How to Plough or Plow a Field - Basic Instructions




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The aim of ploughing is to scoop up an 8” deep by 12” wide piece of earth and turn it over 180 degrees, burying any crop residue or weeds in the process. This results in loosened soil which can be made into a seed bed.

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Step 1: Preparation

Make sure you have adequate oil, coolant, fuel etc. In your tractor. Also, check your tyre pressures – this should all be obvious! Ensure that the field to be ploughed is free of plant material that could clog up the plough – it should be mowed close to the ground and the cuttings allowed to dry, reducing their bulk. Don’t plough on wet ground or allow your wheels to spin as this will damage the soil structure. It is advisable to have good tyres and a tractor with a diff. Lock, or better

Step 2: Connect the Plough

Connect the plough to the three point linkage and make sure that the ‘check chains’ are nice and loose but not so loose that the plough hits the back tyres when it swings from side to side. This adjustment is made in case you hit a large rock, enabling the plough to skid sideways rather than breaking anything on the tractor.

The tractor that we use is a 52 Hp International harvester 454 and the plough is a Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies TS 59M.

Step 3: Get Ploughing!

Starting at the right hand side of the field, drop the plough onto the ground with the 3 point linkage, drive the tractor 6 foot forwards and then inspect the results. The first cut is always more difficult as there is no adjacent furrow for the turf to fall into. This wont make much sense at the moment, so don’t worry about it! Assuming you are using a 2 furrow plough, you’ll eventually want the two rows of upturned turfs to be fairly similar in size, however, in the first cut this is difficult, if not impossible. The initial aim is just to create one neat, straight furrow about 8” deep in the ground.

Hot tip: Put up some marker poles to guide you on the first furrow - never use a cow in your neighbour's field as a marker reference.

Step 4: Next Furrow

Drive the tractor back to the start of the first furrow and position the right hand wheels in the furrow itself, lower the plough and drive 6 foot forwards and inspect the results. You’ll probably need to make adjustments to the plough to get good results.

Step 5: Adjusting the Depth Wheel

The first adjustment is the depth wheel and this should be set to get an 8” furrow – don’t try to get any deeper than your plough is designed for or else the turfs will not fold over neatly. If you don’t have a depth wheel, you’ll just have to use the tractor hydraulic depth control.

Step 6: Top Link Adjustment

The next adjustment is the top link which will alter the angle of the plough to the ground. If you lengthen the top link, the back plough will be lowered and create a deeper furrow, but if you lower it too much it can send the plough pointing upwards and it will not dig into the ground properly. You may then need to re-adjust the depth wheel until the whole plough is working properly. Do these two adjustments and plough a 6 foot section until you have a perfect set of ridges and a nice clean 8 “ furrow.

The second photo here shows that the left hand ridge is not turning over 180 degrees and so the top link needs to be extended to get the left hand plough deeper into the ground.

Step 7: Further Cultivation

Ploughing is just the first step in cultivating the land and should be followed by further tillage such as rotovating or harrowing before planting. Also, try and have an expert on hand when you first try ploughing to save making too much of a mess!

The last photo shows this particular plot planted, left to right, with kale, leeks, rainbow chard, coreopsis, cosmos and sunflowers.

Step 8: Final

So now you may want to plant potatoes?

If so, please check out my Instructable for all the tricks of the trade: Grow a Ton of Potatoes.

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23 Discussions


Question 1 year ago on Step 4

on the second pass i am supposed to drive the right hand wheel into the first furrow. is this the front or back tire of the tractor. okay.. watched the video and i understand this now. thanx for explaining so well and video definitely helps. do you ever have to plow over the same plot twice, or in crosshatch pattern before discing?





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1 reply

3 years ago

Good Instructable. :)

However, I would advise you to NEVER operate the tractor with the loader high in the air. I grew up farming and we were not allowed to do it for good reason. Your centre of gravity is set really high this way and your chance of a roll-over is greatly increased. If you can't see past the loader, remove the bucket while you're plowing.


4 years ago on Step 8

i'm currently working on putting together an AG plan for my land here. i have a diesel tractor with 45 horsepower (if not a hair more) and i'm planning a two bottom plow. after that i'm guessing a harrowing blade run over hte field, and making some harrowing rakes in the blacksmith shop i own ( :) ). maybe getting a hiller, and defiantely making some sort of cultivator. a lot of it i plan on crafting as i need, using adjustable attachments, but the plough itself i'm just going to buy i think.

Thing is does my plan sound remotely reasonable? i'm shooting in the dark here, and would love some insight from someone who knows :)

2 replies
Tecwyn Twmffatdeakin

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Hello Deakin, sounds like you've got a good plough and tractor combination there. Definitely would not try making a plough myself as there's so many old second hand ones around where I live at least. After ploughing there's all kinds of options, modern farmers use a 'power harrow' which creates a nice tilthe for planting. They were way too expensive for me, so I went for a 30 year old Howard 'rotovator' which has been superb. I built myself a fully adjustable cultivator, which is still in development, and has been useful for forming nice seed beds and weeding. I'll publish it as an instructable one day hopefully!

It would be interesting to know what type of soil you have, what you want to plant and what your neighbors are growing. Also how big are the fields and if they are flat, well drained etc?

deakinTecwyn Twmffat

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

i'm in michigan and i deal with a lot of sand - its loamy though, and when you make it a ball in your fist it holds it shape till you poke it. I'm still planning on bringing in something like 30 yards of compost for the garden though, which given my 'garden' only puts a 2in layer on it.

The one neighbor has 30+ acres of soy, the rest of my neighbors are wooded lots or lawns / fields. there's a large swamp accross the road and the land over there is low and wet - i'm putting my raspberries, grapes, blackberries, and probably blueberries in that area, on raised furrows.

the soil over there is like black rich gold. 10 feet up the hill from that is wher ethe fields are getting cut in, 5000sqft of graden, and that space again as a goat graze field and an alfalfa field that size as well. i'm planning on an acre of apple pear and cherry trees, and at least a half dozen autumn olive trees.

The tractor is massively overkill for what i'm doing here, but there's 32 acres of land for sale about a quarter mile down the street... seriously considering it for a hay field or someting like that.

Tecwyn TwmffatKiteman

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Mine is only a small plough and so I'd only plough a couple of acres in a day. If I had more land I guess I could do about 10 acres a day.


5 years ago on Introduction

good instructable! just got a question for you, are you going round or are you driving back to one side of the field? if you're doing the last you're working a bit inefficient. also, what is your groundspeed? going slow doesn't work properly, too high a speed doesn't work either

1 reply

Thanks for your comment Farmall. I guess I could have opened up a furrow in the middle of the field, but it's only a small section so it was not worth it. My dad was driving the tractor and he reversed it back along the unploughed section. As far as speed is concerned, yes I agree with you on that one. Also, too fast and you hit a rock and something's going to break, even though I've already dug most of the rocks out. Also, don't forget to vote - I really need another T shirt as this one's starting to get smelly.


5 years ago

Really enjoyable 'ible on a subject many of us know nothing about...thank you for sharing!

1 reply

Thanks Pagan. It was hard to learn it myself as the info on the interweb was far too complicated. I learnt it the old fashion way - talking to my neighbours and good old trial and error.