Tillage without machine operated or animal-operated tools can be difficult. These tools can be very expensive, and the machines and draft animals that are used with them can be more so. Yet with some home-made tools, a farmer or gardener can quickly break ground.
Checking on craigslist will often yield a surprising amount of raw materials suited for making plows.
Your home made plow will not be as nice as professionally made ones, but with lowered expectations, you’ll find that it will undertake the job well enough.
While disk plows are very much in vogue – and for good reason too, they perform excellent tillage – they are modifications of a 4 Coulter Plow developed by Jethro Tull, the father of modern agriculture. Besides inventing the row, the aisle, discovering cures for most plant diseases, developing the first agricultural futures commodity market, domesticating sanfoin and the turnip, inventing the system by which animals may be penned, and other significant achievements, Tull also invented a better plow than the traditional moldboard which he called the 4 Coultered Plow.
Today, two plows have succeeded the 4 Coultered, including the disk plow and also the chisel plow. Both work on the same principles of slicing the ground and minimizing the downward thrust of the blades by maximizing lateral forces. The lateralization of downward gravitational thrust is easily accomplished with a disk or a chisel, but is also accomplished by a knife (or “coulter”), mounted at a less than perpendicular angle to the ground. Curving the knife backwards results in a disk-like shape.
The mounting of the knives onto a frame is one option – this is typical for disk plows – but there is also the option of mounting consecutive knives on a single shaft.
If you are not fortunate enough to find your materials on craigslist, do consider making your plow out of wood. Wood had been used for thousands of years with success before metal became available, and long after metal was available, metal was too expensive for most farmers to use. Wood has disadvantages – it does not last long, it shatters, but it largely gets the job done.
That said, finding blades to attach to a frame is easy enough. Old pickaxes, hoes, heavy pieces of scrap steel, or other blades that will not bend or snap under the extraordinary pressure of tillage work wonderfully.
When you attach them to the frame, you will have something that looks somewhat like a harrow, but designed for ground penetration. Weighting the frame with old tires, cement blocks, or other heavy things will drive your blades into the ground and pierce the turf. Dragging the implement with a truck or car is possible, if the chasis will hold, until you get used to it, pull gently and see if your beast will take it.
Or, use a real beast. A cow or horse may be easily brought under the yoke, happy to help your gardening (hey they eat that stuff too!). Or, a large team of dogs for light work.
But if this exceeds your technical skill, you may also acquire rusted out farm implements from wealthy professionals who use them as lawn implements. If you convince one that the rusted look is “out” this year, they might even give it to you for free if you haul it off their lawn.