Let's talk stalebedding tools

I’m interested in hearing about/seeing folks’ stalebed tools. The past couple seasons I’ve used a basket weeder with drop down sweeps to cover the rows. It worked well for the most part, but the soil had to be just a little moist for it to work. Too wet or dry make success difficult to achieve. It also couldn’t do much if the weeds got much bigger than 1/2 inch or so.
What kinds of set ups are people using for stalebedding? What soil and weed conditions make them work the best or not at all? Does anyone have something that works on crusty soils or larger weeds? Pictures are always great, especially if they are of a homemade set up

I’m curious how you attached the drop down sweeps to your basket weeder…I’ve seen Tilmor has that capability with their basket plus some small A-blades. Seems pretty slick, but curious if there is another way you are achieving it.

When I was a Featherstone Farm, we were primarily using a belly-mounted basket weeder that had no gaps for crop rows and then a rear-mounted Lely tine weeder to help break up the crust and stir things up a bit more. This was typically executed using a Kubota L-245H. It was pretty effective unless there was a very thick crust on the soil surface. The major downside of this system was that the raised-bed shoulders would erode and the bed profile became more mound shaped than trapezoidal. This made basket weeding post-planting less effective along the shoulders of the bed.

When I was on smaller acreage planting into flat ground using a row-based planting system, and cultivating with a Simplicity 2-wheel tractor, I used a couple different systems. First I successfully used a Tilmor toolbar setup similar to this one, Tilmor - Tender Plant Hoe - 3 Row and I joined pairs of the Tender Plant Hoes together to make three wider A-blade type sweeps. I overlapped the edges of these and the coverage was about 2 feet. Many passes back and forth across 4 acres - effective but tedious. The second setup was with a 4-wheel tractor and a 3-point mounted toolbar with 3 rows of offset s-tines and wide sweeps (https://www.tilmor.com/en-us/products/157/sweeps-beet-vegetable?sc=AW-3102-000). I used gauge wheels to keep the whole thing as shallow as I possibly could. This covered 6’ at a time and worked A LOT faster, though it still dug in a bit deeper than I would have liked even at the shallowest gauge wheel setting. For both of these applications, if the soil was very dry (as it was in our region this year) the sweeps didn’t sink into the soil well at all and it wasn’t effective.

Here’s the 3-point with s-tines

Sadly, I don’t have any good ones of the other setups.

This was a tilmor basket weeder and I’m a pretty big fan of how they set up the drop down sweeps. We had a 5 row set up so we could run around and cultivate a wide variety of crops with the same tool. Dropping or replacing sweeps is super easy, just two 3/4" bolts.
I’m liking the thought of using sweeps. A little more persuasive than the basket weeder. I’ve got a scheme in my head that has sets of sweeps between rolling baskets front and back. Seems like that might give some better depth control than a single set of gauge wheels.

Hi All

I’ve written a comprehensive report on false and stale seedbeds - which I view as different but related techniques. Webpage and a PDF avalible for free


Cheers Merf

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@Jay_Acker EDIT: I creeped on your instagram and saw the answers to my questions below. It looks super uniform and level!..But in case you have any new info to share, I’ll leave the original post intact

Original post: Is the system pretty uniform, i.e did those A-blades end up going deeper than you liked? Did you end up with an even bed top or were there ridges left behind or stripes of different weed pressure?

@Merf, This report does look pretty comprehensive! I’m going to geek out on it for a while now. I love your use of the term “weedling”. It’s a darling word that makes me almost feel bad for the little guys getting their white threads exposed!

I was at a conference a couple years back and saw Dr. Mark Williams from Univ. of Kentucky speak about stale seedbeds. He had done some research on the topic, and quantified the amount of weed population removed by each successive pass. Here are some pics of his powerpoint:

And the stale seedbed cultivator that they use down there to achieve these results.

Thanks very much @fillius that’s really interesting information and an outstanding result. I’ve sadly never had the funding to do undertake research, esp. a comparison of stale (flamed) vs. false (tilled) beds, so all my experience is farm based, but, the false seedbed technique has proved so effective, as Dr. Williams’ research shows, that every farmer / grower that I have recommended the technique to, now uses it for everything - even before establishing low value crops like pasture. I consider it one of the most important, cheapest and effective non-chemical (organic) weed management tools where tillage is used. Best regards. Merf

And I forgot to say that in my opinion the depth of the false seedbed re-tillage is the critical factor in success, and, that it needs to be as shallow as possible, e.g., 2 cm / less than an inch to be the most effective. This is to avoid bringing up seed from below the emergable depth that are non-dormant.


Jay, we’ve been developing spyders to replace the front row of baskets and have had success in crusty conditions: Tilmor baskets weeder with spiders on the front. - YouTube They’re not available on the website yet, but if you’re interested, give us a call. Doug - Tilmor

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Dan, no worries about the Instagram creeping. I’d say the results were pretty consistent in regards to weed killing. We’d usually do multiple passes over a bed, and keep running things over until we could see good weed kill. (I’d swerve a little sometimes to run a sweep into a particularly stubborn weed.) Sometimes I found the basket weeder would leave a wavy pattern going across the bed with the sweeps leaving low spots. Not a big deal at all for transplants, but it could mess up a direct seeded crop. I took the flail mower out a couple of times and used the roller on that to smooth out beds. I do like the look of that tool used down in Kentucky. Having a bed roller integrated seems like a great move.

I’ve been most successful working false seedbeds using our rototiller on our little kubota. It’s the type where the depth control is based on little skids on either side, and it takes me 15 minutes or so to adjust it so it’s only tilling the top inch or so. But so much of it’s success or failure depends on soil conditions and it’s definitely not giving me ideal, uniform depth across and down the bed. Skis don’t seem to be the most reliable depth control mechanism for me, and I hope I can upgrade to a better tool that uses some form of roller(s). Kind of looking into the lightweight power harrows from Tractor Tools Direct (Ibex TS52 Power Harrow with Mesh Roller & Leveling Blade) because that slightly more aggressive soil stirring combined with a bed-width rolling basket kind of speaks to me.

Finding tools for this type of thing has been a challenge for me.