Machinery for crop cultivation
The justification for using machinery in an established fruit or vegetable plot is less than during the clearing and construction of the plot, but a number of machines are worth considering, mostly hand-tools rather than powered ones.
Long-arm pruners and extending pruning saws:
these enable tall fruit trees to be pruned without the need to use steps. Keep the pruners sharp, well-oiled and out of the reach of children. Make sure that the extension pieces are properly locked together.
large knapsack sprayers enable you to spray extensive areas easily without the need for frequent re-filling. Both the double-action and pneumatic types are suitable. They are useful for applying weedkiller over a large plot infested with, but you should never use them in windy weather. There is also a wheeled type, which reduces the danger of wind drift because the spray is released very close to the ground. Powered sprayers driven by petrol engines are a luxury, justified only on the largest plots. Sprayers with extension lances are invaluable for reaching the upper branches of fruit trees. Always remember to wash the sprayer out thoroughly after using it, and make sure the nozzles, lances and pipes are clean and free of any obstructions. With pressure sprayers, check the hoses for wear, and avoid using cracked or split hoses.
these ensure even application of plant food, which is important to avoid scorching fruit or vegetable crops. Hand-propelled spreaders are adequate for all but the largest plots. A regulator should be provided so that the amount of fertilizer applied can be adjusted. Make sure that none of the apertures becomes blocked.
Mowers and long-grass cutters:
these are useful for mowing grass between fruit trees. It is also possible to buy or hire mower attachments for cultivators. When mowing among fruit trees, always leave the grass box off, unless the grass and weeds have been treated with a weedkiller, as the mowings will provide humus and a weed-suppressing and moisture-retaining mulch, though you will need to provide extra nitrogenous fertilizer. For small- scale operations on narrow patches of grass, you can use an electric long-grass cutter, either mains or battery-powered. One of the chief problems with using machinery on the vegetable plot is generally the lack of working space. Nevertheless there are various machines that make the job of rough digging of large areas much quicker and easier.
this tool takes a lot of the effort out of digging. The blade is lifted and turned by a powerful spring, instead of your muscle-power. A fork head can be fitted in place of the space blade.
Hand-powered rotary cultivators: these consist of a row of rotating tines at the end of a long handle.
By pushing or pulling them through the, you can cultivate it (unless it is compacted), root out weeds or mix in fertilizers. They are particularly useful for producing a fine surface tilth for seed-beds. One model is made in two versions, one with two tines, and one with four tines for use in less restricted spaces. Another make has tines that can be removed to suit different jobs and situations.
among the most useful and versatile garden machines, these are especially useful for digging a large vegetable plot or allotment. In most models suitable for use in gardens, the cultivation is done by digging-blades, tines or hoe-blades mounted on a power-driven rotor. Such cultivators are known as rotary cultivators. Although there are electrically powered machines, most cultivators are driven by petrol engines. Those with engines of between 2.5 and 5 hp are most suitable for garden use. Four-stroke engines are now almost universal for cultivators because they are much more reliable than the two-stroke type.
There are three basic types of cultivator:
The first is the fully self-propelled type in which the engine drives not only the cultivating rotor but also the whole machine itself by means of rubber-tyred driving wheels. These are most suitable for larger areas or for cultivating long straight rows.
The second type is the ‘drag shoe’ cultivator, in which the cultivating rotor itself drives the machine forward, with a trailing arm (the drag shoe) dragging in the ground to act as a brake and allow the blades to dig more or less deeply as This ‘boom’ type cultivator is powered by a required. Four-stroke petrol engine. It is light in weight.
The third type is the lightweight and extremely manoeuvrable. ‘boom’ type in which the engine is mounted over the supporting wheels, but does not drive them; the power-driven rotor bearing the blades is mounted at the front of the machine. These are controlled by swinging the machine slowly from side to side, allowing it to dig its way forwards. With many models, you can turn the head round so that you can dig backwards. This is the best type for very confined areas.
With many makes of cultivator, it is possible to obtain a wide range of detachable tools and other accessories. These range from power saws to sprayers and rough-grass cutters. Sometimes the engine itself is detachable, so that it can be used as a mobile power unit.
both hand-powered and petrol-engined types are available, and are excellent for gathering up dead leaves for making into leaf-mould. Soil shredders and mixers: because of their rather specialized nature, these are usually available only from horticultural or agricultural suppliers. One type consists basically of revolving blades in a drum while another uses moving rows of teeth. You can break soil up to a fine, almost powdery texture with these machines, and, by adding peat or leaf mould and sand, you can make large amounts of seed and potting composts very quickly. They can also be used for shredding ingredients for theheap or dead leaves for the leaf-mould pile. Special compost shredders are available, but these are very expensive. Soil sterilizers: large sterilizers are only necessary if you carry out a lot of work in the greenhouse. One of the best types has a revolving drum and can treat up to 1 tonne (1 ton) of soil in eight hours. This will provide enough sterilized soil for a year for most gardeners.