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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