The efficiency of harrowing depends not only upon the adaptation of the implement to the work to be performed, but also upon the moisture content of the soil at the time of operation. If too dry, a large percentage of the clods will not be broken and if too wet great injury will be caused in puddling. Closer attention should be given this matter by all classes of cultivators. A common occurrence is to plow land and let it lie for many days without harrowing. Except for fall plowing no greater mistake can be made, for during the interval between plowing and harrowing an enormous amount of soil moisture escapes and thorough pulverization of the soil when dried is almost impossible. No more land should be plowed than can be harrowed at least once the same day.
Figure 1 shows a homemade device known in different sections as a plank drag, float, planker, clod crusher or slicker. It is valuable both as a pulverizer and a leveler. Drags differ greatly in size and style of construction. Whatever the form of construction the principles involved are the same. The drag is not so essential if the Meeker smoothing harrow is available, but in the absence of this tool it cannot be dispensed with. It is especially valuable in preparing a very fine, smooth surface for small seeds or delicate plants.
Inexperienced gardeners are often undecided as to the best order for tillage operations after plowing. Suppose that a heavy sod has been plowed and that the soil is a clay loam, what tools should be used and what should be the order of their use to secure the best medium for sowing or transplanting? The following program should prove satisfactory: (1) Dragging with the furrows; (2) disking with the furrows; (3) disking across the furrows; (4) dragging across the disk marks; (5) disking again if necessary; (6) harrowing with the Meeker smoothing harrow until the soil is thoroughly pulverized and the surface even and smooth.
All but one of the purposes of tillage are accomplished by cultivation. The efficiency of cultivation for any particular crop depends upon (1) the character of the tool used, (2) when it is used, (3) how skillfully it is used.
There are two general classes of cultivators, viz., horse-cultivators (Figure 2) and hand cultivators (Figure 3). Horse-cultivators may be provided with shovels, teeth, or rake attachments; they may be for one or more rows and operated when riding or walking. In working field garden crops, such as sweet corn, tomatoes and cabbage, two-horse riding cultivators are employed extensively, but with most crops planted far enough apart to permit of horse-tillage, the single horse cultivators are in general use. Spike-tooth and narrow shovels are the best conservers of soil moisture and leave the soil in the best physical condition, while the broader shovels are effective in destroying large weeds and in breaking up compacted soils. Hillers and shovels of various shapes may be purchased with most horse cultivators and attached when-ever it will be advantageous.
Hand wheel cultivators are made in various styles (Figure 3). They should have rather high wheels with broad tires. Some wheel hoes are made to straddle the rows, others to go between them. Double wheel hoes are most serviceable and economical in smooth, level soil that is easily cultivated; the single wheel hoe is adapted to conditions not so favorable to tillage. Teeth, rakes, knives and shovels are made in great variety for most wheel hoes. The knives as shown in Figure 3 are especially valuable for shallow tillage in sandy soils. They may be shortened in order to cultivate when the rows are only 6 inches apart, although 10 to 14 inches are usually allowed for wheel hoe cultivation. Figure 4 shows a combination wheel hoe and seed drill that is highly valued, but combination hoes and drills are not generally popular.
There is no rule to be followed in cultivating garden crops. Hard crusts should certainly not be allowed to remain unbroken for any great length of time. It is generally best to cultivate as soon as the ground is dry enough after every rain. Frequent tillage destroys weeds before they have made much of a start and it also maintains the best growing conditions in the soil. Crops are never injured by too much cultivation of the proper kind, when the ground is not too wet and the plants are not so large as to make tillage impossible without physical injury.
Level tillage is unquestionably best except for special purposes. Hilling is sometimes justifiable, but the practice is far too general. The main excuse for the practice is that it serves to eradicate weeds when they have gotten very much of a start during wet weather.
Tillage should begin as soon as possible after sowing or transplanting by cultivating about 2« inches deep at first, decreasing the depth as the crop advances. The importance of reducing the uncultivated row-strip to a minimum width is not fully appreciated by most growers. Workmen can usually get much closer to the rows than they think they can. Cultivators do better work than hand hoes and reduce the cost of tillage.
Fig. 5. Different Forms Of Hand Hoes.
As previously indicated (71), hand hoeing is never so efficient as cultivating with horse implements or wheel hoes. Unless crops are planted in check rows, some hand hoe work is necessary in growing nearly all crops. But even check rows do not always eliminate the use of hand hoes. The work should not be neglected until weeds get a start, for cultivation will then be much more tedious and expensive. If attended to before the weed seeds have fully germinated it will usually be effective. Figure 5 illustrates various types of hand hoes. The rake hoe is the best for light soils when used before the weeds have made a start, because it is an easy tool to use and leaves the surface in the best physical condition. The half-moon hoe is an excellent form to use where the plants are crowded. Square-bladed hilling hoes are popular. The narrow, two-pointed hoe is adapted to crops such as beets and onions planted close together in the row.
Weeders are divided into two classes, viz., horse weeders (Fig. 6), and hand weeders (Fig. 7). Horse weeders are useful in cultivating sweet corn, potatoes and a few other crops for a brief period after planting. They reduce the cost of tillage, especially if the soil is light and easily worked. Some hand weeding is necessary in growing beets, onions, carrots and many other closely planted crops. The tools shown in Figure 7 are very generally used. The Garrahan weeder is a homemade device of special value. It is easily made from an old file and a piece of buggy spoke for a handle. The file is heated and then bent into the form shown in the illustration. The blade may be sharpened by any convenient method, but can be very quickly done on an emery stone. This tool is useful in thinning as well as in weeding, since it saves much of the time required to pull every surplus plant.
Fig. 7. Different Forms Of Hand Weeders.
Care largely determines the value and durability of tools and implements. All classes of farmers will do well to observe the following instructions: (1) Keep tools and implements under cover when not in use; (2) paint every year or two; (3) keep in good repair; (4) keep a wrench at hand when at work in the field, for all the parts must be tight; (5) clean the metal parts before storing; (6) some tools, as hoes, require frequent sharpening, so it is an advantage to keep a file in the field for this purpose; (7) a place for every tool when not in use saves time and prevents annoyance.