NFU Mutual Smallholding Insurance

Author Topic: Preparing land with a compact tractor, recommendations please!  (Read 5115 times)

Big T

  • Joined Aug 2010
Hi,

Im new to the forums so heres a bit about me! My name is Anthony and I live in SW Cornwall. Have wanted to own a smallholding for many years but the cost of land/property down here is horrendous! I have an auntie that has a smallholding and me and my partner Sonia are going to rent approx 4 acres of her land to keep poultry, pigs, goats and grow our own veg. I have bought a Ford 1200 compact tractor with loader for a good price locally and will use it for general duties on the smallholding. The question that I have is what impliments should I use to prepare the land for growing veg? Should I plough it then drag a harrow over it to level it or would a rotorvator do the job with several passes???

Any advice would be welcome!

regards,

Anthony.
Voss Electric Fence

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Preparing land with a compact tractor, recommendations please!
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2010, 10:48:54 am »
Put pigs on it! Then possibly rotavate (or maybe not necessary), level and start growing!

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Preparing land with a compact tractor, recommendations please!
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2010, 11:23:20 am »
I found pigs (Tamworths) rooted beautifully but left a hard pan about 5" or 6" down, so I would still plough after they had cleared the weeds.
Without pigs, I would plough, leave it a while for the grass to die off, then rotavate.  In subsequent years you just need to rotavate.  Or, if you are fit and strong, you could lift the turf and stack it upside down for rich loam (ready in a year or two), then plough and rotavate.  This is what we have done but I'm sure you will get plenty of other suggestions.
Once the land is bare soil, every weed seed from miles around will home in on it, so don't prepare more than you can cope with - we did  :( and we are still battling the thistles and docks 15 years later.
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Big T

  • Joined Aug 2010
Re: Preparing land with a compact tractor, recommendations please!
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2010, 03:36:50 pm »
Ok, thanks for your help! ;D

Norfolk Newby

  • Joined Aug 2009
  • West Norfolk, UK
Re: Preparing land with a compact tractor, recommendations please!
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2010, 04:37:41 pm »
I have a 22hp compact tractor and use a disk harrow followed by a chain harrow.

If the soil is damp, a small disk harrow works well. The soil will lift and produce a good condition for planting. The harrow will also leave any weeds loose on the surface so they can be removed. Alternatively, if you harrow several times over - say - 2-3 weeks, the majority of the grass and weeds will rot down in the soil.

However, any deep rooted weeds like dandelions, thistles or  ragwort will just be broken to produce several plants where there was only one.

The loosened soil can then be gone over with a chain harrow to produce a reasonably level surface.

If the land is dry, the disk harrow will just skip over the surface. This does reduce the weed population a bit but not by much.

Harrows work best if the tractor is driven at a fast walking pace. The speed of the harrow acts like a chisel on the soil producing a greater effect than going slowly. However, it is only going to turn over the top 2-3 inches or so. If you want to go deeper, you need a plough or cultivator. The latter could be one of the little machines you walk behind but you can get something similar to go on the back of the tractor. Using one is a slower process but the soil is dug deeper.

It partly depends on what you want to grow, the type of soil you have (light, sandy, well drained or heavy clay and so on) and what you can find at an affordable price. Even a small disk harrow or cultivator is going to be around £1,000 new. If you can find either second hand at a reasonable price, then you have your answer.

If you are only going to do this preparation once, it may be cheaper to get a neighbouring farmer to do the work for you. He will have bigger equipment and will charge you less than the cost of buying equipment that you will only use once or rarely.

NN
Novice - growing fruit, trees and weeds

Le Recoignot

  • Joined Oct 2009
Re: Preparing land with a compact tractor, recommendations please!
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2010, 08:15:41 pm »
Hi

A lot depends on the type of land. First off if the land is pasture I would plough to completely bury completely the current surface, I would suggest this Autumn, then leave until spring after the frosts (which will help break down the furrows and clods etc.) After which it is largely down to the type of soil, my advice would be to seek out a local farmer over a pint with similar soil and seek his advice 0 also possible loan of equipment.

Norfolk Newby

  • Joined Aug 2009
  • West Norfolk, UK
Re: Preparing land with a compact tractor, recommendations please!
« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2010, 10:11:59 am »
I agree with that approach. I did something similar with my land when I bought it. The field had been 'set-aside' for several years so was covered in weeds and rough grass. I got a local farmer to deep plough the field in mid winter (as soon as the purchase was completed). In the early spring, I did the harrowing to flatten out the ruts from ploughing.

The farmer pointed out that a lot of the nutrients are in the top few inches of the soil so this process brings less fertile soil to the top. The deep rooted weeds - particularly thistles - quickly re-appeared and then 'new' weeds grew like a load of poppies.

However, the soil was aerated and ploughing in the weeds improved it and encouraged the worm population.

NN
Novice - growing fruit, trees and weeds

Big T

  • Joined Aug 2010
Re: Preparing land with a compact tractor, recommendations please!
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2010, 09:32:47 pm »
Thanks for the advice! I have managed to buy a set of disc harrows for my compact tractor for the princely sum of £30!

 

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