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disc harrow vs tiller

Continuing from my question on cover cropping the lots next door...

http://forums.organicgardening.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/2241078301/m/9621019432

I'm window-shopping attachments for my lawn tractor. Would a "disc harrow" help work organic material into the soil? I know it's not a tiller. I know I'm not a farmer.

I already have a dethatcher attachment that can scratch up the dirt (yes, it's dirt) and even smooth out rough spots to a certain degree over broken ground.

There is a disc harrow attachment available that's relatively affordable. There's a tow-behind tiller attachment available which, while it may be what I should have, is more than I'm probably going to be able to afford this year.

1. Could I get anywhere at all with the disc harrow? (Plus dethatcher.)

2. If the harrow is unlikely to manage initial ground-breaking and I got someone else to do an initial till, could I do follow-up folding-in-of-plant-material with the disc harrow?

3. Or would I just be wasting my $ and should just wait until I can afford the tiller?

P.S. Sorry if this sounds like another one of those dumb questions. Like I said, I'm not a farmer.
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - Elizabeth www.WordCures.com
The disc will slice and turn under the top inch or two of your ground if it has been broken up already. The main reason farmers disc is to cut and break up big clods of dirt that a plow turns up. The disc mostly just smoothes out the dirt. The wheat farmers around where I live have planted their fields for so many years now that they don’t plow any more and just disc. The disc cuts and turns under any wheat roots and chafe left after they harvest the crop. But remember, their land is now soft.

I would think that if you hired someone to till or plow that land first to get it loose and broken up that then a disc might work for your application.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ LAUS DEO, Where ever I go, there I am. ..... major at nwi dot net ..... Zone 6a, Eastern Washington, sagebrush high desert, Columbia plateau.
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ELISABETH,

Dig up DIRT When you should just ... Heck Don't ask me! I till! But you know that is a NO NO on here. Just Teasing you. Alot of people are going to diss you about tilling. I TILL! Don't know what attachment you might need though. I'm not a farmer either. But I still till!
 
MARYLAND zone 6
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Major, thanks for the info.

Lisaann, thanks for the heads up. I should have mentioned that someone on this forum whose opinion I respect already suggested tilling in this specific situation. Thanks for bringing it up because you're absolutely right, I would have caught ****. I may still. Oh well. Just considering my options.

There were some viable no-till options suggested, too, and I'm taking it all in right now.

Would I use the $$$ expensive $$$ tiller attachment after this step of the project is accomplished? Perhaps not. Which is one of the reasons I'm trying to avoid buying it. However, as I said, considering the options.

P.S. It is dirt right now, IMHO. I'm trying to turn it into soil. Wink
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - Elizabeth www.WordCures.com
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I have this attachment for my "mantis" sized tiller. that just Plows through the dirt... Although I think I"m going to Till the dirt outside of the 16'x32' fence to plant the Onions.. It hasn't been tilled in 2-3 years, so I think once around the plot won't hurt anything.. especially if I mulch between rows.

At least Deer don't eat onions, herbs or garlic!
 
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P.S. Size of the vacant lot we're discussing is approximately 30,000 square feet or roughly 2/3 of an acre. Not huge by country standards, but larger than I want to till with a walk-behind.
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - Elizabeth www.WordCures.com
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A disc will work quite well for you, although it will take longer that the tiller would to get that soil "workable". You most likely will need to make 6 passes with the disc where two with the tiller would be enough. When I was still tilling and had a 5 acre field to work up I used a disc with very good result although some of the old timers thought I would never get that done, right. However some of the did learn from this newbie at that time.
 

The sign of a good gardener is not a green thumb, it is brown knees.

West central Michigan along the lakeshore.

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This is encouraging! I spoke with a woman today whose family farms and she thought the disc would be fine, too. Thanks, everyone!
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - Elizabeth www.WordCures.com
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Liz I guess I'll be the holdout. I wouldn't buy either a tiller attachement or a disc. Or at least not the first year. I say neither because its easier to grow into tools and space to use them in than it is to take up the whole space at the first go.

But this is just based on my owbn direct experience of putting the size space you propose under cultivation. You'll be happier filling this size space over a year or four.
 
[hr]Beyond the mountains, there are more mountains.
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Thanks, Tom. I think I understand your concern. I don't propose to put it all under cultivation any time soon. Perhaps parts of it will never go into cultivation.

But I am very tired of looking at weeds everytime I go out into that part of the yard. Not to mention that they're going to seed ALL OVER Mad Mad the rest of the area I'm trying to keep weed-controlled Mad. I've had control of the lots for the past 3 years and am tired of propagating a weed patch. Mad

Even if I'm not ready to decide the ultimate fate of the entire space, I hope that by improving the soil, I'll increase my options. At the very least, it should be more pleasant to look at ... after the soil is conditioned and after I replace the weeds with something more suitable.

If there's a better way to accomplish this, I'm all ears.
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - Elizabeth www.WordCures.com
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Liz I think in your case if I needed someing I'd rent for a day or two. that way you can really find out what works for you and what doesn't.

Unless one is using wide rows beds that are flat) or raished bed I see no problem with tilling. Organic is just good sound sustainable gardening and farming practices but some feel organic means you have to be metaphysical.
 
coop, from the misty hills and haunted hollows of Eastern KY
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Being a past farmer and more recent organic gardener,may I say this. First you didn't say how many H.P. your tractor is. How much will it pull? You will need to be able to apply enough weight to make the disc penetrate at least 4" deep. Most attachments I have seen for garden tractors are more like toys than implements.
Someone suggested you will need to go over the area 4 times with a disc. Consider how much fuel you are going to consume in this process. True Organic Gardeners would only consider a spade. Not suggesting you do that. My recommendation is this; have someone-a farmer- disc the entire area for you which shoud leave the are in a plantable condition.The area you are not going to use immeadiately, sow with some type of living mulch such as clover. The harvest from this area can be used to mulch the balance of the garden. As for how to prepare the garden next year I would recommend rear tine tiller capable of turning under any type garden residue along with any cover crop you might plant such as annual rye or buckwheat. Sorry for the long post but I went through the same problems when I moved onto our property and am speaking from experience.
 
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Liz, I have no knowledge of these things, so I asked DH and he said what all these people have been telling you here.

He said, "Depends how hard the ground is and what kind of tractor she's got." He also said tilling is better for turning over the dirt, but if you disced it several times it would also produce good results.

To make a long story short, 'cause he said a lot of things which my pea-sized brain cannot now remember, all of these answers are valid. You have to examine them closely and come to an educated conclusion which is aligned with your plans and budget for this year.

Good Luck and keep us posted.
 
Connie maltese-crossathotmaildotcom
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Thanks again, everyone. If I remember correctly, my lawn tractor is 22 hp. I got the heftier one because it has to snow-blow my driveway in winter. Getting someone with a larger tractor to do the first ground-breaking sounds like a reasonable idea if it is possible. However I'm in town, which may make that awkward.

BTW I think I have a source for shovel-it-yourself 3 YO horse manure. The person said there was probably 2 pick-ups worth and I've been warned it's very weedy. Woo-hoo.

Will keep you posted! Can't do anything right now except order seeds anyway.
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - Elizabeth www.WordCures.com
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To cross translate, A disk harrow is a nicer and more efficient version of the old "spring-toothed" harrow. In gardening terms, a rake. The roto-tiller is a power version of a shovel. In Farming terms, a plow. If you can get somebosy to come and till up the ground, the harrow attachement will do a nice job of finishing the gorund for planting.

BTW, you might consider a little bartering with whoever you get to do the tilling. offer to use your disk harrow (also called simply a disk) on their garden if they will till yours for you. It save both of you time and a little money.

And it builds a friendship to boot.
 
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Thanks, Bill -- that was helpful!
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - Elizabeth www.WordCures.com
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