How to Plow With Two Row Cultivators

Once you have your garden planted, you have several choices for controlling weeds and conditioning the soil around your plants. If you are fortunate enough to have a tractor and suitable implements, plowing is an efficient, and chemical-free method. Here is a guide to using two-row cultivators for plowing.
Note: Plow can also be spelt plough.


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    Plant your garden so that the rows are spaced suitable for cultivating with the equipment you have available. If you are growing a small patch of vegetables, using a tiller or hoe is probably more efficient and practical.
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    Get an early start. Moisture is essential for good cultivation, and the cooler morning hours are often more pleasant for this work.
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    Set your plows to the appropriate spacing. For newly emerging plants, you will want to cultivate fairly close to keep moisture near the plants' roots, while also keeping weeds from coming up in the furrows. For larger plants, the plows can be re-spaced so they don't damage the spreading root systems of your plants.
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    Make sure the plow points are at the correct depth. Since plows are ganged on the cultivator tool bar, each one needs to be set so that it works in a complementary manner with the adjacent plows. Often, the middle plow, which plows the center between rows, is set ahead, or forward, of the sweeps, which run alongside the crop being cultivated.
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    Set the pitch of your plows. This is the angle the plow point engages the soil, and having it pitched forward will throw less soil in the planting furrow. Having it pitched back will throw more, piling a hill of soil around the base of your plants.
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    Space the tractor tires properly for the crop you are planting. Tractor wheels can be adjusted for different widths, so for plowing rows at 36 inches (91.4 cm) on center, the width of the tires should be 72 inches (182.9 cm), so you don't track too close to the roots of your plants.
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    Adjust your sway chains or sway bars so they have enough free travel to allow the plows to follow the path of your rows. For fixed frame tool bars, any turn of the tractor's wheels will cause the tool bar to react in the opposite direction, and will result in the plows entering the row of your crop.
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    Set the depth of your plows at the correct level. For soil that becomes tightly compacted, you need to allow the plows to run deep enough for the soil at the root level of your plants to be loosened. This allows moisture to percolate down to the roots and makes it easier for the root system to develop. For light, sandy soils, plowing too deeply will allow the moisture to percolate too quickly, and also allow fertilizer to be leached away from your plant's roots.
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    Plow at appropriate times. You will want your plants to be large enough that the soil displaced into the furrow will not cover them, but the greatest benefit will be gained when weeds are still small enough to be covered or plowed up (pulled from the soil by the plows) and killed.
    • Make sure there is sufficient moisture in the soil before plowing. The hilling effect of plowing will help build up soil over the plant's root system, keeping more moisture available to them, but plowing in very dry weather will break soil crust and loosen the soil, so any moisture present will evaporate quickly. Plowing just before a rainfall will not kill weeds as effectively, either, since the rain will likely give them an opportunity to re-root before they die.
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    Run at a speed which gives the desired results. Just as pitching the plows causes soil to be thrown at varying amounts, speed also effects this process. Faster speeds will cause more soil to be thrown in the furrow.
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    Locate the tractor wheels in the center between your rows. Many farm tractors have a guide point on the frame so the wheels travel in such a way that the plows are spaced correctly between the furrows.
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    Steer carefully so you do not plow up your crop. Planting perfectly straight rows on level ground is the ideal way to do this, but if you have curving rows, or simply planted carelessly, paying attention to steering the tractor will prevent losing part of your crop.
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    Pull any weeds and debris from your plow points as needed, since they can accumulate and cause the soil to build up on the plows, resulting in the crop plants being covered from the overflow of soil.
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    Take time to look at what is going on in the field while you are working. Many people garden and farm on a small scale simply to enjoy the benefits of being outside in the fresh air and sunshine. You may be surprised by the wildlife and wildflowers you see while out in the garden.


  • Practice environmentally friendly growing techniques where possible. No-till farming causes less soil erosion, and requires less chemicals and fuel to produce a successful crop.
  • It is helpful to have an assistant to help gauge the depth of the plows and remove debris from them.
  • Learn specific needs regarding the plants you are growing. Some, like corn, establish large feeder root systems and can be damaged by plowing too closely to the plants, others, like beans and peas, will do better if the soil around the roots is loose and unpacked so the root systems can breath.
  • This article describes working a field where the row spacing is 36 inches (91.4 cm) apart. This distance varies depending on the crop and preference of the person planting it, so the plow spacing and tractor wheel spacing may be adjusted to fit different distances between rows.


  • Never operate a tractor under the influence of alcohol or drugs or when you are otherwise not capable of doing so safely. This includes OTC medications which may cause drowsiness, as the slow, monotonous speed may cause you to fail to remain alert.

Things You'll Need

  • Tractor
  • Cultivator tool bar
  • Plows (ploughs)
  • Row crop planted on correct centers.

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