Sometimes a plot of land needs more cultivation than a walk-behind unit can provide. In these situations, it helps to have a tractor to utilize a cultivator attachment to make short work of the cultivation. While cultivating isn’t an overly-complicated process, the involvement of large machinery, like a tractor, can turn some small-scale homesteaders away from the job. Luckily, the process isn’t unlike cultivating with a smaller machine. It’s simply done on a larger scale with more horse-power! Here is our guide on how to use a tractor cultivator.
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Types Of Tractor Cultivators To Use
To cultivate with a tractor, you can either use a row-crop cultivator or a field cultivator. While both of them function the same when it comes to cultivation, the time of use will decide which you should use.
A row-crop cultivator will allow you to drive over the existing row of crops and cultivate outside of the rows to uproot the weeds and leave the crop intact. A field cultivator isn’t as selective and will simply cultivate the entire area covered by the equipment. These are better for unplanted plots that need preparation for the growing season.
Many homesteaders and farmers will find use in both types of tractor cultivators. Using the field cultivator before planting and then switching to the row-crop cultivator during the growing season is a simple cycle to utilize the best of both worlds!
How To Cultivate Rows With Your Tractor
Cultivating rows in an existing garden or field of crops requires a row-crop cultivator to be dragged by your tractor. The tines of the cultivate are spaced apart enough to not disturb the row of planted crops while providing the necessary cultivation between rows.
The cultivator is attached to the tractor and dragged behind it. When you drive your tractor over your existing row of crops, the plants aren’t touched. Behind the tractor, the tines are cultivating the soil on either side of the crop row, at the depth specified by your settings.
Simply driving in line with your crops will ensure that you don’t disturb the roots of your crops but can effectively cultivate the weeds between rows, which can creep into your crops before you know it.
These row crop cultivators are great during growing seasons in plots of land that are too large to cultivate by hand or with a walk-behind cultivator. However, they aren’t the best choice for cultivating a large area that hasn’t been planted yet. This is best reserved for a field cultivator.
How To Cultivate Fields With Your Tractor
If you don’t have anything planted in the plot of land yet, a field cultivator will be your best choice. The hookup to your tractor is the same and the main difference is that there isn’t a gap where a row of crops would be. Instead, the cultivator effectively cultivates the entire area covered by the equipment.
Many of these cultivators also work to level-out your plot of land after cultivation to create a level planting area. They won’t work if crops are already planted unless you have space between each row as wide as the cultivator itself, which would be a terrible waste of space.
How Fast Do You Pull A Cultivator?
The speed of pulling will depend on the quality of soil, amount of large obstacles/rocks, depth of cultivation, and power of your tractor. While there isn’t a hard-fast rule of speed, most farmers will agree that around 7 miles per hour is the optimal speed to have enough momentum to carry through rocks, strong roots, and debris without damaging equipment.
If you are going so fast that your cultivator and/or tractor start to bounce around and not uniformly cultivate the soil, it’s time to slow down. You could always go over a plot of land multiple times with increasing depths instead of pushing your equipment to the maximum during the first or second run-through.
What Happens When A Cultivator Hits A Rock?
Rocks and roots can damage the tines of a cultivator. This means that avoidance or careful cultivation in the presence of rocks and roots is imperative to lasting equipment. At the right speeds, a cultivator will be able to pull a rock or break through a root. Otherwise, the cultivator may bounce out of the ground momentarily, which may or may not cause damage.
Some cultivators are equipped with spring-loaded tines that are more effective on land with large rocks and/or roots. The tines are also attached to independent springs, so one tine hitting a large rock isn’t as detrimental to the cultivation done by the other tines.
Here is our post on the typical maintenance issues of cultivators.
How Deep Do You Run A Field Cultivator?
Cultivators shouldn’t be treating as tillers. Tillers are more useful when turning up soil beyond 6 inches. Cultivators are better suited to cultivating the top 4 inches of soil. Many homesteaders do run their field and row crop cultivators to 6 inches deep, but that isn’t recommended for the longevity of your equipment.
If you need to work the soil that deep, a tiller will be better suited to the job.
Ready To Cultivate?
Whether you decide to use a row-crop cultivator or a field cultivator, the process is largely the same. Instead of using a PTO hookup, most cultivators are simply dragged behind the tractor to perform their duties. This makes them efficient and effective for uprooting weeds and keeping planting areas ready for the next growing season!