My Garden Power Equipment



I really like no-till gardening.  Since I adopted it, my gardens are healthier and easier to work.  I use a broad fork and hand garden tools to garden at least ¼ acre most years.  A large portion of the food my family eats comes from our garden.  We have found that the higher the percentage of home grown food in our diet the better our health is.  Time is the most precious resource I have and it has become more difficult for me to keep up with my garden, work full time, and do the other things that I think are important.  I didn’t want to give up on my no-till gardening but after considerable study I found some compromise areas where power equipment could work into my garden without destroying the wonderful soil structure that is the result of no till gardening.  These changes make my time in the garden more productive.  This is especially true with constructing a new garden.  I have been building new or adding to an existing garden just about every year for the last 15 years.  At some time in the future this will end but I don’t know when. I recently purchased another 1 acre lot just to make sure I don’t run out of places to build another garden.  This is the power equipment that I have purchased and how I am using it.  I have found that it makes a huge difference, especially during planting and harvesting seasons when time is most pressing. 

I purchased a BCS 853 two wheeled tractor with a set of implements for it.  This is a big two wheeled tractor and takes some effort to use it.  I’m a healthy 63-year-old but sometimes this thing is a beast.  The more I use this tractor the better I am getting with it and the less I feel beat up by it but just like any tool it requires practice to learn to use it well.  As I studied the features of various two wheel tractors, this one was the best fit for me.  These are features that were high on my requirements list: 1) wheel brakes – with an independently operated brake for each wheel, steering the tractor is much easier especially when working down a row.  2) differential lock – this allows the wheels to be locked together so that they both pull locked together.  With a heavy tractor having them locked together all the time makes it almost impossible to turn at the end of a row.  This makes it a requirement to be able to lock the differential while working the row and unlock it at the end of the row to turn the tractor.  3) large wheels – I garden in raised beds.  I want to have the tractor wheels span the bed rather than run down the top of it.  Taller wheels keep the tractor from dragging on the top of the bed. 

I purchased some accessories for my tractor that I think are essential.  A set of 5 inch per side axle extensions are required to space the wheels correctly for the rotary plow.  I also purchased a set of 8 inch per side axle extensions.  Installing these allows the tractor to span my 30 inch beds rather than driving down the top of the bed. The quick connect system allows one to change the implements behind the tractor quickly and in my opinion is essential.  It is necessary to mount weights to the front of the tractor to balance it correctly for the power harrow and flail mower.  A simple J bolt that loops over the front bumper is used to mount these to the tractor.  The flail mower kicks up enough dust and small plant material that a cooling air intake screen should be installed on the front of the engine. 

Along with this tractor, these are the most useful implements I have purchased

Berta 36" flail mower.  I made this purchase primarily to mow cover crops.  I have never been a good cover crop grower because I could never find a way to work with the bio mass they produced without putting it into a compost bin.  It takes time and effort to move the material to a bin and I want the composting to happen in the soil not in a bin anyway.  This mower has worked remarkably well to solve that problem as it chops the plant material into very small pieces.  Hard neck garlic is one of my major crops.  In mid-July as soon as the garlic is harvested I plant all the garlic beds into tillage radish with a row of seed along each side of the drip tape.  (I grow in the desert southwest and use drip tape for irrigation) By late September the radishes are about 10 inches long and the tops completely cover the beds and walkways being 12 to 18 inches tall.  At that point I mow them down.  This allows time for the bio mass to rot before I plant the beds back to garlic at the end of Oct.  The mower also works well for cleaning up weeds and small brush to prepare an area for a garden.  In the spring it also takes down over wintered grain cover crops mulching them to fine pieces.  This tool has made it much easier for me to utilize cover crops in my garden rotation.  Here is a video of one working.  I have purchased equipment from this person and he was honest and easy to work with.

BCS Rotary Plow.  A rotary plow is a vertical auger that throws soil to the side as it moves forward down the row. It doesn't mix and grind up the soil the way a rototiller does.  It also doesn’t create a hard pan compacted area at the bottom of its tilling area.  It handles rocks well.  Rather than bouncing out of the ground the way a rototiller does it just pushes them out to the side. This makes it an ideal tool for building a new garden.  Because it throws the soil out to the side it is perfect for building raised beds.  I run the rotary plow down the center of where a new bed will be built to create a trench.  Then I add compost and other soil amendments as I fill the trench back up by driving the tractor the opposite direction.  Finally, the soil in the walkway is thrown up onto the bed to raise it and lower the walkway.  I typically put a layer of wood chips in the walk way.  After a few years, the bed will shrink down and the wood chips in the walkway will decompose.  Then I use the rotary plow to maintain the bed by throwing additional soil from the walkway onto the bed. 

Here is a video of a rotary plow being used to build a raised bed this way.   It is an amazing tool and saves me a huge amount of time building and maintaining my raised beds.  I grow in 30 inch permanent beds with 18 inch walkways.

29" Rinaldi Power Harrow.  This is the best seed bed preparation tool that I have ever seen.  It has become my favorite power garden tool of all time. It does an amazing job of preparing a seedbed for planting.  After mowing a cover crop, I run the power harrow over the bed to mix the organic matter and any additional amendments I have added into the soil.  After mowing tillage radish, I use it to break off the top of the radish so it will die and rot rather than grow a new top.  I will come back a few weeks later and run over the bed again just before planting. I also use it to cover seed that has been planted by broadcasting the seeds on the soil surface. Its depth can be adjusted from a fraction of an inch to about 6 inches. The roller firms up the soil surface behind it for seeding.   It doesn’t grind up the soil structure the way a rototiller does. 

Here is video that shows what the underside looks like:

Here is what one looks like in action.

Dibble Wheels -  I use a set of dibble wheels to mark and place holes in the seedbed for garlic cloves and transplants to be planted.  I plant garlic in 3 rows running down each bed with the rows being 8 inches apart and the garlic planted 6 inches apart down each row.  I put two drip tape shovels in front of the dibble wheels to pull the drip tape into the soil between the rows of garlic.  I built a small cart to pull behind the dibble wheels for two people to plant from.  We plant about 1/4 acre of garlic.  Marking and planting that much garlic took two of us about a week and was really hard on our bodies.  Using the dibble wheels with the cart behind it allows three of us to plant that much in a day and we pull the drip tape in at the same time. 

Angle blade with removable ends - I purchased an angle blade with removable ends that can be used to make it a box scraper.  It has been great for moving piles of manure and compost.  It also works well for minor soil leveling, filling pot holes, trenches and spreading gravel on driveways.  It seems there is always some material movement maintenance that needs to be done on a homestead.  This tool fills the bill for many of them. 

The money investment for this set of tools was significant but I was at the point where I could not keep up without some power equipment.  I studied a long time before I came up with this set of requirements and tools.  It has worked really well for me. 

Earth Tools is the largest BCS dealer in the United States and carries the best variety of implements and parts for them.  They are also the United States importer and distributor for Grillo two wheel tractors.  Their web site is at  I have sometimes found better prices from other dealers so shop around. 


My Garden Power Equipment

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