Anyone else cultivating vegetables with walking tractors??
Check out the video linked below.
The North Farm is part of MSU’s Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center. We grow about three acres of organic vegetables for research and market. In 2021, we have been working with Dan Brainard and crew to try cultivating storage carrots with walking tractors and tools from Tilmor as a potential replacement for post emergent hoeing and hand weeding. Carrot plots received one of four treatments: Flame Weed + Hoe/Hand Weed, Flame Weed + Cultivate, No Flame + Hoe/Hand Weed, or No Flame + Cultivate.
Cultivating three rows of carrots with walking tractors started out rough, but we are quickly gaining skill and improving the system. Our first pass was the Tilmor PowerOx with vegetable knives. Since we plant single rows with a push seeder, the knives had to be set wide and didn’t get weeds close to the rows. The narrow wheel base and tires on the PowerOx made it hard to control, so we switched to our BCS walking tractor for our second pass with finger weeders. The BCS with wide wheel base and variable speed + Tilmor hitch adapter and finger weeders was a great improvement! I’m slowly moving from frustrated and skeptical to excited about the potential of cultivating vegetables with walking tractors. Now we need to try the between row vegetable knives behind the BCS.
Its good to hear you are having success with the BCS. I tried doing some in row weeding with a BCS and torsion weeders and did not have much success, but I think there there is room for further experimentation - especially with other setups than the one I chose to use. I was trying to straddle a bed and cultivate 3 rows of transplanted crops at a time (see picture)
My very sophisticated 2x4 across the back enabled me to stand between the trailing arms. This allowed me to see the crops clearly and my added weight provided even more stability to the setup. The guage wheels were about 3 inches wide to keep me from sinking into the ground too much.
The torsion weeder was not the right tool for a walking tractor setup. Fingers have more promise for sure. I think though, that doing 2 rows instead of 3 would likely yield more success. In my situation, I had difficulties because the plants were not planted mechanically with something like a water wheel, so the rows weren’t perfectly spaced and ended up being not as straight as I wanted. I figured one simpler solution was to put row markers on the end of my BCS tiller to at least provide some guidance on future planting.
I did a demonstration at a field day and really struggled for several reasons (some out of my control), but one of the old timers who had much more experience with walking tractors shared with me that the BCS struggles to be a good cultivator because of low clearance and the connection point being behind the wheel axle instead right over it like other cultivating tractors. I could see the connection point argument because when a turn is made with the more traditional walking tractor, the tool will follow more naturally, but the clearance difference is minimal when you get the largest BCS tires. It seemed when I was dealing with very long and straight fields the BCS tracked well enough.
I was using this setup on a 2 acre farm that was very diversified. I would only recommend messing with these kinds of setups if you have more acreage or are less diverse in your crop mix.