How to Plow With a Garden Tractor (for Beginners)

Plowing is one of the oldest practices made in agriculture. It developed from the early plows pulled by horses or cows, to the present plows pulled by tractors.

So If you want your plants to thrive and yield the best outcomes, then plowing is a must.

In this article, we’ll thoroughly discuss plowing with a garden tractor; why, how, and when you should do it.

How to Plow Your Garden

Plowing your garden can be done either manually or via a tractor. As manual plowing is a tiring process that’s limited to miniature gardens, we’ll discuss how to plow your garden by a tractor.

Step 1: The Planning

Choose the right time to plow your garden. Consider factors like your crop planting season, the condition of the soil, the climate, the availability of manure, etc.

If you’re not sure about how to consider these factors, we’ll discuss them briefly at the article’s end. So stick around!

Step 2: The Equipment

Check your tractor’s fuel, oil, coolant, tires pressure, etc.

If you haven’t already chosen a tractor or a plow, make sure to check the end of the article where we discuss in brief the available types in the market.

Step 3: Inspection

Inspect the soil for any large debris, like tree limbs and rock, which may harm you, the tractor, or the plow. Also, if your garden has tall grass, it’ll be a good idea to mow it before plowing for two reasons.

Firstly, this will decrease the likelihood of clogging the plow. Secondly, cut grass is easier to mix and decompose within the soil than longer clumped grass.

Step 4: Direction

Plan your plowing direction before starting. As a general rule, the plowing should be done in the direction of the long sides of your garden. This will lead to less turning and maneuvering with your tractor.

However, if you find that this direction won’t be applicable for any area of the garden, use the other direction. The most important thing is to choose one direction and stick with it throughout the whole garden.

Step 5: Attaching the Plow

Make sure the plow is securely attached to the 3-point hitch of your tractor. Inspect the limiter chains to make sure they’re loosely fixed to the plow.

These chains are important to allow the plow to slightly move laterally when it faces an obstacle like a rock. However, having them too loose may cause the plow to hit the back tires of your tractor.

Step 6: The First Furrow

Drop the plow into the ground and start your first furrow from the right-hand side of the garden. It won’t differ if you picked the left-hand side, though. This is only done to make the rest of the steps easier to demonstrate.

Stop the tractor after about 5 feet to inspect the furrow you made.

Step 7: Inspecting the Depth

The furrow depth should be three times the diameter of the seed you’ll be growing. However, check the planting guidelines for the recommended depth of each crop.

You can adjust the depth through the height regulator of your plow. If you don’t have such a feature, you can use the rear hydraulics of your tractor.

If the garden is not 100% level, the plow will incline with the tractor, which will cause the depth to vary throughout the garden. The 3-point hitch can be used to adjust the leveling.

Step 8: Inspecting the Tilt

The tilt is the angle the plow makes with the ground. It’s adjusted through the top link in the 3-point hitch. Lengthening the top link will cause the back of the plow to drop the ground, producing a deeper furrow.

However, lengthening it too much will flip the plow blades, hence it won’t dig properly into the ground. On the other hand, shortening it too much will affect the turning of the plowed dirt.

The correct tilt produces an equally deep furrow with a 180-degree turn of the plowed dirt.

Step 9: Inspecting the Direction

Make sure the direction of the furrow is parallel to your garden outline. This is especially important because you’ll align the next furrows based on the first one alignment.

To make the alignment easier, put pole markers in the planned direction to guide you.

Step 10: Completing the First Furrow

After inspecting the pervious points and applying the necessary adjustments, complete the first furrow to the end of the garden.

Step 11: The Next Furrow

Drive the tractor back to the start of the first furrow. Then drive the right tires through the first furrow. This is important to make sure the next furrows will be at equal distances from each other, while simultaneously maintaining the same direction.

Now the tractor will be inclined toward the furrow. Before starting the next furrow, adjust the leveling of the plow from the 3-point hitch.

Proceed to plow for 5 feet, then stop and inspect just like you did for the first furrow. Afterward, complete the rest of the garden in the same manner.

Step 12: Other Cultivation Steps

Your garden may need more than plowing, such as harrowing. Harrowing is the process of breaking up soil clumps and smoothing out its surface. It typically follows plowing as the latter is known to leave a rough corrugated surface.

When You Should Plow Your Garden

Farmers differ on which time is the best for plowing, and this is completely reasonable. There’s no one time that’s right for plowing. Instead, plowing should be done when the right conditions are met.

The Soil Texture

The best time to plow a soil is when it’s slightly moist with a medium weight. Plowing a soggy or muddy soil will clog up the plow and produce an even more compacted soil.

While plowing a dry soil will push the deep moist layer even deeper, rather than turning it to the surface. This will increase the risk of soil erosion to wind and rain.

The Climate

The climate will have a direct effect on the soil texture. For example, periods of heavy rain will make the soil soggy, while periods of dry weather will make it dry. Both soils aren’t suitable for plowing as established before.

Also, windy weather increases the rate of soil erosion. Therefore, you should carefully plan up ahead to exploit the perfect weather to your advantage.

Adding Manure

If you plan to add manure to the soil, then add it and plow directly after the harvest. That’s because the beneficial materials of the manure, like nitrogen, take a few months to break down and be utilizable by the plants.

However, you may need to plow again before seeding if the soil becomes too hard and clumpy.

Types of Plows

The commercial plows are classified according to their shape and the number of blades they have.

Moldboard Plow

The most common plow shape. It inverts and slices the soil with its wing-shaped blade.

Disc Plow

With its steel disc-shaped blades, it can break the furrow made by the moldboard type into slices of dirt.

Ridge Plow

A double-winged plow that’s used to make parallel ridges next to the furrows. The ridges are crucial for planting certain crops like potatoes.

Chisel Plow

Contrary to the other plows, this one doesn’t turn the soil. Instead, it’s used to cut through the soil to loosen and aerate it.

Number of blades

Plows are named according to the number of blades they have and, accordingly, the furrows they make at the single pass. For example, a one-bottom plow has one blade that produces one furrow at a time. A two-bottom plow has two blades that produce two furrows, and so on.

Types of Tractors

There are two types of tractors you can use in your garden.

Garden Tractor

A heavy-duty tractor that can be used with a wide range of implements like plowers, tillers, seeders, front loaders, and backhoes. They typically cost $4,000 – $11,000.

Lawn Tractor

These tractors have smaller engines that are meant for mowing grass only. Some models can tow lawn accessories like carts and vacuum attachments. They cost $1,000 – $4,000

Why You Should Plow Your Garden

Plowing is an essential step toward a healthy crop. It turns the top layer of the soil, bringing the fresh nutrients to the surface where they can be used by the growing plants.

It also buries any remaining weeds or plants deep into the soil, speeding their decay into useful nutrients. As it turns the soil, it also loosens it up to be penetrable by the growing roots.

Additionally, this process gets rid of any harmful larvae that may be lurking inside waiting to feed on your grown plants.

In some gardens, plowing in lines perpendicular to the land slope will prevent the water runoff. This will decrease the needed amount of irrigation water needed and enhance the overall quality of the crop.

Plowing also produces the deep furrows needed for the seeds to be placed into.

Why is Plowing Bad for the Soil?

Plowing the earth disturbs the topsoil making more of it susceptible to wind and water erosion. It also causes compaction, which decreases its ability to retain water. This decrease in groundwater availability leads to an increase in salinity levels in surrounding groundwater sources, which can have grave consequences on nearby plants and animals.

The process of plowing also induces what is called “the accumulative effect,” effectively increasing concentrations of nitrogenous chemicals as they cycle through the soil for many years following a plowing season.

Additionally, it often only takes one season’s worth of solid rainfall (10 inches) over a tilled surface before heavy erosion has occurred with both negative impacts on soils and nutrients.

To Sum Up

Despite its extreme importance for your garden, plowing is not really hard to do if you know what you’re doing.

In addition to the technical steps, knowing the suitable climate and soil texture can drastically affect the plowing efficacy negatively or positively.

And above all, choosing the correct type of tractors and plows according to your needs will deliver the best results.