Small Engine-Powered Gardening Tools for Small-Acreage Homesteads

The Garden and Yard column showcases small engine-powered gardening tools for homesteads, including tractors, tillers, shredder grinders and field mowers, tools that add horsepower and efficiency to the garden or farm.

| February/March 1997

John Vivian shares small engine-powered gardening tools for homesteads for landowners for when two legs and a strong back aren't enough but four wheels are too much. (See the small engine-powered gardening tools in the image gallery.) 

Following MOTHER's articles on old time farm tractors in MOTHER EARTH NEWS issue #144 and on modern lawn and garden riding tractors in MOTHER EARTH NEWS issue #154, we round out our industry review of engine powered machines for serious food gardening by taking a look at the newest walking tractors, tillers, shredder-grinders, accompanied with a piece on the refurbishment of older machinery, including MOTHER EARTH NEWS own brand-new 25-year-old Gravely and accessories. 

If you're following the same path to a life of independence on the land as I am, you truly relished hand-digging your first vegetable garden . . . but only that first one.

When I first shucked job and city (and regular salary) for the country, my family and I depended for supper on peas, beans, potatoes and more from a vastly larger garden than I had ever tended before. Hand-labor . . . hour upon hour of it ...became work and no longer therapy. I needed the help of some added muscle. But I found it nigh impossible to locate a machine of a size and price to work the small and odd-shaped garden patches arranged between ledge outcroppings and glacial boulders on our little New England hill-farm. Full-scale commercial farm equipment — a Ford or Farmall tractor, 3-bottom land plow and disc harrow, 4-row corn drill, sickle-bar hay-mower and such — was easy to locate. So was suburban lawn-care machinery — rotary mowers, grass seed and fertilizer-spreaders, rotary-brush leaf collectors, and little front-tined roto-tillers.

But the former were too big and expensive, the latter too small at any price. Only after much inquiry did I discover lawn tractors . . . and eventually locate and buy a 15-year-old Gravely 7.5 "Convertible" with a rotary plow . . . and then a big Troy-Bilt reartined rotary-tiller . . . about which more later.

However, as serious food gardening grew in popularity in the early '70s, manufacturers and marketers began making available a variety of tools to suit the needs of folks who gardened to eat, not as a hobby. Some equipment had been there all along, serving market-gardeners and landscapers, but it wasn't advertised in MOTHER and other garden-interest media, so it took us a while to learn about it. In time, new equipment — heavy-duty rototiller/tractors in particular — was developed just for us. And I'm glad to report that — even in this era of "downsizing," cost-cutting, corporate concentration and "one-size-fits-all design" — new engine-powered gardening products for small-acreage landholders are being developed even as you read this.

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