Bob Due's Terraced Gardens Farm  Premium Produce - Pesticide and Herbicide Free
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This page was last updated: February 27, 2013
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My favorite winter cover crop is rye grain.  Summertime it is Sudan grass.  Both of these cover crops produce hugh bio-mass and have extensive fiberous root systems.

In both cases, getting that bio-mass worked into the top few inches of the soil where it does it's thing has always been a problem.  It is to much, even for a very good rotary tiller.

Chopping the cover with a flail mower and then plowing it in with a rotary plow, has proven to be the perfect system for me most of the time.  Below you see both of these tools in operation.
Above to the left is the hay rake that I use on small plots.  In large fields, I use the big tractor and large rake.  To the right is a mulch bale, wraped with netting, ready to be removed from the baler.
The left photo shows you how these mulch bales unroll.  In the center is the plastic mulch with drip tape layer.  I use very little plastic but when I do, the rest of the bed has hay mulch applied to control weeds at the edge of the plastic and conserve the soil moisture and prevent errosion.
The rotary plow incorperates all residue evenly throughout the soil profile without doing all the damage that a rotary tiller does.  In one pass you can plow from about 6 inches to almost 10 inches deep.  I keep it in the 6 inch range because that is where the residue decomposes the best.  If you bury it too deeply, you can get toxic decomposition and that is not desireable!  Once incorperated, I like to leave the soil alone for at least a week or two before any further work is done.
To the left is a Power Harrow behind my BCS-850 walk behind tractor.  This is the perfect implement to follow the rotary plowed bed after it's week or so of rest.  There are several really great benefits of this tool.  One is that you have complete control over the depth of tillage.  This allows one to till at a depth of 1 1/2 inches to prepare a fantasticly smooth seedbed for small seeds and at the same time, kill most of the weeds that have germinated during the time since the last tillage.  The other great feature is that since it has verticle tines it in no way creates any pan while tilling.  It also levels the seedbed from side to side and front to back so that a precision push seeder can do it's job.  Take a look at seeders on the hand tools page.
Before we get into a discussion about what I might or might not know about power equipment, you need to know that I have been interested in things like tractors and tillers since the late 1940's and there is not much that has an engine on it that I have not operated at one time or other.

When I was in Europe a few years back, I was facinated by the small walk behind equipment that was being use on their small farms.  Several years ago, I met Joel Dufore, the owner of Earth Tools.  He has made it possible for us in this part of the world to own a lot of these amazing Italian manufactured  pieces of equipment.  You will find a link to his site on the Links page.

High quality tools are used in all trades by the elite of each trade.  Farming is no exception to this rule.  We need tools that are durable, dependable and efficient.  These tools need to "fit" ones system of operation.

In my system, I use several good hand tools and a few great power tools.  Most of my power tools come in the form of BCS walk behind tractors with attachments for specific jobs.  The use of walk behind tractors fit my terraced system and reduce compaction and fuel consumption.  In addition, I get plenty of needed exercise by walking with them.
To the right is a video showing my disk opener making a row for planting sweet potatoes.  

I also use as many as 4 of these at one time to make 4 rows in one pass.

When planting cabbage, broccoli etc, I make two rows about 12 inches apart.

For potatoes, the rows are about 26 inches apart.