GARDEN TIP: Hand Plows

We got our first walk-behind, wheeled hand plow from a friend of Momma and Poppie’s. By the time it went to meet its maker, I was the only one using it and Poppie was not interested in replacing it. He was using a big honkin’ terrifyin’ gas-powered rototiller. I tried to use the rototiller but it didn’t like me. Like a snarling dog, it sensed fear and gunned its motor at me. More than once, it took off across the yard without me. On one occasion when I was too stupid to let go, the rototiller jerked me off my feet and whipped me up in the air to flap in the breeze like a flag. I immediately began the search for a new hand plow.

The search did not go well. I live in a major metropolitan city. Feed and seed stores, for the most part, are a thing of the past. I wrongly assumed a feed and seed store would most certainly know about hand plows. What I encountered, instead, were blank expressions rivaling Barney on the Andy Griffith Show. I encountered this enough times to wonder if they had even seen a pitch fork up close and personal. I don’t know who was more embarrassed – them or me – so I stopped asking. I skulked around in every corner of half a dozen feed stores and small hardware stores hoping to clap eyes on one. Finally, I turned to the internet.

I had a little trouble with the internet, too, because it had been infused with an injection of uppity-mindedness. Here’s your garden tip for the week: a hand plow is now called a high wheel cultivator. It gets hard to pretend you’re a farmer when half of ‘em look at you with the “Huh?” expression and the other half had to go and git uppity about farmin’. Why on earth would you saunter into a store and ask for a high wheel cultivator when all you want is a hand plow? Did they have that uppity name between 1910 and 1940 when hand plows were in wider use?

I finally obtained one of the uppity contraptions via internet. My 6500 Earth Way High Wheel Cultivator was made in the U.S.A. and came with three attachments – a moldboard plow, a furrow plow and a 5-tined cultivator. Quite frankly, I would have rather had the optional slicing hoe. I like slicing hoes. Matter of fact, I like any kind of tool that doesn’t involve gasoline, a pull cord or a lot of heart-rending noise. I’ll admit that such tools require more manual labor but at least I don’t have to screech “dadgummit” following each attempt to fire it up.

I had one basic use for the hand plow all those years. After using a half-moon edger to cut a line in the grass four inches out from my liropi border grass, I would run the plow between the border grass and the cut edge to get rid of grass and weeds to expose raw dirt. To keep up appearances, I periodically ran a slicing hoe in the trench but weeds have a nasty habit of taking over and the plow would be drug out again. Nowadays, the plow has been pressed into more traditional service. With the furrow plow, I can hill up rows in my vegetable garden or dig trenches to plant potatoes and then plow along beside the potatoes to cover them. It can also be used to cultivate weeds in the walking paths between rows but I tend to cover my walking paths with leaves. One caveat: my plow is tubular steel and not intended for breaking ground although I did give it a good try. After torturing both myself and the plow, I walked over to Mr. Beekeeper’s to ask if he could till up my 2012 garden expansion.

NOTES: See the updated, more informative post on hand plows

See the updated, more informative post on hand plows here.

See a hand plow used as yard art here.