Proper ways to plow a garden with a tractor

Written by laura pinell
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Proper ways to plow a garden with a tractor
Mouldboard ploughs are one of several plough types to consider when gardening. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

In the early 1900s, there were only a few ways to plough a garden. You could plough with a horse or with a tractor, both with a mouldboard plough. Today, there are many ways to plough a garden with a tractor, though, not all of them may be suitable for your garden. To narrow down the proper way to plough your garden, take a few things into consideration.

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Soil Types

Soil is the main factor to examine when ploughing and planting. Sandy to loamy soils will be easier to plough than clay soils and they drain the best. As for wetness, damp soils are the best to plough. If the soil is dripping wet, it will clog up your plough. If the soil is too dry, your plough won't be able to properly mix the surface and subsurface soils. Note how rocky your land is, too. Rock outcroppings can easily damage your equipment.

Garden Location

Carefully consider where you are located. Ploughing on hills and mountainsides may cause soil erosion. To prevent this, strip cropping and contour farming can be used in these areas, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests. In locations where land tends to flood regularly, controlled drainage and subirrigation may be required. Soil testing will help you find out what conservation methods should be taken for your specific location.

Proper ways to plow a garden with a tractor
Contour farming is a ploughing method used for hills and mountains. (Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Garden Size and Shape

You want to get the most out of your garden. Planning the direction, width and length of the furrows is paramount. The direction and size of the furrows will depend on the size of your garden, tractor and plough. For example, in small, oddly-shaped gardens, the rows may not all be in the same direction. For large fields, you may have to plan around trees, fences and rock outcroppings.

Proper ways to plow a garden with a tractor
Not all furrows will be in the same direction. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Plough Types

There are several types of ploughs used for a variety of soil types. Mouldboard ploughs are the most commonly seen and are used for soft- to medium-textured soils. Disk ploughs are used for hard- and rocky-textured soils. Chisel ploughs are used for stirring, rather than inverting the soil. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, chisel ploughs are commonly used in conservation tillage systems.

Ploughing Methods

Ploughing is how you prepare the soil for planting. Where ploughing, or tillage, methods differ is in how much crop residue cover is left behind after ploughing. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, conventional tillage is any method "that leaves less than 15 per cent residue cover after planting." Reduced tillage leaves 15 per cent to 30 per cent and conservation tillage leaves more than 30 per cent crop residue cover, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports. Explore each method further before choosing what bests suit your garden.

Other Considerations

Lastly, check with your local utilities board about the power and sewer lines that run through your land. If you happen to hit one of these while ploughing, it may cost you money or even your life. Finding this information as well as your garden's soil type, location, size and shape will help you find the proper plough type and method for your garden.

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