it for 30 bucks but then I am not a good businessman

the reason I sugested the rear tine is you mentioned that you like to till after the plants are growing
good luck

04-03-2005, 01:59 AM
Hmmm . How about hiring a tiller this year smile.gif and thinking about the fork next year.I tend to fork up a bed a week before planting ...no need to do it all in one go.That would be serious work but a 12' x 3' bed is an easy job,with another one in a day or so.The more organic matter ,the easier the job, I'm sure Donn will agree.

04-03-2005, 07:27 AM
If you go to the "Northern Tools" web site. You'll find a plethora of attachments that you can hook up to your lawn tractor (Which around here would be refered to as a "Polo pony"), including harrows (Not Ed Harrows though), tillers, de-thatchers etc. I imagine that the Tractor supply company has the same stuff...

Ken Hutchins
04-03-2005, 08:14 AM
Bob, think of the bigger picture. What else do you think you will be needing. I can't imagine being without a tractor with a bucket loader for digging, moving stuff etc. I never pick up and carry anything over about 25 lbs, that's what the tractor is for. Now rototilling with a conventional tiller is manual work, :mad: think tilling with a tiller mounted on a tractor powered with the PTO, tilling while sitting on the seat. smile.gif The tiller gets very little use but the tractor gets used every day for something, it is a labor saver and easily justified especially when you consider the potential of back aches or major injuries from lifting and moving heavy stuff. Something like a 25 HP Kubota with a tiller and bucket loader. :cool:

04-03-2005, 08:19 AM
Or even an old Ford 8-N or the like. You can probably find an older Massey Ferguson, or Ford for under 2 grand....And it'll probably have a pile of accesories. I got mine for $1,600.00 with a 5' front loader.

Jack Heinlen
04-03-2005, 08:24 AM
I've not read this in detail, but I used to lust after a 1965 vintage Gravely. Tricked out it would do anything a small tractor would. Scarce as proverbial hen's teeth in the used market fifteen years ago, 'cause people knew.

While we're on the topic...nah, I'll start another thread. Good luck Bob.

04-03-2005, 09:31 AM
Don't think of it as 1000 sq. ft.
Think of it as 30 sq. ft./day for a month.
Do the initial sod breaking with a rental tiller,
feed it well, and go at it bit by bit.


Bob Cleek
04-03-2005, 02:40 PM
Well, thanks for all the experience and insight. More food for thought. I'd love a real tractor with a front loader, but they cost as much as a small boat! Seems though that I should rent at least for one go and get some first hand experience. You guys have me convinced... for the moment. Time to start checking out the rental places!

Con LanAdo
04-03-2005, 06:17 PM
BC - come clean, you thought this up on the 1st & didn't get out of court till the 2nd. Whose gonna believe the Cleekster wants/needs to get his CPES encrusted hands dirty? So why did ya buy this new million dollar plus spead - back to the land right, well i say get ya hands dirty, forget the machinery use ya muscels, when they give out hire a cluster of pro's, take ya time it will grow & they (wbf'rs) will come to rejoice. Whats plans do you have for that building - getting back into the b brokerage biz?
On the other hand buy everything ya wanted thirty yrs ago & support Sam's club in the process - best prices on Troybuilt.

Alan D. Hyde
04-04-2005, 11:21 AM
Read Plowman's Folly, Bob, by Faulkner. Don't rototill at all (I quit tilling in 1990).

Put six inches of rotted horse manure (from horses bedded in sawdust) onto your garden plots every year, and plant thru it with a spade. No need or benefit in disturbing the soil any more than is necessary to get the job done.

I plant four 15' x 40' plots this way every year (rotated), and it works out very well. Certain crops (like pumpkins, corn, cucumbers, etc.) should be planted in the hill system when doing things this way (i.e., sheet composting).


04-04-2005, 12:38 PM
Originally posted by huisjen:
My neighbor Eliot Coleman ...You dog. Eliot Coleman's books sit on my bedside table, next to Chapelle. Allow me to be among the first to whine with envy at your proximity to a legend in the gardening world. Coleman has written that when his tiller wears out, he'll replace it with a reciprocating spader. More spendy, but gentler to the soil.

Unless you intend to put sod-forming green manures into your crop rotation, I agree that a shovel, hoe, spading fork and garden rake are all you likely need. Unless you also want to get something which could perhaps run a snowblower attachment during the winter.

Shep Ogden (another giant in gardening) has said that he's retreated back to hand tools, for his home garden. Likes them better, safer, and well suited to the scale. Rather like why I prefer a hammer to a nailgun. Lots slower, but fewer puncture wounds to show off in the bar too.


edited to add:

BTW, hand tools for the garden give you lots more stuff to slop linseed/pine tar onto!

[ 04-04-2005, 01:44 PM: Message edited by: TomF ]

04-04-2005, 01:07 PM

I used the roto-tiller that Country Home Products sells and was very impressed. They also have a 6 month return policy. Unfortunately it appears that the tiller doesn't get free shipping. Country Home Products is a very good company and they really stand by their products. The warrenty people were very nice, and everyone in the company was invited to give input into how the tools were made, and how to make them better. I used to work there and still can't say enough good things about the company. I should add that CHP was started by former Garden Way employees after Troy-Built Shut down Garden Way in a power struggle, so they know all about Tillers.

www.countryhomeproducts.com (http://www.countryhomeproducts.com)


[ 04-04-2005, 02:09 PM: Message edited by: Noah ]

Ken Hutchins
04-04-2005, 01:08 PM
Ok, now you the tractor with the bucket to dig and spread all that horse manure. :D

Alan D. Hyde
04-04-2005, 01:12 PM
My son & I load it and unload it with pitchforks.

Good healthful exercise.

And, it really makes a glass or two of lemonade taste great afterwards.


Bob Cleek
04-04-2005, 02:14 PM
Okay... here's the deal. I'll come clean. Real estate in Marin County, CA, just north of SF, has gone insane over the years. In 1978, I bought a little place out in the sticks for $112K. Fixed it up, sold it. Bought another, sold it. Both of these were "country" places. Bought another dump in town, fixed it up and just sold it for a hair shy of $1M. (I hated living in town... felt cooped up and crowded.) So, in 27 years, and a lot of "sweat equity," there's been a lot of appreciation. The average selling price of a home in Marin is currently somewhere around $900K. I know, it's unbelievable.

The "farm" we got is ten miles up the road from our old place in Marin. Northwest of Petaluma in Sonoma County, the "Wine Country," and relatively close to Bodega Bay and the Two Rock USCG training center, if you know the area. It's two and a half acres or so of level land zoned residential/agricultural/commercial. Because of tract development pressures in the '70's, this area has all been very restrictively zoned to maintain its rural character. Also, these days on the big places, there's actually more money to be made growing grapes than building tract houses! Our place was one of the few smaller parcels they allowed to be carved out of larger spreads in the area. The former owner ran a custom cabinet making shop there and it has a 30'X 50' shop building on the property. It was about a straight across trade for the place we sold. I've got a small herd of beef cattle on one side and a bunch of quarter horses on the other.

There were a few reasons for the move. First and foremost, I don't like neighbors, since I do a lot of unneighborly things like run table saws at all hours and pile old boats and related junk up around the house. I confess to a yard that screams "White Trash," but with a decidedly maritime flavor. (That extra Wilcox Crittenden Imperial 51 head sat (shat?) on the front porch for months!) The place I had was a suburban tract house with neighbors all around. It was the funkiest place on the block, so I'm sure they were happy to see the yuppies who bought it.

The biggest motivator, however, was our dog hobby, which outgrew the place we had. There's an ordinance limiting dogs to three per household in town. We had a regular pack of seven basset hounds, which swelled to double that when we had a litter on the ground. Sort of hard to keep under wraps, if you know what I mean. It was only a matter of time before the "pet nazi's" came around and ordered us to get rid of them, which wasn't really an option. It was "Green Acres" time.

Now, around here, there's all sorts of really rich people who move in and spend money like you can't believe. They don't want to live in real farm communities, though. What they want is a 5000 square foot mansion with a pool, tennis court and a six car garage, all neatly manicured. They don't want to smell cows, horses and chickens, or drive their Benzes on gravel roads. Their loss was my gain, since ag land can be had for a lot less than the big lots with the "Tuscan Starter Castles."

My whole tool collection is still in cardboard boxes and so on. This weekend I finally got the washing machine and dryer plumbed, so I am wearing clean underwear for the first time in a month! (figuratively speaking.) My shop still has to be organized, shelves and cabinets built and installed and all that. I had the chain link dog runs put in by a commercial outfit and they did a great job. That's pretty much done.

However, there's about an acre and three quarters of really nice land out back that will soon be needing mowing and it's springtime, so I don't want to wait a year for a veggie garden.

Could I turn a bit of dirt by hand for a little veggie garden? The first go-round could be done with a rented tiller (and probably will). Still, I've got the rest to mow two or three times a year. (Big summer dry grass fire hazard here... can't let it go.) I could hire that out. Or, I could get the right tool for the job and always have it on hand. I was intrigued by the BCS 722 because it will run a chipper, a tiller and a bar mower, along with a lot of other stuff I don't need. (No snow here.) It's a really well made hunk of iron, but priced accordingly.

Doing it by hand seems pretty onerous. It almost seems like planing planks to thickness by hand instead of running them through a thickness planer. I'm not THAT traditional! (Although, a mule would eat the grass AND pull a plow... mmmm... maybe that's the solution!)

Fortunately, it isn't like I've got the money to buy the BCS and its attachments burning a hole in my pocket, so I'm taking my time making up my mind. (The IRS took care of that this month!)

Thing is, though, while I've got the boat building set up of my dreams, I've also got a farm that's just laying fallow right now. I've got a whole new area of technology to learn. It isn't that I haven't lived in the country before, just never in this kind of country. I used to live in the redwood forest, and then on a rock and clay hill top. I finally got some dirt that will grow something I can eat and it seems a waste not to use it. The enterprise is sort of fun, but work too.

The question is, would I get enough use out of a tiller/mower like the BCS to make the cost worth it? The jury's still out, but the deliberations are progressing well!

Thanks for all your input and advice!

04-04-2005, 02:43 PM
Given all that, Bob, I'd vote for the big hunk 'o iron. Either that or about 4 sheep/acre. :D

Either way, get a copy of Eliot Coleman's "The New Organic Grower." You might choose to do something quite different with your land, but he's collected a grand lot of good ideas about improving the land on a small acreage, while also taking off good crops. It's the book (Coleman says) he'd have wanted, when he started farming decades ago.

If you'd rather spend your time building more boats ... then sow the land to grass/legume pasture, so that you retain and improve the topsoil. Then maybe have one of your livestock-rearing neighbours pay you for the privilege of mowing off premium hay, or having their cattle/horses graze the field ...

... But were I you, I'd save some of the mowings for myself. Push a big pile right on top of where you'll plant your garden 2 years from now. That way, you can compost it right where eventually you'll want the fertilizer...


04-04-2005, 03:02 PM
I've got to ask
please explaine about being gental with the soil and tines that are too high speed?

straigh question here what is the damage that can be done?

my dad was an old school farmer the used a plow on our garden when he first moved in (53) and again about 20 years latter to turn the soil every morning and especally once aweek when the flood irragation water came down the ditch he would hoe or chop every weed he saw.

in the early 80s I tested the soil it had 15x the calcium and 25 times the phosperous and 3% of the nitrogen that was recimended. yet he grew good crops dispite the almost pure sand and no organtic mattr ( likely because in earlyer years a pickupload of cow manuer was added each spring.

I met a farmer from out west near the lake that said the plow only once in 5 years because it pulls clay into the top soil

sorry to ramble here but for the life of my I don't usderstand about hurting the soil

Alan D. Hyde
04-04-2005, 03:31 PM
Put six inches of well-rotted horse manure over the sod where your garden plot is to be.

Plant right thru it, with a spade, as recommended above.

Yeah, first year you'll have some clumps of sod to deal with, but it's still less trouble than tilling, and yields far better results.* Once you've got things planted, all you'll need is a good hoe.**


*I rototilled from 1973 to 1990, and I'll guarantee you that it produces worse results for more labor and expense. My soil was clay when I began, but now each black spadeful of this rich soil has perhaps two dozen worms in it.


How to make an improved hoe:

Here's the hoe at the hardware store---


Here's that same hoe after you've made a straight line across one upper corner with a cold chisel, and then broken off the top portion, giving one side of the hoe a sharper tip...


You won't have much hoeing to do, but, for what you do, you'll have a gratifyingly precise tool.

04-04-2005, 03:45 PM
the best example I have is a friend who was growing cash crops on a 2 acre patch of sandy loam by the river here .He had a 45 hp Inter hi Clear and a 4' tiller and used it way too much.After as while the soil was just sand ,no structure at all.Now this may be just his bit of ground,just his soil but the results were pretty scary.It may not apply so much if the soil had more clay.Another problem recognised around here is creating a hard bottom on the ground under the tine depth.Most guys here use a chisel plow to break this "plow sole" at the same time as tiling.

Alan D. Hyde
04-04-2005, 03:54 PM
Those of you who haven't read it, need to read Plowmans's Folly by Faulkner.

What he suggests makes sense.

It also WORKS.


04-04-2005, 04:22 PM
Tom, I should say that I've only met Eliot a handful of times. He lives out on Cape Rosier, in a neighborhood that used to be known as Harborside before they lost their post office to consolidation. But he still says he lives in Harborside, except occasionally when he lists Blue Hill as his home town. I think he's trying to keep the groupies off his back.

Still, he's an interesting guy. He's friendly and glad to talk, but at the same time he slows down for nobody. If you want to ask questions you have to keep up. And I rarely see him around town.

He is a former deciple of Helen and Scott Nearing. He bought his land from them way back when. Like the Nearings, it's sometimes illuminating to compare what he says and what he does. For instance, he recently became an associate editor for Small Farmer's Journal (www.smallfarmersjournal.com), and has an article in the latest issue saying he brings in a few minor things to maintain his soil and otherwise uses cover crops. He doesn't mention the 140 yards of compost he bought last fall.

I'm convinced that he's right, that these small additions can maintain fertility, but to bring it up in the first place you need to haul in the organic matter by the poop load.

I think he may have that spader now. He's not cheap and neither is it. I think a broadfork would pay for itself a lot faster.

Regardless, The New Organic Grower is a fine book.

Jeffy, you can hurt the soil by mixing in so much oxygen that you oxidize (burn out) the organic matter. You can also mechanically grind it up so that the organic matter no longer holds it into lumps and granules, thereby destroying the channels by which air and water move through the soil.

For the last several years I've been plowing. I admit it. I've got a two bottom sulky plow that I tear through the ground with, dragging it behind the Ferguson TO-35. I know it's bad in the long run, but it was the only way I could get through that old hay sod. Any moment now I'm going to get the Farmall Cub running. It has cultivators, which I will use with hilling disks to make raised beds (thereby doing my hilling and "plowing" in one single, shallow step), and use with toothed and/or winged cultivator knives to shallowly cultivate out the weeds. I will keep adding compost. Eventually I hope to reduce the weed seed bank enough that I can reduce the amount of cultivations and interplant more living mulches and nitrogen fixing legumes.

Eventually I'd like to be able to do the cultivation and prep with animal power. Mooo.


[ 04-04-2005, 05:24 PM: Message edited by: huisjen ]

Alan D. Hyde
04-04-2005, 04:43 PM
Thank you, Donn.

Have you read it?

If so, any thoughts?


Bob Cleek
04-04-2005, 05:22 PM
Okay, I'll read "Plowman's Folly" tonight when I'm not supposed to be working. I did know that you should not over till. As I understood it, you use the tiller to bust and chew up the sod good and deep (which is all I've got right now) and mix in the organic matter... no more than necessary. From then on, you only use it lightly and not too deep to fold in manure and old growth waste to replenish the nutrients. Right? The BCS unit I'm thinking about has variable tine and wheel speeds so you can vary the amount of chewing it does. The BCS also has (relatively) cheap standard plow and hiller/furrower attachments.

04-04-2005, 05:39 PM
Ploughman's Folly is a book I have on the shelf and have read mabye a chapter of, and mean to read all of eventually.

Another in the same category is "Farmers of Forty Centuries", which is agricultural observations from a journey through China circa 1900.

Shorter and more recent, I should re-read Wendell Berry's Agricultural Journey to Peru.


[ 04-04-2005, 06:39 PM: Message edited by: huisjen ]

Bob Cleek
04-04-2005, 06:41 PM
What to grow? Oh, "the usual" out here in California. It'll probably be tomoato, cucumbers, lettuces, maybe some onions, artichokes, beans and squash. I'll put in a few citrus trees. We can grow lemons and a few of the hardier limes and oranges here. Some grapes for eating. Pumpkins and watermellons for fun. Fortunately, I have some pretty accomplished gardeners among my friends and they have a lot of "heirloom" seeds they have offered me. I'll get around to planting a few unusual apple trees sometime, too. There's a place near here that preserves a lot of obscure apple types that just aren't available anymore. I like the idea of having stuff you can't just buy in the stores. It's a learning process, I guess. By the second or third season, if my past gardening experience is any indication, I'll just plant whatever grew the season before and not plant what didn't! LOL

Now, with all this organic gardening talk, maybe I ought to disconnect the heads in the house and start saving it in "honey pots!" Isn't that what's kept most of the world's rice bowls full? LOL

Hal Forsen
04-04-2005, 06:52 PM
Sandy loam? Quiet Tilling.
From Lee Valley/Veritas


04-04-2005, 06:56 PM
Right! A friend of mine does that, as he lives in the woods with no septic system. (Or running water, or electricity.) Buckets, planer shavings or sawdust, and compost piles that get built over time, then closed up for a year or two before they're ready for use around the fruit trees.

The Humanure Handbook is the one to read for that.


04-04-2005, 08:34 PM
I'll throw my two cents in here. I have a BCS tiller that I bought back around 1986 or 87. It is an extremely well built machine, beats the hell out of any domestic tiller that I have seen. My wife and I used to have a small farm with horses, and had three gardens totalling about 5000 sq feet or so. I also got the sickle bar mower attachment and used it to clean up pastures and cut the grass if I waited too late in the spring. If they are still built now like they used to be, you won't be sorry to own one. As for hand digging, thats fine for small areas of well worked good soil if you have lots of time. I have all the hand tools, U-bar diggers, english spades, sythes, my grandfathers high wheel cultivator, etc, and love to use them, but for doing the first tilling in the spring, and mixing in loads of manure, etc, I would not want to be without a good heavy duty tiller. As for a tractor, I would not use one in the garden, I feel that a tiller is on the border line of too much soil compression. We moved to a smaller place and now have smaller gardens, so the big tiller doesn't get used much, but it's always there ready to go. I do use the sickle bar ocasionally.


Alan D. Hyde
04-05-2005, 09:54 AM
"Night soil" is, IIRC, the old Chinese name for it.