Soil tillage: what they are and what equipment to use


Is your garden ready? Are you sure you have everything you need with you? You know all the methods for prepare a good seedbed? To do it you certainly need the right equipment too and for this very reason today, in addition to explaining the main workings of the soil, we present the machines for working and milling the soil.

Soil tillage

As you already know, tillage is gods agronomic interventions carried out so that cultivation can be carried out. In agronomic practice, therefore, the working of the land occupies a place of great importance as they strongly affect the general characteristics of the soil and therefore the success of cultivation. They are a complex of mechanical operations performed with different types of tools, which are capable of breaking the soil and forming clods and lumps of various sizes.

So, the first objective of the workings it is the modification of the structure and softness of the soil where we want to create our garden. Each agricultural tool is suitable for producing mechanical effects that are its own and which can also vary significantly depending on the environment and methods of use.

Making the soil softer is not the only goal of working the soil, but is part of a set of objectives that are also independent of each other. These are:

  • Seedbed preparation: a favorable environment for the burial and germination of seeds or the rooting of roots;
  • Structural layer suitable for root penetration and their proper functioning;
  • Increased permeability of the active layer (rhizosphere) and therefore control of water circulation with a decrease in the phenomena of water stagnation, surface flow and erosion;
  • Increased volume of explorable land from the roots and therefore, in certain cases, of the quantity of water that can be stored as a useful water reserve.
  • Destruction of weeds and some plant or animal parasites.
  • Burying of fertilizers organic and mineral products, corrective products, soil improvers and crop residues.

Soil working classification

The working of the land can be classified in different ways, taking into account the time of execution, their ordinary and extraordinary character, the immediate effect on the soil, etc. Below, we prefer to indicate a ranking inspired by the time of execution and the purposes characterizing the various mechanical interventions.

  1. Tillage of the land for cultivation: clearing and burglary;
  2. Main preparatory soil tillage: plowing, digging, milling, scarifying;
  3. Complementary soil tillage: grubbing, surface leveling, harrowing, milling, rolling;
  4. Tillage for cultivation (or consecutive or successive operations): harrowing, scarifying, weeding and hoeing, tamping, rolling and milling.

In first group we include that set of interventions carried out in order to cultivate (1) a land that has never been cultivated or uncultivated for a long time, or (2) a land that will host a long-lasting crop (example: orchard, asparagus, etc.) . The preparatory soil tillage the main ones are those that are carried out before sowing or planting the crop in order to put the soil in suitable conditions to accommodate and conveniently support the crop itself. These soil works are called "main "or complementary depending on whether they mainly perform the action of "breaking" the cultivated layer or the action of "refining" and therefore of real preparation of the seed bed. aim to favor the achievement of the set objectives.

Overall, the soil can be worked with tools that can be classified into 6 main groups:

  1. Tippers
  2. Discissors
  3. Scramblers
  4. Rammers
  5. Weeds
  6. Ridgers

THE tippers (like the plow and the spade) cut the soil into more or less regular parallelepipeds or slices, which they overturn more or less completely, thus bringing to the surface soil that was previously at a certain depth and vice versa.

THE discissers (scarifiers, grubbers, toothed harrows) simply cause cuts in the crop profile, giving it clodiness and softness but without interfering in its stratigraphy.

The instruments scramblers (diggers, cutters, disc harrows, rotary plows, rotary cultivators) use rotating elements that break up the soil more or less vigorously into lumps, sometimes accompanied by abundant fine earth and cause the entire worked layer to be mixed.

THE rammers (compressor rollers) reduce the softness considered excessive. THE weeds (hoeing machines) perform a very superficial tillage (2-8 cm) with or without mixing of the affected soil. The openers (furrows) raise, with their passage, the ground on the two sides of advancement, forming parallel furrows and embankments.

In a context like this, therefore, it becomes essential to find and purchase equipment suitable for what we are going to do. If you care about your garden and your crops, I am sure you are looking for the best available on the market and at a good price.

Many products can be found online on the Agrieuro website with a wide range of machines: ride-on mowers, motor mowers, rotary tillers, rotary cultivators, hoes for tractors, earth augers, bodies and shovels for tractors, subsoilers, seed drills, chainsaws and much more.

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Overview of tillage methods: plow, mulch sowing, strip-till, direct sowing methods

The methods of tillage are constantly evolving due to changing weather and climatic conditions, the individual needs of the cultivated species and technical progress.
The following should be borne in mind: Careful, site-specific and timely tillage is a prerequisite for successful cultivation.


Pickaxe, rakes and spades:

All three of these elements are suitable for tillage.

The first is certainly the rake, which is a tool for working the soil in a manual way, and in fact, like the other tools indicated here, it does not have a motor.

The rake consists of a handle that is a minimum of 1.50 meters long and a maximum of 2 meters. At the end of this handle, which can be made of metal, plastic or wood, there is a comb that can also be made of various materials, the same or different from the one chosen for the handle.

Obviously the choice of which materials to use is not made by chance, which does not happen even for the distance of the tips of the comb: when the rake is used to work a hard earth, it is generally made of metal, at least as regards the comb. when a soft earth has to be worked, wood or plastic is generally used. The rakes, however, as well as to work the land can also be used to clean the latter from dry leaves or small stones. In these cases you do not need the metal rake, which is certainly much heavier than the others, and you prefer a lighter and more manageable rake, therefore easier to use and much less tiring.

The spade is used to move or remove the soil, to crush the clods of earth, to spread seeds and more. It is made up of a handle generally made of metal or wood, which can be of various lengths: from a minimum of 1.30 meters to a maximum of 1.90 meters -2 meters. It is widely used in gardening, and is considered the equivalent of the shovel, which is instead used in construction work. It is certainly very similar to пїЅpalaпїЅ, which is considered its ancestor. Unlike both the latter and the shovel, the spade has a system of use according to which you have to grip the handle with both hands, and then place it vertically, obviously turning the tip of the blade towards the part of the ground you intend to dig. . At this point, pressure is applied with the foot on the spade so that the blade penetrates into the ground. With the blade, a portion of soil is then raised and turned or moved, depending on whether you want to prepare the soil for sowing or if you want to dig a hole.

The pickaxe is a very ancient tool, just like the rake and the spade, with which it can be said that it has in common the system of use, but it is different as regards the blade.

It is a very sturdy tool to be operated manually, which is made up of a handle which, just like the handle of the tools previously described, can be made of wood or metal. At the end of this handle there is a kind of very sturdy steel plate, about sixty centimeters, which has a pointed and a cut end. However, there are also hoe picks, in which the cut end is replaced with the hoe tip, which has an elongated shape, useful for weeding operations.

This tool is very useful for breaking particularly hard clods of soil, therefore it is advisable to buy it only when you are faced with particularly arid and very compact lands.

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Floor tiles

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Nails and Screws

When dealing with do-it-yourself, whatever the field in which you choose to operate, it is not enough to wake up in the morning and choose to get to work: for this work to be successful, you need to.


Soil fertility and the "spade test"

A soil is fertile when it is suitable for hosting plants, favoring their optimal development. The English botanist and agronomist Albert Howard (1873-1947) writes in An agricultural will: "Fertility is the condition of a soil rich in humus in which plant growth processes are rapid, harmonious and efficient. The term fertility therefore implies abundance, high quality and resistance to parasites".

Fertility can be analyzed under three aspects: physical, biological and chemical.

We talk about physical fertility analyzing the particles and their aggregation into small, mobile and resistant clods that allow water and air to circulate and the roots to develop.

There biological fertility it concerns the hospitality of the land for living organisms and therefore the presence of sufficient water and air and the absence of harmful substances.

There chemical fertility finally, it concerns the analysis of the nutrients present in the soil. The soil can be defined as fertile if there is the presence of nutrients that favor the growth and development of plants.

The importance of physical and biological fertility

Biological fertility, or the presence of soil organisms, is responsible for the transformation of fertilizer into humus and humus into nutrients. These organisms are present in well oxygenated soils, with sufficient quantities of water and food, and purified from toxic substances. Humus favors the presence of these elements. Instead, nourishment comes from fertilizers, from the decomposition of soil waste and from the production of substances by the soil organisms themselves.

Both for the development of humus and for obtaining a good soil structure, biological fertility is essential: soil organisms, and in particular their manure, favor the mixing of the soil and its physical fertility.

Test to determine soil fertility: the "spade test"

The "spade test" allows us to examine the fertility of our soil: by carefully analyzing a sample of soil it is possible to make a comparison with the ideal state of the soil and it is therefore possible to hypothesize its state and evaluate the effectiveness of the work carried out.

It is advisable to do this type of test before starting to work the soil as the soil moisture level should be medium (neither too high nor too low).

The areas to test in the soil vary depending on whether the crop has grown evenly or not. In the first case, the place of sampling is indifferent, in the second case it will be good to examine both the soil where there was good crop growth, and the one in which growth was lower.

If, on the other hand, the soil is bare, the soil is collected in the potentially more problematic areas from the point of view of compaction or simply of poor structure.

It is also performed in areas of the field where spontaneous herbs grow.

With a spade or a flat-toothed fork, a piece of soil 10 cm thick and 20-30 cm deep is taken, trying not to damage it. The depth of the sampling is essential to understand the presence of air and adequate recirculation or not, and why soil organisms act at this depth.

Observations on the spade test

Before performing the test, you need to collect a variety of information.

First of all we observe the ground surface, any presence of cracks would indicate that the soil is dry and has good percentages of clay. If there is a crust, the soil does not like stresses both caused by atmospheric agents and by irrigation.

The presence of algae or moss on the surface, on the other hand, is synonymous with a superficially compact soil, soaked in water and with poor ventilation. Even the presence of small furrows must be analyzed and noted (negative sign), the presence of turriculums on the other hand concerns the presence of earthworms in the ground and is a good sign as well as small holes in correspondence of rough ground.

It is also necessary to carefully observe the spontaneous floral species present which can detect the characteristics of the soil (if present abundantly): the presence of nitrogen (nettle, stramonium, black nightshade, senecione),

the degree of compactness (plantain, Poa annua, Polygonum aviculare, gramigna),

the good or bad structure (if it is good you will find centocchio, veronica, galinsoga),

the presence of silt (stub, chamomile, dockyard) or sand (purslane),

the absence of water stagnation problems (amaranth).

Finally, even a low vigor of the flora is an indicator of a problematic soil which does not favor the development of plants and which is probably poor in soil organisms.

Another element to keep under control is the kind of resistance that the ground offers to the spade during picking: if you can easily sink into the ground, the structure will be soft and without evident or compact layers. If it is difficult to penetrate the ground, the ground will be compact as well as the structure.

Finally, if a discontinuous opposition is found in the ground, it can be said that there are layers and there may be a working sole (layer that forms at the depth of the working with the cultivator and which sometimes prevents the passage of roots).

We will then observe the shape and distribution of clods. A small layer of earth will be cut with a flexible blade knife to remove the deformed layer during the picking operation. The present layers will then be visible, often observing a thin surface layer, an intermediate and a lower one.

The surface layer is very thin (about 2 cm) and is usually loose and full of pores, at other times it can also be compacted and not very porous.

The intermediate layer, on the other hand, is processed and can in turn be divided into two layers. Finally, the lower unprocessed layer is usually divided from the others by the processing sole.

Different characteristics can be observed in each layer: usually a particular aggregate prevails but more or less roots or materials such as gravel or stones can be present so as to be able to evaluate the structural state of the soil. To have a good structure there must be small and porous aggregates with few stones or gravel.

Through this test it is also possible to evaluate it state of humidity of the soil. We proceed by trying to crumble the clod of earth with our fingers: if it is impossible, the soil will be dry and therefore not workable if we can easily crumble the soil, the soil is "in tempera" and is ready for work. Finally, if it deforms between the fingers without crumbling, it is too wet and therefore not workable.

Humidity can also be estimated with sight by identifying the darkest areas that will also be the wettest.

Clay, humus and very thin channels help the soil to retain more water.

In cultivated land, the presence of humus is usually found on the surface and less and less as it descends in depth, the clay instead remains present in equal measure.

It is also important to analyze the roots. If there is a homogeneous development within the sample, it means that you have a good situation and that the soil is balanced and hospitable. However, if very fine and weak roots are found, it means that there are obstacles to their development.

If their presence is highlighted inside the tunnels dug by earthworms, the soil will be compact or there will be a working sole.

Finally, in the presence of legumes, it is advisable to analyze the tubercles that give a positive sign of nitrogen-fixing activity when they show a reddish content when they are dissected with a razor blade.

Another important factor for evaluating the state of the soil is the presence of organic matter which gives information on the biological activity of the soil (decomposition of residues, fertilizers, activity of soil organisms). If the soil is not fertile due to lack of oxygen or water, biological activity will be poor and therefore there will be little organic matter.

Even the excess of water or the surface compaction of the soil, which prevents the passage of oxygen, does not help the production of organic matter which decays due to the presence of anaerobic microorganisms.

The quality of the organic substance can be estimated with sight, touch and smell.

The buried material will obviously decompose more or less quickly due to its characteristics: lignified materials such as straw, which must be previously chopped up, will decompose in 9-12 months, the low-lignified residues instead such as leaves or green manure, have a period of decomposition 3-6 months.

There is a good level of decomposting when the color of the residues is dark, the smell is pleasant and the materials are no longer distinguishable.

A fertile soil is rich in fauna: otherwise it will be necessary to understand and resolve the causes of this lack.

Within the fauna category, harmful organisms such as nocturnes and other insects can be distinguished, from useful ones such as earthworms and pollinators (which feed on harmful ones).

A soil rich in organisms is usually a well fertilized soil (where it is easy to find food for the organisms), not polluted by toxic substances, with a good structure, possibly covered with mulch and not often worked vigorously.

The land can present itself to the view more or less dark, this essentially depends on:

  • by the presence of humus (dark brown color)
  • from iron oxides (yellow / red color)
  • from manganese oxides (purple / black color)
  • from carbonates, sulphates and chlorides (white).

Obviously, the water present in the soil also affects its color: a very humid soil will have darker shades than a dry soil.

If you notice gray-green-blue shades in the soil, it means that the soil has been soaked for a long time and has therefore received little oxygen, indicating a reduced iron presence.

Ocher / rust stains always affects the iron in a soil that is soaked in water and therefore periodically not oxygenated. Finally, black or white spots always indicate a poorly oxygenated soil with consequences for manganese (black) or calcium carbonate (white).

Finally, also thesmell of the soil is fundamental in the search for the presence of living organisms, to be sought, however, in the deeper and less aerated layers (under 2 cm). In particular, if the scent is pleasant (woodland), mushrooms will probably be present (a good symptom of life) if on the contrary the smell is rotten / moldy the soil will probably be poorly ventilated and compact if no particular smell is recognized instead it will be necessary act to improve soil fertility and therefore life.

The last test that can be performed is the "proof of the fall": the slice of the ground is raised and dropped from a height of 1.5 meters onto a hard and flat surface. Based on the reaction of the sod to the fall, it will be possible to draw conclusions: the earth can simply deform or shatter. If after the fall you notice the presence of live roots still trapped in the network of the roots, for example these will be well aggregated to the ground.


Why aerate the lawn

Airing the lawn means performing a series of actions, from removing the felt to soil scarification (and, therefore, the slight superficial incision of the ground). As the months go by, in fact, leaves, debris, dead plant residues and the typical remains of cutting are deposited on the lawn mulching operated with the lawn mower. As they accumulate, all these elements form a light insulating layer which takes the name of "felt”.

Eliminating that "barrier" is essential: it can prevent irrigation water from penetrating best in the ground, hinder the growth of dormant shoots. But also increase the risk of fungal diseases, limit the passage of sunlight, increase the stagnation of humidity, reduce the exchange of oxygen, decrease the effectiveness of fertilizations and the anchoring of the roots or, again, cause an abnormal growth of the grass.

Not aerate the lawn, therefore, it weakens it, making him sick. Proceed with manual aeration (with a scarifier rake) or electric (with the special aerator), on the contrary, it reinforces it. And it allows the grass to grow strong and vigorous.


Stones and breasts away from the fields of

When grown potato tubers, sinuses and stones in the ground prevent a good harvest. Their presence can damage the tubers during growth. In addition, there is a rapid deterioration of the work equipment, which leads to unnecessary economic costs.

Modern technologies can easily solve such problems and clear the field. Not only are they widely used, since they are expensive and have numerous technological shortcomings.

In western countries, where potatoes grow Two methods are used: crest

  • be separate
  • it is used to remove ridges from stones by inserting them into the grooves.

Particular attention is paid to the second method. It was originally used on heavy soils, but is now successfully used on light and rocky soils.

With cultivable separation layer is freed from stones and clods, loosening layer thus kept, the soil is saturated with oxygen, there are no obstacles to the development and growth of plant roots.

Thanks to this approach, the quality of vegetable crops becomes much better, the wear of equipment decreases significantly, while manual processing of potatoes reduces labor costs.

The separation of the soil facilitates the load on the equipment and increases the productivity of the potato

How does it happen? The ridges are installed with two climbers. The width between them varies depending on the final result. Thus, the formation of furrows, the depth of which reaches 30 cm. They also lay stones during parting. By separating the gratings, various impurities are separated from the soil. In a separate hopper, the larger stones are deposited and smaller stones and slings fall directly into the grooves. After harvesting the potato and before changing the crop rotation, all deposits in the furrows are evenly distributed. Separate comb and cutting system with special double row plows. Fields for this purpose use a technique specially designed for such work.

Such machines used in various economies in Europe and made the following conclusions:

  • no residue from previous crop separation process used for soil sieving additional treatment from a plow of heavy soils can reduce the number of lumps
  • all fertilizers are introduced in front of the arable robots
  • during the formation of the ridge of the sulcus must be distributed at a distance, this affects the location of the ridges separation process
  • carried out when the soil is dry enough, with high humidity in the spring separation does not stand, because it contributes to the destruction of the soil structure and leads to lower yields.When the spring seems too raw, potato seedlings are planted. Crests

be at the same distance from each other as protection devices


Soil preparation for sowing

We assume that we have, for make the vegetable garden, a land never cultivated before (or in any case resting for some time), with a good sun exposure in a mild climate, and with an easily usable water source. Here are the first steps to take for preparing the land and, therefore, for the creation of our vegetable garden.
The basic preliminary operations concern soil preparation, and there are two: its cleaning and its first processing.

Ground cleaning

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Land covered with weeds

The first operation to do ever to create your own vegetable garden is to prepare the ground for sowing, especially if we are faced with a plot that has not been used for some time. The right preparation of the soil is important and, first of all, it is necessary to clean the entire area that we want to go to cultivate. Before even starting to operate on the ground with manual or mechanical tools, it is therefore necessary to eliminate all the weeds and spontaneous weeds that will certainly be present.

Avoid glyphatous

At this moment, the first watershed between an organic and a common cultivation appears before you. Let's explain better. In front, you will probably have a ground full of weeds, a dense green carpet where you don't know how to put your hand, where to start. The temptation that someone (hopefully none) might have is to use a herbicide: you put the product (most of the commercial formulations are those based on glyphosate), and the weed disappears by itself, easy isn't it?
The problem is that the product you are using is a poison. Glyphosphate (produced in billions of liters by a large multinational) in particular has been declared very dangerous and probable carcinogen (to understand the harmful potential of this substance, we invite you to read this article). Inoltre distrugge la fertilità naturale del terreno e non fa distinzione tra erbe infestanti positive e negative. Usando prodotti del genere per creare il proprio orto, si parte con il piede sbagliato. La coltivazione non sarà biologica e rischiamo di portare sulla nostra tavola un ortaggio con un residuo di veleno pericoloso.

La soluzione, dunque, è fare l’orto biologico. Mettetevelo in testa fin da subito: il biologico vuol dire più attenzioni, più lavoro, più prevenzione. La scelta dipende solo da voi, ma se ciò che cercate nei vostri ortaggi è la qualità, allora dovrete sudarvela.

Pulizia manuale

Quindi, per la preparazione del terreno alzatevi le maniche e iniziare con la rimozione manuale e meccanica delle erbe infestanti.
Togliere le erbacce a mano è il metodo più faticoso, ma efficace.
Dunque, ora che sappiamo che fare un orto come si deve richiede impegno e passione, muniamoci di guanti con il fondo duro di gomma e partiamo con l’eradicazione dell’erbaccia.
Questa procedura è importante, poiché togliere a mano vuol dire estirpare dalla radice. E questo, a sua volta, vuol dire ritardare il più a lungo possibile il ripresentarsi dell’erba infestante, che spesso è il principale vettore di malattie e insetti negativi per le nostre colture. Insomma, questa operazione può rappresentare già da ora la buona riuscita o meno del nostro raccolto.

Utilizzo degli attrezzi

Chiaramente è possibile utilizzare degli attrezzi per facilitare il lavoro. In questa fase consiglio di utilizzare una zappa, che però non andrà usata in profondità ma in superficie (all’incirca a 3-5 cm di profondità, quanto basta per rimuovere l’erbaccia).
Prima di procedere in questo senso bisogna valutare l’altezza delle infestanti, se il campo è troppo pieno e fitto, conviene preliminarmente sfalciare con una falcetta a mano, o per chi lo possiede utilizzare un decespugliatore come questo.

Lavorazione del terreno

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Solo a questo punto è possibile iniziare a lavorare il terreno.
Il nostro terreno, infatti, è ora finalmente pronto per la lavorazione. Anche qui bisogna valutare, ovviamente, l’estensione e gli attrezzi di cui si dispone.
Per lavorare il terreno e preparare al meglio in nostro orto esistono due modalità di azione: la lavorazione manuale, usando semplici attrezzi, e la lavorazione realizzata usando degli appositi macchinari.

Lavorazione a mano

Per la lavorazione di un terreno sul quale coltivare un piccolo orto biologico, si può iniziare da pochi e semplice attrezzi manuali, quali la vanga, la zappa ed il rastrello.
La vanga serve per smuovere superficialmente la terra. Si usa appunto per vangare, cioè per dissodare la terra suddividendola in delle zolle che verranno quindi rivoltate. La sua struttura ricorda una pala, ma a differenza di quest’ultima la vanga viene spinta nel terreno con la forza del piede invece che delle braccia (se state anche valutando l’acquisto dell’attrezzatura e siete in cerca di un vanga di buona qualità e non troppo costosa, vi consigliamo un modello del genere, senza troppi fronzoli e col quale personalmente lavoriamo bene).

Lavorazione meccanica

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Terreno lavorato con motozappa

Se per nostra fortuna, invece, abbiamo a disposizione delle attrezzature meccaniche, tutto il lavoro descritto in precedenza viene facilitato ed abbreviato.
Una volta vangato uniformemente il terreno, si può procedere con la lavorazione con la zappa, che frantumerà le zolle rivoltate precedentemente con la vanga. Il lavoro con la zappa è fondamentale in quanto in questa fase il terreno viene reso morbido e friabile per accogliere il seme o la piantina che vorremmo mettere a dimora. Effettuato questo secondo lavoro si può procedere a rastrellare il terreno per renderlo uniforme ed avere così chiaro davanti a sé il terreno da coltivare.
Con l’utilizzo di una motozappa (meglio se elettrica) è possibile preparare il terreno in maniera più veloce e meno faticosa, lavorando anche terreni di media dimensione.
Per terreni con grande estensione è possibile procedere invece alla lavorazione meccanica con il ripuntatore.


Video: Tillage implements. primary and secondary tillage implements. tirdiya classes


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