2 years ago I bought a Grillo 85D walk behind tractor from Earth Tools and customized it with (the now standard) Lombardini Diesel. Along with it I purchased a Berta Rotary Plow. This implement alone was 40% of the price of the tractor, but the ability to turn under sod and cover crops as well as to form beds seemed worth it. I’ve posted some shots in the past about what it can do, here are some more. It is an InCREDIBLY invasive tool – it inverts and overly fluffs all the soil in the top 14″ and is the antithesis of no-till; its essentially mechanized double digging. But if you want to break ALOT of eggs to make a wicked good omlet, its your toy. Making the 20 potato beds for this years field trials will mean that the rotary plow will get a serious workout. Here are some of the results from today:
The cover I am turning under is a winter rye planted in November 2009. 3-6″ top growth. Here is the bed about 35 minutes later:
Wrestling a 300# beast with a 12″ wide propeller inthe earth is not always as easy as it sounds, so the trenches can get a bit wonky if you hit rocks or soil compaction (center left). Here is what another 30 minutes with a shovel cleaning up the lines will do, and a further 30 minutes laying down 1.5 yards of chips on the right:
Since I was on a roll and the Lombardini was all warmed up I cut myself two more on the other side of the small Hoopty:
4 down! Again, the beds are 6′ wide with 2′ of trench in between. The beds are sized to be fit a Johnny’s Low Tunnel at the ends of the season over 2 30″ beds an a 1′ center path for weeding. The 2′ trenches are being filled with wood chips are time allows, but it is a crap ton of chips. – one of these 85′ paths will take over 5 yards of chips. That is half a dump truck load! On the upside, this 65×95 plot is getting over 10,000#’s of fresh organic matter for the worms and fungi to feast on.
Here is a shot of the Berta breaking sod last year for a community garden:
And a shot of turning under a field of mixed cover crop:
Cutting these 25-30 beds is a lot of work and I am beating the crap out of the soil. The plan is to never touch these beds again with the Berta Plow – these beds are to be permanent, mulched, and at most only lightly tilled to clear debris as needed.
End goal? to make my beloved Berta obsolete and end up with a system like this.
In the mean time, my Berta and me are getting it done.
Be the Change.