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Front Page » May 7, 2009 » Home and garden focus » Tractors: A part of the gardening life
Published 2,342 days ago

Tractors: A part of the gardening life

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While most people think of plants, vegetables and seeds when one talks about gardening, the equipment used in that hobby is important too. It would be difficult to do gardening without at least some rudimentary tools, and for others the tools become more complicated the larger the garden is.

Tractors are a part of agriculture that almost every avid gardener wants. From someone who has just a small plot for vegetables, to those that have a couple of acres of greenery to take care of.

It seemed many years ago, when many people came from a agricultural background, that almost everyone had some kind of tractor or other. Most were American built with standard names like J.I. Case, John Deere, Massey Ferguson, David Bradley, and of course the ubiquitous Ford, amongst many.

In those days gardening was just part of survival on farms; gardens were a sideline for whatever else was grown, but a big one because it helped to feed the agricultural family.

Today, while gardens are often still a part of farms, people are doing more and growing of food, and of course flowers, in their back yards. The word tractor has taken on a whole new meaning.

There are literally dozens of brands of tractors, a few with the standard American labels still on them. However most are either built in other countries or they are shipped to the United States in pieces and assembled here.

Tractors range in various sizes too. The standard farm tractor of 60 years would be a midget compared to the large tractors used on dry farms today, but would also be a monster compared to what is needed in the average garden.

When choosing a tractor for gardening work there are a lot of things to consider. First and foremost is choosing a tractor that fits the needs of the gardener. So instead of looking at the tractor itself, first consider the kind of work that will need to be done. It's a lot like choosing a tool for working on something. For instance if you want to cut a bolt in half you don't use a wood saw, you use a hack saw. Or if you want to frame 2x4's to finish a basement you shouldn't use just a regular household hammer that is used to pound nails to hang paintings on the wall, but a framing hammer.

In a sense, while the tractor is in the middle of the work, the kinds of implements you will need to attach to it should be the determining factor in what one buys.

It is easy to pick something that is an overkill for the size of plot that is being gardened. However to some people it is even easier to pick a machine that will not do the work one really needs. Underestimation of what the machine will be used for is often a problem once a machine is purchased and has been used for awhile.

Tractors come in classes; pure garden tractors are usually the smallest, and may range up into the class one size of tractor. Most people never need more than a class one for gardening work, although for some a class two tractor may be an option.

Classes of tractors will determine implements that can be installed on a tractor. For instance a lot more work can be done with a six to eight foot box scraper than a four foot one; but people often try to buy too big of implements for their machines. Then they find the machine is underpowered or underweight to handle the work.

Buyers also must consider other factors when choosing size. First of all if a tractor is going to be driven over lawns to get to the work point, larger tractors can be a problem from the viewpoint of tearing the lawn up or causing indentations. The kinds of tires a tractor has on it will also impact a lawn.

Some important points to consider when it comes to buying a tractor include:

•How big is the area you plan on using a tractor on. If it is a small garden, you may want to look at a machine that doubles as a lawn mower or even an ATV because in today's market there are dozens of implements that are made for four wheelers that can do just as good a job for the small gardener, at a much lower price than a regular tractor.

But where the machine is being used is only part of the test. One must consider entry ways they might be driven through, gate widths, passageways, etc.

•Tractors are unique machines that are built to do work. They don't work well for transportation only; if you need that for getting around a big place get an ATV or a golf cart.

•Cost. Probably this will be the largest determining factor in getting a tractor for many people. Gardeners want something that works and is dependable, but if they have only a small garden how economical is it to buy the most expensive tractor on the market. Generally one can count on the larger the tractor, the more the horsepower and the higher the cost. Implements that go on tractors also escalate in cost quickly as the size goes up as well.

•Repair costs. Warranties on new tractors vary greatly. Since Carbon County really does not have a regular tractor dealer, repairs can be a problem, although there are private shops that will work on them. Lawn tractors and such purchased at box stores will at some point need repairs, and some lawn mower shops are equipped to handle those.

•Deciding on diesel or gas machines. Most small lawn tractors are gasoline powered. Once one enters into class one tractors however, gas machines are becoming less and less common. Diesel equipment has a whole different set of maintenance requirements than gasoline machines. But there are also large advantages to diesel power. The user will get more bang for the buck; there is definitely more power. Fuel is more expensive, but if a machine is used off road only, users can purchase off road diesel fuel (which is colored red).

•What implements does the gardener plan on using? This can be a big question because expectations often are dashed once equipment is attached if the tractor is the wrong machine. For instance, often those unfamiliar with tractors will see a small tractor with a loader on it and think it will pick up anything. Many small loaders will only pick up a few hundred pounds. Hitch lifts are the same; they may not haul and pick up the kind of equipment one wants to use.

Loaders are one of the most popular implements that can be added to a tractor if it does not already have one. For those looking at tractors, if they desire a loader it is usually best to find a machine with one already on it rather than have one installed. Loaders can cost up to half as much as the tractor itself.

While loaders can be commonly used by most people, buying a small tractor with a backhoe on it or adding one is another subject. Most people like the idea of having something that can dig holes, but one also has to ask how much that implement will be used. Nowadays, backhoes on small tractors are easy to use; just a couple of levers and operation can be quickly learned. But the cost of a backhoe added to the cost of a tractor can be large. Often for the very casual operator the number of times a small trackhoe can be rented for use for the work they have is a miniscule cost compared to the cost of purchasing a backhoe for permanent ownership. Also remember that small backhoes have a very restricted reach.

•New or used? Tractors are not like cars in that mileage or age are relatively unimportant. What is important is hours on the machine. One can always tell someone who knows little about tractors because they will ask what year model the machine is, instead of the hours on it.

Buying used equipment is a crap shoot, just like buying a used car. If it is a good quality machine, has been cared for and maintained correctly it could be a good deal. If not, it could be a money pit. The same is true of implements with moving parts that are driven by the tractors power take-off or by a separate power source.

Tractors are complicated machines that use various kinds of hydraulic and drive systems. Small tractors can be as simple as an engine and a standard transmission just for pulling things around, or almost as complicated as a car with automatic transmissions, shuttle drives, and even advanced electronics.

Also note that tractors do not necessarily need to be of the riding type. Years ago Gravely Tractor Company and others built machines that could be walked behind. For years the ideas of walk behinds kind of lanquished in the idea that riding is better. However a new generation of walk behind has appeared in recent years. Walk behind tractors are good for confined areas and manueverability; but care must be taken becaue they can be dangerous in tight spots too. Many a gardner has been backed into a corner with those machines and been injured. However, these kinds of tractors have a vast array of implements available. In many places in the world they are the norm.

There are many choices in the tractor world, and picking the right one for the work that needs to be done can be a daunting task. Take time and consideration to choose correctly.

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