Tiller or disc harrow

OldcrowP51

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If you could have only one which would you choose to work up small 1/2 acre plots of peat dirt.
Either would be in the 72” range
 

GreensvilleJay

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BTDT, used both...... TILLER, hands down
It'll take you longer to mount, grease,adjust, and remove tiller than actually using it.

hmm, 'work up', implies they're already plowed once ? If not, just go slow 1st pass.
 

Creature Meadow

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I would pick the disk harrow, why?

When I used a tiller in my garden I found it turned my soil to powder thus making it fluffy looking and rain would not soak in well but would run off. Unless it was a down pour or we got a good soaking rain.

Maybe this would not be the case for all soil structures but for mine it was not the best tool to use.

I use a disk harrow for my garden and food plots. I have the ability to change the disk angle allowing me to cover my seed in the food plots and the cover crop of wheat and or oats.

The tiller cannot be used to cover the big seeds so you will need another method to do so. I found dragging over them with fence did ok but run the disk blades at a slight angle did much better.

The disk requires little maintenance, mine just grease, very little to go wrong with them. The disk is very versatile.

Not much for the tiller either but more and the cost is more than a disk.

Both are good tools but again my sandy loam soil in my garden not well suited for the tiller. My plots are scattered with rocks so the tiller tines would take a beating.

best of luck.

Jay
 

NHSleddog

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On a budget, don't care about a rough surface, speed is a factor, DISK.

Want the best till and finish - tiller.
 

TGKY

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May 24, 2018
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Tiller just because I normally plant food plots in late August and ground is hard and dry. The tiller cuts better than the disk in those conditions for me.
I still have a 7’ disc and like it fine. Cheaper for sure just not as good under my most usual application
 

GreensvilleJay

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re: When I used a tiller in my garden I found it turned my soil to powder thus making it fluffy looking and rain would not soak in well but would run off. Unless it was a down pour or we got a good soaking rain.

It sounds like not enough 'organic' material' in your soil. You need a LOT of well rotted manure, grass clippings, leaves(NOT Black Walnut !),chicken and mushroom compost. All this and more EVERY spring. You need to give back what you take.
 

DocGP

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I also use my tiller like a cultipacker. Turn it off, set it on the ground, and go. The back panel drags and covers the seed and the tines pack. Has worked well for me.
Doc
 
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nbryan

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re: When I used a tiller in my garden I found it turned my soil to powder thus making it fluffy looking and rain would not soak in well but would run off. Unless it was a down pour or we got a good soaking rain.

It sounds like not enough 'organic' material' in your soil. You need a LOT of well rotted manure, grass clippings, leaves(NOT Black Walnut !),chicken and mushroom compost. All this and more EVERY spring. You need to give back what you take.
This is not the case with us.
I've had decades experience roto tilling our garden once or twice a year. No more.
Within 2 years of stopping tilling our soil improved A LOT. I found an unbelievably hard compaction pan had developed right at the depth the tiller tines dug to. Heavy rains would result in it becoming a pool of liquified slop that when I stepped into the garden, my boots would sink immediately and hit the hardpan underneath like it was bedrock. So I quit rototilling at all.
The first few years was difficult hand-controlling persistent weeds but now, the weed situation is better than ever before using the tiller (the rototiller made the weeds WORSE), there's no more water-pooling as rainwater just soaks right in and drains trough easily, no hardpan, and rich soft soil.
And the whole reason for stopping tilling is much better soil condition, way better production per area, less weeds, and in the end, less pests as the whole garden is way healthier.
Stay away from roto tillers. They literally destroy soils.
 

ctfjr

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Unlike nbryan I have had very good results with a tiller. I am just finishing my lawn redo project. Our soil hasn't been touched in 30+ years. The 'lawn' looked like this before I started:
20210813_171758_resized.jpg


The soil was like hardpan. I planned on bringing in more topsoil when I started but the Ag Station guy told me not to. I box bladed it after killing everything off and then rototilled it.
20210911_114547_resized_1.jpg


Made the soil look like, well, soil.
I cut the new lawn for the 1st time yesterday (left it very high)
first_cut_1_20211013_130314_resized.jpg
 
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Creature Meadow

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re: When I used a tiller in my garden I found it turned my soil to powder thus making it fluffy looking and rain would not soak in well but would run off. Unless it was a down pour or we got a good soaking rain.

It sounds like not enough 'organic' material' in your soil. You need a LOT of well rotted manure, grass clippings, leaves(NOT Black Walnut !),chicken and mushroom compost. All this and more EVERY spring. You need to give back what you take.
You are correct, all garden plants excluding maters, squash, and cukes get turned back into the soil.

I have several large leave piles started now that will be dumped into the garden and turned in.

I have chickens and the straw and poop from the coop gets dumped into the garden.

I have a worms, the composted material they produce you guessed it back into the garden.

Lastly I have a rolling compost bin that receives the old veggies my worms do not prefer and that goes into the garden.

I'm not saying tillers are bad but for my sandy loom soil just not the best choice. Also the rocks at my deer lease would destroy tines on a tiller.

I also plant cover crop each year and turn either the oats or wheat back in. I also like buckwheat when I let a part of the garden lay over.

So for me the disk serves me best.
 

NHSleddog

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Stay away from roto tillers. They literally destroy soils.
Tens of millions of acres and farms would disagree with that statement.

I would bet that your family and relatives have lived and survived off tilled land for decades unless you have never shopped in a grocery store.
 
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bird dogger

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Tens of millions of acres and farms would disagree with that statement.

I would bet that your family and relatives have lived and survived off tilled land for decades unless you have never shopped in a grocery store.
Agreed. I've roto tilled our 3 acre tillable multiple times a year for the now 30 yrs we've lived here. Have grown sweet corn on it for the last 20 years straight without any troubles. Still hoping to get one more till in before freezeup.
 
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nbryan

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Tens of millions of acres and farms would disagree with that statement.

I would bet that your family and relatives have lived and survived off tilled land for decades unless you have never shopped in a grocery store.
That's correct. I make no excuses for eating grocery store food, but we are walking by the vegetable department for most of the year because our veg needs are sitting in our cellar or freezer, from our non-machine-tilled for 15 years and very highly productive garden which is still producing food now.
Agreed. I've roto tilled our 3 acre tillable multiple times a year for the now 30 yrs we've lived here. Have grown sweet corn on it for the last 20 years straight without any troubles. Still hoping to get one more till in before freezeup.
I am curious how you feed your corn, control the weeds, and monitor your soil's health. Have you soil sample test results to show what the soil's condition was like 15years ago vs now?
If you've tilled multiple times a year I can say that the only thing keeping the corn crop growing will be the chemicals/fertilizer tilled in every year. Might as well be growing in sand.
North America corn belt has lost 25-50% of it's topsoil, some areas there's none left. Just farm ag chemicals growing our "food", which also has lost a great deal of its nutritional value in since modern chem ag took over farming.
From Smthsonianmag: " The study estimated that about 35 percent of the region has lost its topsoil completely, leaving carbon-poor lower soil layers to do the work of supporting crops. "
And a study author staes that's likely a big underestimation.
So your basically slowly but surely ruining that 30 acres for future generations to grow their food on.
Good luck arguing your way out of that fact.
 

GreensvilleJay

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The WORST derstroyers of top soil are the SOD farms. Cityfolk too lazy to plant grass seed, buy sod and remove topsoil from the land.1000s of acres here are 'barren', can't grow nuthin no more...
As long as you REPLACE what you take, soil will be fertile forever. Big problem is city's not allowing any manure to be spread on farms, no local manure available(ie on your farm.., CHEAP fertilizers and the notill con. To have sutainable farmland, you need to add 'compost' rotate 3 crops on 4 sections, in the right order, with #4 fallow
 

bird dogger

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Whoa there, northern neighbor nbryan! :) Before you get too carried away. I’ll address each of your points:

nbryan, you said: I am curious how you feed your corn, control the weeds, and monitor your soil's health. Have you soil sample test results to show what the soil's condition was like 15years ago vs now?

I feed the corn by quickly mowing the crop right after being done with the sales. Then it’s rototilled into the soil so the moisture and microbes can break it down quickly into nutrients that can be used in next years crop. When our sons were handling their business, the weed control was done mechanically: cultivating and with a hoe. Now that they’re gone, I have used some preemergent herbicides (weather permitting) or post emergent herbicides very early on. Then back to cultivating and a hoe. And yes, the soil has been tested twice (out of curiosity) and both times the results have come back nothing needed except some urea (straight nitrogen). I have mixed in both leaves and ash from the burn pile from time to time. And this year is the first year that we found a nearby aged manure pile to remove and spread over the 3 acres. That will get rototilled in before freeze up.

You said: If you've tilled multiple times a year, I can say that the only thing keeping the corn crop growing will be the chemicals/fertilizer tilled in every year. Might as well be growing in sand.

Too funny. I till once in the spring for seedbed prep. Then maybe twice in the fall to break up and reduce the residue and incorporate it back into the soil. Other than that, the nitrogen and now some initial herbicide is the only chemicals used. I’ve never had to use a pesticide. And am very mindful if I spot spray for some weeds to make sure it is done well within the timeframe allowed before picking the corn for consumption. I believe tilling the residue back into the soil quickly after harvest has kept the bugs/pests to an absolute minimum. I even check for nematodes in the soil and have never found any root damage. The three major pests for this corn plot are deer, racoons, and squirrels. Two of which can be somewhat controlled. I have no experience growing anything in sand.

You said: North America corn belt has lost 25-50% of it's topsoil, some areas there's none left. Just farm ag chemicals growing our "food", which also has lost a great deal of its nutritional value in since modern chem ag took over farming.

This isn’t the corn belt here. This is the Red River Valley of the North. Regarding loss of topsoil, my plot is bordered on three sides by the farmstead, a double row of windbreaks, and a farmstead and housing across the road on the third side. Only the narrow east end is wide open to nature's wind.

I can assure you I haven’t lost any topsoil depth. We’re blessed here with some of the deepest, richest, and blacker than the ace of spades loamy soil that can be found. After living at this place for the past 30 years, my plot is still the same as it was, and maybe even a little bit better. The farmers that I know protect their soil for their own livelihood, their children’s and future ones that may choose to stay and farm their land.

You said: From Smthsonianmag: " The study estimated that about 35 percent of the region has lost its topsoil completely, leaving carbon-poor lower soil layers to do the work of supporting crops. "

I don’t know of that study, when it was done or by whom, or what specific area it applies to. I assume you meant the “corn belt”. But again, this isn’t considered the corn belt where I live. Although there is more and more corn being grown here.

You said: And a study author staes that's likely a big underestimation.

Again, not sure what study or by whom. But since they’re all estimations, they too may well be arguable.

You said: So, your basically slowly but surely ruining that 30 acres for future generations to grow their food on.

LOL! That's a big assumption. I don’t know where you came up with your 30 acre reference. If I had been growing and picking sweetcorn by hand on 30 acres for the past 20 years, I’d have arms that would make Popeye look like an 80 lb. weakling….. no spinach necessary. Also, I don’t know of any farmer in this area that has been farming their land away through erosion or any other bad practices. I would wager that in this area the land is more productive per acre than when it was first settled. All due to more proper drainage, water retention, shelter belts, and arguably…better farming practices. I can also assure you that I haven't squandered or even slightly lessened the value of my plot. Let alone ruined it in our 30 yrs. of living here.

I don’t know of anyone using an “ag sized” rototiller behind their field tractors in this area. If there is, I presume it would be only to quickly knock down and incorporate tough field residue like corn and sunflower stalks back into the soil for fast decomposition. Other than that, it’s all large field cultivators and no-till.

nbryan, I think you missed something important in the OP’s original post. He asked for our opinions on his ½ acre (one half acre) plot. Not the US corn belt, not 1000 acres. Only a plot of 80 sq. rods in size. And that’s what the others and myself gave our opinions on.

Being in Minnesota, I doubt the OP’s ½ acre plot is in the middle of a barren, wind-swept, open section of land, where losing top soil blown away from being rototilled is a major concern.

But in keeping with a ½ acre food plot/garden where mixing in compost, leaves, manure, or whatever for keeping it healthy and productive, more responders above have voted for the rototiller. That was their and my opinion. Still, only and opinion.

It sure has worked well on my 3 acre tillable plot. But it does depend on what the OP wants to do with his ½ acre. And he didn’t say if he had more acreage to cultivate or “farm” with the same piece of equipment. We could only give our opinion on what he asked for. I also have a small field cultivator. that I use from time to time. Have also tried a neighbors disc for breaking down corn residue, But none compare to the rototiller in that job. So based on only one "do all" implement for a 1/2 acre plot, I also recommended a tiller.

I gave him my opinion based on his question and my experience. (I grew up in a farming family but chose a different career.) Have I just been lucky with growing corn on corn for 20 years straight on said 3 acres? With 20 yrs now gone by, I think there must be some validity to my methods. It certainly is no barren sand pit now. The patch put both our sons through college. I think the “Luck” was in our location and the “timing” of their sweet corn business. I joke with a neighbor (who is the CFO of a very large farming operation, complete with their own agronomists, different managers, mechanics, operators, you name it….) that I’m going to write a best seller titled, “How I Debunked the USDA’s Belief in Crop Rotation”. He’s asked his agronomists about that, and they reply that the practices that I’ve used do work on a very small scale. But certainly not in practicality across the full U.S. corn belt as you talk of.

It should work just as well on the OP’s ½ acre if he chooses a tiller for it.

Lastly you said: Good luck arguing your way out of that fact. (that I'm ruining my land?)

I think it was easy to explain my way out.:)