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Plowing 2

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

OK, I confess. I have a short attention span and waiting for long threads to load bores me to tears. So I'm starting a new 'chapter' of Plowing, which is partly reprinting an old 1909 John Deere pamphlet and partly about memories of working the soil, the land. Reclaiming our history and heritage as homesteaders. =0)

We came from here...


It is usually a good plan to plow a considerable time before planting, so the soil may store moisture and settle into good seed-bed condition. This practice allows for surface tillage, which destroys weeds and makes plant food available.

It is not wise to depend upon plowing immediately before seeding, because the conditions of the soil and the weather may interfere, delaying planting beyond the time that the seed should be in the ground.

There is a "best time" to plant each crop. The successful farmer will prepare her soil and await that time, for she knows it will never wait on her. It has been the writer's experience that success in growing crops depends more upon doing the right thing at the right time than upon any other controllable factor.

A good rule, but it cannot always be followed, is to plow when the soil is in such a condition that it will drop from the moldboard in a mellow, friable condition. It is usually better to plow when too dry than when too wet. However, a light, mellow soil or a coarse sandy soil may be improved by plowing when wet, because the compacting effect of the moldboard make it less loose and porous.

Clayey, heavy, or sticky soils should never be plowed when wet, if it can be avoided, because the particles are so firmly packed together that drying produces hard clods, which are nearly impervious to plant roots, air and water.

There is one exception to this rule. In the case of late fall or winter plowing the freezing of the wet soil causes it to break up into a mellow, friable condition.

If plowing cannot be done early, cultivating of the unplowed land with a disc harrow will prevent drying out to a marked degree. The mulch thus produced prevents, to some extent, the escape of moisture and favors the absorption of any moisture that may fall. Such a mellow surface is in a favorable condition for making a good connection with the subsoil when the furrow-slice is finally turned.


I remember when I was going to college in Iowa in the '70's that one particularly wet spring when the big tractors couldn't get into the fields, the horse farmers were weeks ahead in their planting, because the soil could bear the teams long before it could take the weight of the huge machines.

I've cetainly found the technique of 'dirt mulching' talked about in the last paragraph useful in my own small garden. =0)

Marshall, MO(Zone 5b)

Power and beauty ? Bull. us men folk know the dirty truth, its all about CONTROL! Women folk all have it down to a science. :)
When we 'dust mulched ' it was during cultivating. Dad would set the cultivators up to cut real shallow and create a thin layer of dust in the row all for the same purpose as mentioned in your article.
The Hispanics around here are for the most part not Mexican. The few Mexicans we do have usually come from Kansas or Kansas City, born here in the states. They ( the Mexicans) do work hard. The same cannot be said for the others. Someone must have introduced them to welfare or something.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Where do most of your Hispanics hail from?

So tell me, why are boys into cars?

Horses are certainly easier to get along with then men...

Marshall, MO(Zone 5b)

Most of the Hispanics here are from Central and South America. It sounds silly but to me but there is a big cultural and ethical divide in the various groups. Written language seems to be a problem too.
Boys and cars = SUPERMAN syndrome, speed speed speed oh I almost forgot insurance payments and car payments. Didn't you know that the bigger debit load the more MANLY a guy is?
I never could get along with horses, now give me an A-- and I'll do just fine. But we were talking about four legged critters weren't we.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

That's out of line, Huffy. =0(
You want to be crude, go somewhere else. Not here.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

OK, getting this thread back on track, back to plowing and working the soil...
so from the 1909 pamphlet...


Deep plowing should be done with purpose and intelligence, because it is not always the right thing to do.

In dry seasons deep spring plowing, unless great care is taken to pulverize and repack the seed-bed, may result in crop failure, because the loose soil dries out and capillarity is broken, preventing the furrow-slice from securing moisture from the subsoil rapidly enough to sustain the growing crop.

Loosening the soil by deep plowing favors the absorption of moisture, but if rains do not come in time such land will suffer from drought more quickly than though it had been plowed shallow.

Shallow soils should not be plowed deep enough to bring up too much of the subsoil at one time. A soil mayb be gradually deepened, but if too much of the subsoil is brought to the surface at once it will reduce the productiveness for a year or two, til the inert matter is decomposed and mixed with the fertile soil.

It is advisable to vary the depth of plowing, and even to subsoil heavy land, in order to break up the furrow-sole [plowpan], but it is often just as important to plow sandy land the same depth year after year in order to produce a more impervious condition, which will prevent too rapid percolation, leaching and loss of soil moisture.

As a general proposition, plowing should be shallow when it precedes planting only a short time.

Plow deep in the fall.

A long interval between plowing and seeding allows the soil to settle sufficiently, while freezing and thawing mellows the raw, hard subsoil which has been brought to the surface.

The relative depths of plowing may be stated as follows:
Shallow plowing...3 to 4 inches
Medium plowing...5 to 6 inches
Deep plowing...7 to 8 inches

Cases are rare when it is necessary or advisable to plow deeper than eight inches.


This is sure giving me something to think about in terms of restoring my pasture...
I sure hope others are finding this helpful and thought provoking. =0)

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

If I ever get enough land to plow I'll come back to this in earnest. Til then, I'm just skimming.

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