Video Clip: Sweeps on Edgewater Farm from Vegetable Farmers and their Weed Control Machines


Vegetable Farmers and their Weed-Control Machines [DVD]. V. Grubinger and M.J. Else. 1996. University of Vermont Extension. Available for purchase at (verified 31 Dec 2008).

This is a Vegetable Farmers and their Weed Control Machines video clip.

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Lockwood 'Pooh' Sprague, Edgewater Farm. Plainfield, NH.

Audio Text

This tractor, like the other Kubota, is an offset high wheel tractor and with it came this set of sweeps and shanks, a full set of sweeps and shanks. We have a couple of disks we use for hilling. We use this to go after weeds when they get out of control in crops like beans. You can see here’s a red root pigweed you can imagine it was a pretty good sized beast. These shovels are good at doing just that. They bury, they root out. They’re very very aggressive. Although we use them to cultivate the edges of our plastic. On the front here I have a half sweep which is basically a sweep with one side cut right off. I can get right up close to the plastic. I can side dress it at the same time along the edges and I can also throw dirt in with the rear sweep back on top of the fertilizer in one pass. So it’s pretty versatile even though it’s quite a chunk of iron. But when things get that bad this is the kind of heavy artillery you really want to have.

These can be set up in many different configurations just by taking these off and as I say I may take this sweep off and put on a hiller and hill potatoes getting the weeds farther out between rows of potatoes. I used it in beans this morning cultivating a crop of beans. I’ll set this up differently with a side dresser on the other side and side dress and cultivate two rows of corn at time. These shanks and sweeps are a little rough for doing the kind of work that we use the Lely with and Buddingh baskets. But for your larger crops - pumpkins, vine crops, things on plastic, beans after they get to about three or four inches - I’ll go in there and use this kind of tillage tool quite effectively.

One of the things I like about the sweeps and shovels when doing beans or things you would have in a line in bare soil whether it’s peppers, if you’re growing them on bare soil, small tomatoes and pumpkins and winter squash. One of the things that those sweeps do is they actually throw a little soil back on the plant and it’s pretty well demonstrated in this situation. The outer sweeps will kick out, roll over pigweed and stuff in the middle - it will actually hill in and throw soil on top of the weed. Here’s some crabgrass that is covered up by soil, it’s going to restrict the growth of that plant. Crabgrass will come along obviously but it can be set back a great deal more than the bean and anything that’s smaller than that will obviously be smothered. You not only get the action of destroying the weeds in cases but also smothering new growth under the canopy of the plant which I like.

You’ll notice at the front here there’s a half sweep which means that it doesn’t have this half of the cultivator at all. That’s a very handy tool to get up close to the plant. We also use that in cultivating the edges of our plastic. Our tomatoes our peppers our melons squash cucumbers eggplant are all on black plastic and when we put them out at transplant time we cover them with hoops and reemay. So at the time we take the reemay off we have an awful mess of crabgrass and broad leaves growing along the edge of the plastic and it has also been nurtured in that environment along with the desired plant species: we’ve also have got a lot of weeds in there to deal with. When we first started farming for several years that just meant an interminable amount of hand labor; of hand weeding.

With this particular - not the way the machine is set up here - but now we cultivate after taking the Reemay off and by taking these two chisels off, these two sweeps off we move these half sweeps out, we reverse them so that the sweeps are out here just inside the tire tread. We can go right down along the edges of the plastic, right underneath them just barely. Sometimes it will even throw the dirt off the plastic but what it will do is - any of the weeds growing in that area will be flipped out and rolled over, almost in a plow-like fashion. And then behind we have a set of duck feet cultivators that we put the point right on the center of the tire and that will come along and throw soil right on top of the weeds. So we can really minimize the cultivating of the edges of the plastic which is a great labor saver for us.

As far as the middle of the row we seed that down to a cover crop of clover so we don’t have to cultivate out there.

We were talking just a minute ago about cultivating the edges of the plastic. Here’s an example of some plastic that was just recently cultivated. We pulled the Reemay off over a week ago and because it’s strawberry season we didn’t get in here and cultivate immediately like we should have. And so yesterday I came in here and we were dealing with as you can see some pretty large weeds here. And here again, despite the size and the thickness of the weeds on the edges we were still able, that front shoe was able to, chisel these things out and we were able to throw some calcium nitrate (not allowed for use on organic farms) in at the edge and the rear sweep was able to come through and bury a lot of the weeds and cover a lot of the calcium nitrate (not allowed for use on organic farms) on the edges of the plastic and this is the end result.

This video project was funded in part by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (USDA). 

Published June 2, 2011

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