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Inexpensive labor saving device to pick/sift rocks out of soil

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Hey there, everyone. We are new to farming and have been given access to some land this season through the Seattle Tilth Farm Works program. The downside is that the land is rock-ridden. We've had the soil tilled up and have removed all the larger rocks on the surface now by hand. We are working 1/2 acre and there are 14 other 1/4 acre plots worked by other beginning farmers with this program.

I'm wondering if anyone has plans or ideas for a way that we might be able to get these rocks out of the soil more effectively. We do have access to a small tractor but the only equipment we currently have for it are a tiller, a disker, and a shovel on the front.

I'm open to building something but I'm not very engineering minded and, as with most of us young/beginning farmers, money is tight.

If anyone has any ideas though, please let me know!

dorn's picture

One way around this, depending on the crops you have in mind would be to do no-till planting or transplanting, and use heavy mulches instead of cultivation for weed suppression. Generally an additive approach rather than extractive. It would have the added benefit of not bringing up new weeds seeds as well. You can see some of the equipment to make this work on a larger scale at Steve Groff's farm. On a half acre you would be able to do this approach easily by hand.

llewin's picture

Thanks for the info. I think that would probably work for most of what we are planting, but we are going to plant 1/8 acre of carrots this year and I'm concerned that the rocks are going to deform the roots....

AndyF's picture

You could look at getting a york rake for your tractor and use it to windrow the rocks which come up after tilling. You would still need to hand pick them, but it would be quicker to pick out of a windrow than if they are scattered around your field. You can also rent a bobcat with a rock picking attachment once a year, or at least until most of the rocks in the top 12" of soil have been removed.

Finally for planting in beds, I am very happy with the DeWit Bed Rake I picked up from Earth Tools. It has a wider spacing between the tines than a regular iron rake and does a great job of removing rocks and undecomposed organic matter from a bed.

FL Farmer's picture

The DeWitt bed rake is indeed an excellent tool and is a favorite among our hands so much so that we have two. You still must pickup all those stones, a job hated by all! We have found the "compost fork" sold by Johnny's is excellent. It has 1" tine spacing thus picking up all consequential stones.