Tools & Seeding Methods
A chisel plow is a minimum tillage plow in that it does not dislodge or turn over the entire soil profile the way a mold board plow does. Chisel plowing is primarily used for deep tillage. It can be adjusted to till shallow or deep, and does not invert the entire soil profile.
The chisel plow performs the initial loosening of the soil while leaving a high percentage of trash on top. The chisel plow typically has C-Shaped shanks mounted on dual coil springs. The frame, shanks, and springs are of sufficient weight, size, and strength to provide an 8"-12" cutting depth. The chisel plow is used to break up hardpan and compacted areas. This is followed by a disk harrow, tandem disk harrow, or offset disk harrow orf sufficient weight and size to provide a 6"-8" cutting depth.
Mowing existing vegetation is easily accomplished with a rotarty mower. Heavy-duty rotary mowers can be utilized as brush hogs to tame heavy grass and light brush, such as multiflora rose, honeysuckle, and small tree seedlings. Heavy vegetation on under-utilized fields is difficult to mow with a diskbine or sickle bar mower.
A rototiller is used to pulverize the soil with rotating blades, and can be used for incorporating soil amendments. Most units till up to 6" deep.
Spraying chemicals for the control of undesirable vegetation can be done with a variety of equipment that generally mix the chemical with water and distribute it evenly over the field. Sprayers are manufactured in many sizes and styles, from tractor-drawn trailers to self-propelled machines with global positioning systems (GPS) to guide them. Many growers hire custom operators to apply chemical weed treatments.
A diskbine mower is used to mow and windrow biomass for bailing. A diskbine is a hay-harvesting machine that cuts with high speed rotary disks and assembles the material into a windrow.
The use of machinery for seeding is not always effective or efficient for small plots or on difficult terrain. An alternative to mechanical seeding is hand seeding. Hand seeding is literally casting the seed onto the ground's surface by hand. An experienced person can seed effectively with this method but, with very little practice, an inexperienced person can become effective. The biggest challenge is coordinating the step-and-throw action to improve uniformity placement of the seed. Divide the seeding area and seed mix into several small, equal sections and hand cast the seed in two directions. Follow hand seeding with a light raking or rolling to give good seed-to-soil contact. Do not roll or track seed if the soil is wet.
The broadcast seeder consists of a hopper with a material regulating system in the bottom that feeds material either onto a spinner or directly onto the soil. This system is commonly used to spread seed, fertilizers, lime, and other granular products. Some materials have difficulty getting through the regulating mechanism in some broadcasters. For those systems, the use of a flow-enhancing material (kitty litter, sawdust, or sand) mixed with the seed will aid in the uniformity and enable the system to handle the seed. Spread half of the seed in one direction (horizontally) and the remaining seed in the other direction (vertically). Follow by rolling or tracking the seed for good seed-to-soil contact. Do not roll or track seed if the soil is wet. Cover with a light layer of straw mulch.
The hydroseeder combines water, seed, fertilizer, and sometimes hydromulch into a mixture that is then pumped through a nozzle and sprayed uniformly over the area to be seeded. Hydroseeders can distribute this mixture up to 150' or more, which allows for seeding terrain that may not be accessible by other seeding methods; i.e., steep slopes, roadside cuts, or sites too wet for other methods. Using hydromulch assists in the seed placement and helps reduce erosion on slopes. Depending on your site conditions, you may want to use erosion control blankets or straw mulch to cover the seed. Many native seeds should be broadcast without mulch in the mix. The mulch can be applied afterwards. A small amount of mulch can be applied with the seed as a marker, but this must be limited to a minimum as native seeds will not germinate if suspended in the mulch.
A Truax drill seeder can be used for seeding various species of grasses and grains. A specialized seed box is required for handling small or fluffy seed like that of many wildflowers and native grasses.
A drill seeder is practical for several acres or more where slopes are not too steep. It generally has a minimum width of 8' and contains a seed hopper capable of seeding a 6' width, with row spacing of approximately 7". The unit also contains disks equipped with springs to aid in loosening the soil.
The use of a cultipacker is an excellent way to cover the seed with a minimum amount of soil and ensure proper seed-to-soil contact. A cultipacker resembles a large rolling pin, with evenly spaced ridges and dimples. Its primary functions are to break up clods, remove excess air spaces from loose soil, and smooth the soil surface. This method consists of heavy duty smooth, spoke, or crowfoot rollers to provide clod breaking and smoothing capabilities. As with any tillage, it is important not to over-work soil or work it when it is too wet.
Tracking is the use of a crawler tractor or rubber-tired tractor to make depressions and firm loose soil after construction or tilling. The depressions make local pockets in which water can collect. Water is held until it infiltrates the soil. These areas of moist soil aid in germination. The firm (but not compacted) seedbed will provide seed-to-soil contact and will not dry out as quickly as loose soil.