How to buy - Soil cultivation

Here's some guidance on how to choose the right type of equipment for your site and needs.

There is a wide range of cultivation equipment — from spades and forks for small beds and borders to walk-behind cultivators and large tractor-mounted machinery. Whether you are a landscaper working on display beds, a contractor installing sports facilities or a nurseryman planting a field, there should be something to suit your situation.

Mechanisation is the answer to reducing the effort and speeding up the job of preparing ground for seeding or planting. The nature of the site and the characteristics of the soil, plus the aim of the cultivation work, will determine the best type of equipment and the most appropriate size. You also need to consider the depth of cultivation required and inspect the subsoil for signs of compaction or pans.

Pedestrian-operated machinery is suitable for small sites, especially where access is limited. There are two main types of pedestrian machine — the dedicated power tiller and the two-wheeled or "walking" tractor. The first usually has a belt- or chain-driven rotor shaft with cultivator blades attached. Although supplied with two transport wheels, it is the cultivator’s rotor that propels the machine once in the work position.

Options and extras

Two-wheeled tractors have wheels to propel the machine forwards and backwards and there is a separate drive system to power a range of attachments including ploughing, furrowing and cultivation implements.

Larger-scale projects will require the use of tractor-mounted machinery — ploughs, sub-soilers, harrows, stone buriers, cultivators or combination units. With these items it is important to match the implement to the site and to the tractor unit. You also need equipment that is easy to attach to the tractor and simple to operate. And, as with all machinery, you should check that the appropriate CE markings are present and that all moving parts are guarded.
Maintenance and service requirements should also be investigated and it is important to ask about dealer support and availability of spares — you don’t want to be delayed for days while a rotor or blade is delivered and fitted.
With cultivation being a starting point for most projects, and a requirement of many maintenance schemes, development of equipment continues.
Recently introduced is a heavy-duty stone burier from Doncaster-based Amazone Groundcare. Available in 1.5m and two-metre working widths, these three-point linkage mounted combination units are power-take-off (PTO) driven and comprise a horizontal rotor stone burier with scrolled L-shaped blades designed to loosen and bury stones, rubble and surface residues down to a maximum depth of 20cm. Following the cultivation tool is a roller and seed box to complete re-establishment.

Last year, Rustons Engineering of Cambridgeshire took on the UK distributorship of the range of Rotadairon soil renovators/stone buriers and combination seeders.

All models feature a rotor with blades that cut upwards, away from the subsoil, to minimise compaction and panning. A separate screen creates structured levels — stones at the bottom, followed by clods and then fine soil. The manufacturer claims that this structure allows for improved drainage, aeration and easier root penetration. A choice of one-pass machines is available with power requirements from 15hp to 210hp.

To meet the demands of landscapers, reclamation contractors and large-scale turf growers, Imants of Holland has developed the Imants Revolution one-pass cultivator. The PTO-driven Revolution is a heavy-duty machine of sound construction and is offered in the UK by Campey
Turf Care Systems. There are two working widths available — 2.6m, requiring tractors from 80hp to 90hp, and three metres with a requirement of 100hp to 120hp.

The Revolution features a transversely mounted rotor-shaft, fitted with 24 or 28 spade blades — depending on the model — arranged in banks of four. Primary cultivation is achieved by the continually rotating spade blades operating across the full width of the machine and to a maximum depth of 45cm. The cultivator pulls itself through the soil with minimal risks of wheel slip and smearing. As the blades cultivate, they lift and tumble the soil to mix it and break up any clods. The rear-mounted Spiro seedbed consolidator adds the final touch — all at speeds up to 5.8km/h.

On a different scale, Husqvarna has added two compact cultivators — the T25 and T200 Compact Pro. Both are lightweight machines designed for use in restricted spaces and they could appeal to those undertaking garden construction and maintenance duties. The T25 has a 2.5hp engine, weighs 20kg and is easy to transport. The T200 is just 12kg and is powered by a 1.5hp Honda GX31 engine.

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