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Farming with Machines
Organic Farming Tools - Gwenyn Hill Farm in Wisconsin

Farming with Machines

By Laurel Blomquist | Machines have revolutionized the business of farming. We use many machines every day at Gwenyn Hill. Of course, as is the case with all machines, when they work well, they will save you a lot of time. When they don’t, you will waste time trying to fix them.

Whenever we plant in the field, we have to complete several steps in order to put plants or seeds in the ground. This is an intro to the machines we use at the farm.

  1. Plowing or Vertical Tilling: this action breaks up the soil for the first time, so it goes a little deeper into the soil.

  2. Rototilling: this action breaks up the soil into a fine, light, airy, loose surface for us to plant into.

  3. Bed Shaping: Next, the soil needs to be pushed into a “bed” which is the width that we want (so that all the subsequent machines will work). The bed shaper pushes all that light, airy soil into beds that are 4 feet wide, with spaces in between the beds so that we can walk or drive on them.

  4. Plastic Mulch Laying: there are a few reasons we want to plant some things on plastic mulch (which I will discuss in a future blog post). This machine lays down the plastic over the top of the beds that we made and buries the edges of the plastic. At the same time, it lays down drip tape because otherwise, those plants would not get any water, as the plastic prevents the rain from coming in.

  5. Water Wheel Transplanting: If we are planting on plastic mulch, we need this machine to make holes in the plastic at certain intervals so that we can hand plant the plugs under the surface of the plastic. Last Friday, we planted more than 10,000 onion plants in 6 hours using this machine!

  6. Bare Soil Transplanting: If we are planting onto bare soil, this machine digs a little hole for the plug, drops the plant into it, and re-covers the plant with soil all in one fell swoop. With this machine, we can plant 100 plants per minute! Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to use it yet because the soil has always been too wet for the machine to work properly. Instead, we’ve been transplanting everything into bare soil by hand.

  7. Seed Planting: If we are planting seeds into the ground instead of transplants, we use the Jang Seeder. This machine plants 3 rows of seeds at certain intervals. It’s a great time saver because usually when you plant seeds, they come out very thick, and you need to go back and thin them (like carrots and beets). Obviously, it also saves seed costs for the same reason.

  8. Cultivation: if all goes well with all the previous steps, this machine is used about a week after planting. There are many different types of cultivators (another blog post) but they all generally do the same job: kill weeds. This is necessary so that there are no other plants trying to complete with the ones you want for air, water, sunlight, and nutrients.

You can see how important machines are in our world, and how critical it is that we get a chance to use them. Keep doing those anti-rain dances so that we can get into the field and plant!

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