Pasture Renovation

Any farm with pasture land can benefit from a little pasture renovation from time to time. Here's how to bring your fields back to life.

| September/October 1980

  • 065 pasture renovation - harrow at work
    During pasture renovation, a setup such as this—with square blades substituting for curved ones on a tractor-mounted rotovator—is compact and easy to maneuver into awkward spaces and corners.
  • 065 pasture renovation - furrows
    The sharpened leading edge on straight tines will chop deep, even furrows into worn-out sod... preparing a healthy seed base and rejuvenating the existing cover. 
  • 065 pasture renovation - harrow blade assembly
    Each harrow blade is usually a square arrangement made up to four long steel bars bolted together at right angles.
  • 065 pasture renovation - row of blades
    A row of six blades can be rigged to fit almost any kind of cultivator or garden tiller.
  • 065 pasture renovation - diagram
    Diagram shows the dimensions of a homemade harrow blade.

  • 065 pasture renovation - harrow at work
  • 065 pasture renovation - furrows
  • 065 pasture renovation - harrow blade assembly
  • 065 pasture renovation - row of blades
  • 065 pasture renovation - diagram

When ol' Bessie begins to give you sidelong, disapproving glances—and your field's resident groundhog packs up and moves—you know it's time to renovate that old sodbound pasture.

Unfortunately, an application of lime and fertilizer alone won't revive a badly depleted pasture. The turf really needs to be scored four to six inches deep, following the contour of the land. Once the subsurface network of choking, matted roots has been sliced apart and shredded, the ground beneath will be able to soak up air, moisture, and nutrients. Such thorough replenishing of the soil can be accomplished only by renovation ... a vital "maintenance" job that should be undertaken at least every four years (and preferably every two).

A Homemade Harrow

Pasture renovation, however, requires equipment, and the heavy disks or spring-tooth harrows that are normally used for the job are quite expensive. Besides, the high-priced implements are cumbersome tools that don't have many other practical uses on a small farmstead. There is an alternative, though, to purchasing such costly equipment: Many homesteaders own hand rototillers or tractor-mounted rotovators that can easily be adapted to do the same job as the harrow ... at considerably less expense!

If your garden tiller has bolt-on tines, all you have to do to convert it for pasture use is fashion a set of straight harrow blades (the same size as the curved ones), then attach them ... and you'll be in business! I made my set of 24 tines to fit the Howard tractor-mount rotovator that I use for my vegetable crops during the growing season. Each cutter—measuring 9 1/2" X 2" X 5/16"—has a sharpened leading edge that can penetrate heavy soil to a depth of 5 to 5 1/2 inches.

You can build a similar set of replacement blades—and spend less than $15 on materials—using only a hacksaw, a hand drill, and a bench grinder.

Tilling Tips

You'll find that the straight blades can chop deep furrows in the toughest sod, smooth out rough spots, and prepare the perfect seed base for reintroducing clover ... at the same time that they're rejuvenating the existing cover. Then—when the harrowed field is treated to a follow-up application of lime and fertilizer—the indigenous grass will leap back to full vigor in just a few weeks, and actually produce four or five times the feed value it might previously have yielded!

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