Hello, fellow potato growers! Today, we’re diving into the world of mechanized weeding and ridging. If you’ve got a larger area of potatoes, using a tractor and specialized equipment can make the weeding and ridging process more efficient and less labor-intensive. In this article, we’ll explore how to use a Massey Ferguson 35x tractor, a Ferguson grubber, and a Ferguson drill plough to weed and ridge up your potatoes. We’ll also discuss the benefits of this method, such as weed removal and adding extra soil to your plants. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Benefits of hilling potatoes with a tractor
To begin, i’d like to point out that people living in other parts of the world will call this process of loosening and adding soil to potato rows/ drills by many different names such as “ridging”, “moulding”, “grubbing”, “earthing” and “hilling”, but they all mean the same thing. Just as I have used the example of using a tractor and grubber (cultivator) and drill plough, this has been done by hand using a hoe and shovel for many years before and after the introduction of tractors.
Working potatoes using a tractor and mounted equipment, like a grubber and drill plough, offers several advantages over manual hilling methods:
- Increased efficiency: Mechanized weeding allows you to cover more ground in less time, making it ideal for larger potato areas.
- Reduced labor: Using a tractor and attachments reduces the physical strain of hilling, especially if you’re managing a sizeable plot.
- Weed control: The grubber and drill plough can help remove and cover weeds as you ridge your potatoes, reducing the need for additional weeding.
- Improved soil aeration: The grubber loosens the soil, allowing air and water to penetrate deeper, benefiting your potato plants.
Preparing your equipment: The MF 35x, Ferguson grubber, and Ferguson drill plough
Before you begin any work, it’s essential to prepare your equipment. Here’s a quick rundown of the tractor and attachments you’ll be using:
- Massey Ferguson (MF) 35x: This small classic tractor is known for its reliability and versatility. It’s an ideal choice for working on smaller plots of potatoes, as it can handle various attachments and offers excellent maneuverability.
- Ferguson grubber: This attachment is designed to loosen the soil and remove weeds. It features several tines that penetrate the ground, breaking up compacted soil and uprooting weeds.
- Ferguson drill plough: The drill plough is used to form ridges or mounds of soil around the base of your potato plants. It consists of a series of curved ploughshares that mold the soil into neat, uniform rows.
Step-by-step guide to weeding and ridging potatoes with a tractor
Now that you’re familiar with the equipment, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of weeding and ridging your potatoes using a MF 35x tractor, a Ferguson grubber, and a Ferguson drill plough.
Step 1: Prepare Your tractor and attachments
Start by ensuring your MF 35x tractor is in good working order. Check the oil, coolant, and fuel levels, and make any necessary adjustments. Attach the Ferguson grubber to the tractor’s three-point hitch, making sure it’s secure and properly aligned. Set the grubber’s tines to a depth that will loosen the soil without damaging the potato plants’ roots.
Step 2: Cultivating the soil along the bottoms of the drills
Begin at one end of your potato row, and slowly drive the MF 35x down the row, allowing the grubber to loosen the soil and remove weeds. Be sure to maintain a steady speed and watch for any obstacles that could damage your equipment or plants. Repeat this process for each row of potatoes, adjusting the grubber’s depth if needed.
Sometimes it is a good idea to go over the drills twice to further break up large lumps of soil, this finer soil stays on the drills better and makes the job look much better than big clumps sitting on top of the drills.
Step 3: Attach the Ferguson drill plough
Once you’ve finished grubbing the soil, it’s time to switch attachments. Remove the Ferguson grubber and attach the Ferguson drill plough to the tractor’s three-point hitch. Adjust the plough’s settings to create ridges or mounds that are the appropriate height and width for your potato plants. Keep in mind that you want to cover the tubers while still allowing the plant’s foliage to receive sunlight.
A drill plough is slightly different to a conventional plough.
Step 4: Hill the potatoes with the drill plough
With the Ferguson drill plough attached, begin at one end of your potato row and drive the MF 35x down the row, molding the soil into ridges around the base of each plant. As with the grubber, maintain a steady speed and stay vigilant for any obstacles. The drill plough will create uniform mounds of soil that protect your tubers from sunlight, improve drainage, and promote root development. Repeat this process for each row of potatoes.
Top tip! – ensure your leveling arm screw turns freely to make on-the-go adjustments a breeze.
Step 5: Inspect your work
After you’ve finished hilling your potatoes with the tractor and attachments, take some time to inspect your work. Walk along each row, checking for any exposed tubers or uneven soil distribution. If you spot any issues, address them by hand, adding more soil or adjusting the mounds as needed.
Step 6: Monitor and maintain
Continue to monitor your potato plants throughout the growing season, keeping an eye out for any exposed tubers or signs of pest infestation. If necessary, perform additional weeding and ridging using the tractor and equipment, or address smaller issues by hand.
Step 7: Harvest time
Once your potato plants have flowered and the foliage begins to yellow and die back, it’s time to harvest your potatoes. Since you’ve hilled up your potatoes using a tractor and drill plough, they should be easier to dig out of the ground. Use a garden fork or a tractor-mounted potato harvester to carefully lift the tubers out of the soil. Be sure to dig deep enough to retrieve all the potatoes, as some may be hidden further down in the soil.
Hilling potatoes with a tractor, such as the MF 35x, and specialized equipment like the Ferguson grubber and drill plough, can be a game-changer for those with a slightly larger area of potatoes. Not only does this method save time and reduce labor, but it also helps control weeds and improve overall plant health. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the art of mechanized hilling and enjoying a bountiful potato harvest. Happy growing!