Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Ferrari of Tillers

The BCS Tiller. I bought a walk behind tractor from BCS after I tried other brands of tillers including rebuilding a Troy Built with a new Honda engine. They just didn’t seem up to the task for our application. Most would be great for home use, but I needed something with true farm grade toughness. 

BCS is made by Ferrari in Italy, the US versions have Honda gas engines, instead of diesel, to meet US emission standards. I have one of the largest tillers they make that has a 13 HP Honda engine, with electric start (not really needed unless the rope breaks, but it is very nice). It has a great transmission with 3 forward and 4 reverse gears. The clutch is a car like clutch. There is a live PTO and lots of attachments for tilling, mowing, snow removal. You can even get a small hay rake and hay baler. There are even left and right brakes and a differential lock. I never use the brakes, but you might if you lived on a mountain or something.

From a tilling standpoint you can’t stop this machine. I was able to till in a full stand of vetch and some very grassy weeds just a few weeks ago to make room for some late squash. I had to make several passes to let this hugh amount of organic matter wilt and break down a little, but the tiller would take on all comers and I didn’t have to clean out the tines even once. 

The high gears work very well for weeding (cultivating) later in the season. You go 2-3 inches deep and at a very brisk walking speed through the rows. Like magic the patina of green little weeds reverts to a clean unobstructed soil. If you are careful you can roll a little dirt into the row with the crop and cover up the weeds in the row, but leave the crop unaffected. This works especially well with sweet corn and green beans. After the initial tilling the crop can pretty much out compete any minor weeds that remain.

Because it has been so wet this spring, I haven’t even started my large tractor. I have put the whole 5 acre crop in with the BCS tiller. I had never tried that before. I always used the big tractor for primary tillage. But I was afraid of compaction with the big tractor. I’m sure I caused a little soil damage tilling in such we conditions with the BCS tiller, but a little compost will counter act that and attract earth worms to the damaged areas to give it a good going over. At any rate the show must go on, and I had to keep planting. 

It is a heavy machine, but reasonably well balanced. I added a pipe to be able to add a weight to the front when tilling heavy wet soil that sticks to the cowling of the tiller. That helps a little. 

I really like tilling with the BCS it is very relaxing to work with a machine that eliminates many of the frustrations of tilling. Tilling gives me a chance to think without having to fight the machine. Great exercise and no cost of a gym membership to maintain. Usually I walk to the side, only providing a light steering function, letting the machine do all the work. I can also pull a lever and swing the handle bars to the side to really steer from the side, foot print free. (The compression from your foot prints will cause a more favorable seed bed for the weeds to grow. I’ve seen times when I have tilled when it is dry and no weeds germinated in the tilled spot, but there were green foot prints where I walked from the capillary action in the soil due to the compression of my foot prints.)

My machine and the tiller attachment will set you back about $5000 new. But you get what you pay for. No complaints on the price. It has been trouble free now for 7 years. I’ve gone through three sets of tines, might be more this year, as I’ll be tilling about double. But that is only a couple of hundred dollars. I’ve had the cables cleaned and oiled several times. Nice durable blue paint has held up extremely well.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading this, have you considered writing about BCS snow clearing machines, especially in the build up to winter?