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Hints on Preparing Your Seedbed

The most important single factor in preparing a good seedbed is timeliness - choosing the right time to plow, the right time to disc, the right time to harrow. Methods of preparing a good seedbed vary with different soils, so select the operations which most nearly fit your soil from the following four steps:

1. Clear off all heavy trash and crop residue -such as cornstalks, dried-up tomato vines, rocks, branches, etc.  This removes old, diseased plants that harbor insect pests, and makes it easier to work the ground.  It is good practice to turn under green manure crops such as fall-seeded rye, hairy vetch, etc.

2. Plow in spring light soils such as sandy loams and silts.  Plow in fall heavy soils containing large amounts of clay. These soils usually plow-up into large slabs, but winter freezing and thawing break them down.

3. Disc spring plowed ground immediately . . . don't give it a chance to get hard and dry after plowing.  Disc fall plowed ground in the spring . . . just as soon as it is dry enough to work.

4. Harrow disced ground to level . . . the final step in preparing your seedbed.

How to Plow with A Garden Tractor

1. Make sure plowshare and moldboard are free from rust. Remove varnish from new plow with sandpaper. Place two wheel weights on left wheel and attach counterweight to front of tractor.

2. Step off about 15 feet from one side and place a stake at each end of outsides of headlands to lay off the first plowing area, which is called a "land". If the garden is under 50 feet wide, mark the center so the whole area can be plowed as one "land". (See diagram)

3. Start the plow at one end marker and plow straight toward the marker at the other end.

4.  Lift the plow out of the ground when reaching the head land at the far end, turn around and

5. Continue to plow back and forth as indicated until "land" is completed.

Discing Plowed Ground

Prompt action with the disc will save much work. Soil moisture should be the same as for plowing - or dry enough so that it will not stick together in a wet ball. Disc plowed ground in lands, straight through the garden lengthwise, splitting the backfurrow where the plow threw the first two furrow slices together.  On reaching the end, turn and disc across the plowed end seven to eight feet (half of one side of the plowed land), then turn and disc straight back to the starting point. 

When discing, it is usually best to lap half, throwing the soil first one way and then back on the next round. This helps keep the land level.  When soil is sufficiently dry, it may be double disced as many times as necessary to put it in good condition.  The disc can be used to control weeds on ground not planted by going over the land once or twice before weeds get a good start.

Harrow Disced Ground

Use the spike tooth harrow following discing, to level the ground and break up large clods. This will knock down high spots and fill in low spots. The best time to harrow is immediately after discing, as surface clods containing moisture will be more easily broken, and a finer seedbed obtained.

For the first time over, it is usually best to set the teeth down to penetrate into the soil. This helps rid the soil of air pockets and breaks up many of the undersurface clods. Go over the ground in the same direction as it was plowed, even though the plot was last disced crosswise.

When the soil works easily, "once over lightly" may put the seedbed into condition for planting - or it may be advisable to harrow several times. At second or third harrowing (especially if the ground is uneven) it is usually best to harrow across the direction of plowing, or at an angle. And for the final harrowing, the harrow teeth should be set for minimum penetration, to "float" over the ground.

[Source: Gardening Supplement to Owner Manual, date unknown, courtesy of Mark Waite & Joel Wicker]




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