Fall Plowing

Originally posted 20 November 2011

I plowed garden this afternoon with the Oliver.  Actually, I did some other stuff as well with it, but the big deal for me was plowing the garden.

It took longer to get ready to plow the garden than it did to actually plow the little bit I plowed. First, I wanted to move the right-hand wheel on the tractor in so the furrow cut with the front bottom wouldn’t be too large. These are “power adjust” wheels, but they haven’t moved in years that I can tell.  The last few weeks I’ve been hitting the wheel clamps and stop blocks with penetrating oil every time I walk by them. Today it was time to see if they were loose.

With a little persuasion, the clamps loosened up and turned.

The stop blocks weren’t so willing to move.  The bolt/pin is really rusted tight. I can rock the block by tapping on it with a hammer, but I couldn’t come up with the correct combination of wrenches to make the pin turn.  I see a half-inch drive, half-inch square socket in my near future. The meanwhile, they all got another healthy squirt of penetrating oil.

As you may have noticed in the first picture, the stop blocks are not tight up against the clamp as they should be. So, this did allow me to spin the wheel in tighter once I got the clamps loose, so I went ahead and did that.  I was pretty amazed.  The wheel spun in up to the stop block as slick as could be.

So I put the plow on. Some of this is to help a co-worker who plowed for the very first time recently.  He’s a city kid who has a few acres to play on in his adult life. After I got the plow mounted, first I took a look to see if it was level out of the ground.

The three point geometry keeps all points in somewhat of a relationship as the plow raises and lowers, so this is a good place to start. Next, after we make a couple passes, we want to check that the plow is level in the ground.

If you ever need to do this, don’t worry too much about leveling the plow until you have made a couple passes.  On the first pass, the rear wheel isn’t running in the furrow. Experienced plowmen say that on the second pass, the effect of the first pass is not yet worked completely out in the depth of the furrow. You may be able to start leveling things out, but don’t consider the adjustments final. After the second pass, you can begin to make your final adjustments. To adjust the level of the plow front to rear, shorten the third link to bring the rear of the plow up or lengthen the third link to lower the rear of the plow.

You also want to see if the plow is level side-to-side. This adjustment is made on the right hand drop link on the three point hitch.  Most tractors have a crank to easily change this adjustment.  For a long first pass across a field, you may want to crank the right side down to level the plow out for that first pass, but on these short rows it wasn’t worth it for me to do so.

You can see from the picture above, that you want the plow level to the ground, but because the tractor has the right hand wheels in the furrow, it will not be level and you don’t want the plow level to the tractor. It can be a little confusing.

Finally, you want to see if the plow is cutting evenly with both bottoms. I didn’t really have enough time to work this out.  When I pulled this plow behind the 8N it only cut about half as much with the front bottom as it did with the rear bottom.  Now, with the Oliver, it seems that it is cutting more, but still doesn’t appear to cutting as much as the second bottom.The best thing to do is actually measure it with a tape measure.

Another thing to measure is the depth of the furrow.  Generally, plows work the best when plowing within an inch or so of half the bottom spacing. So, if this is a 14-inch plow, we should be plowing between 6 to eight inches deep. The 550 has noticeably more power and weight than the 8N did and we were able to do a much better (deeper) job of plowing than we could before.

I’m letting the three point arms sway freely, which is what I believe I am supposed to do when plowing. If I put the stabilizer bar on, I would be taking more than a full cut.  Other wise, I could loosen the clamps that you can see on the bar that has the three point pins on it and slide the entire plow to the left a few inches to make it cut more with the front bottom.

Other adjustments I should really make with this plow is to bring the coulters up some – they are in my opinion running way too deep.  They only need to cut through any trash on the surface and perhaps an inch into the soil.  Also, the coulters could really use new bushing/bearings.

Another thing that never really happened this afternoon is that the plow never scoured – I simply didn’t run long enough to shine the bottoms up well.  The front one doesn’t look too bad, but when I cleaned the rear one off, it still had last years dirt stuck to it and was rusted.  This year I cleaned it up much better and sprayed it with penetrating oil.

I didn’t even plow the full garden.  We have two gardens, and we had decided to just till them up this fall and not plow. We have been talking about adding more vining crops next year which take up a lot of room. So. I plowed up a few feet more.

After doing the garden, I cleaned up just a few leaves that we had left in the yard.  For that, I hook the trailer to the tractor and pile the leaves in it, and then transport them to the leaf pile.  We have filled our compost heaps to overflowing with leaves and cornstalks, so I have been dumping the leaves into the abandoned (for now) chicken pen.

When I’m working around the back yard, these two guys usually keep me company.