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Q:How do you build a Lely tine weeder to fit an ACG?

A: I first put up this article in March of 2008. I've built at least four of these at this point and I've had a number of friends build these based on my directions as well. It used to be up as a PDF but I'm converting it to HTML here to make it easier to upload.

Overview of Use

The tine weeder is a very flexible tool for cultivating a wide variety of vegetables in a wide range of soil conditions. I used one for the past six years on a sandy loam soil in a full range of soil moisture conditions, on crops ranging from carrots to lettuce to beans to winter squash. It works well with surface drip irrigation systems and can be adjusted quickly in the field, without tools, to work on any crop. It only works on very small weeds so frequent passes are needed but typically it can be driven fairly quickly and it only clogs in extremely high trash situations. It can also be used to mark planting lines on the bed which helps line things up for future cultivation. The tine weeder is fairly forgiving of poor driving, or crooked planting lines so it is a good tool to learn on. Horsepower requirements are very low.On heavier soils it's less effective as the tines have a harder time penetrating the soil. This can be partially dealt with by making additional passes.

 

Limitations when mounting on the G

The tine weeder takes up quite a bit of space under the G and there is limited clearance for raising the tool. This means that it can only be run with lower tension on the tines if it needs to be disengaged from the ground at the end of the row. Typically this is not a big problem, although there is potential for catching drip headers at the beginnings of rows and there is slightly less clearance for tall crops. The tool can be somewhat awkward to mount and may take two people working together.

If you are tempted to modify the frame from the below design I'd love to see your ideas. Be careful to leave enough room for the front wheels to turn. Also be aware of the placement of the mounting brackets for the frame and their relationship to the tine brackets. A non obvious design feature of the frame is the separation of adjacent tines. The tines need room to wiggle and let trash and plants flow around. The only place there are two tines mounted together is in the center. These are known to be problematic and are the most likely spot to clog and dig small furrows in poor conditions. I have not figured out a better solution so they remain paired, one can be raised if they are creating a problem.

Lely has apparently started making the tines again but they are hard to find and expensive. It's about $15 for the tine and $15 for the bracket as of March 2008. Market Farm Implement in Pennsylvania seems to be the best source – they use the tines to build their Williams Tool. If they don't have them in stock they could take several months to order. Another option is to find a used Lely and strip the tines and brackets. The tines should have a good 3-4” plus of wire after the bend. They do wear down over time.

Building the frame

The frame is built from 1/4" thick angle iron and flat stock. Use 1 1/2" angle and 1 1/2" flat stock. The front and back rails for mounting tines are angle (with the L facing the back of the frame) and the two middle rails are flat. Two pieces of angle facing out, 16 1/2" long, tie together the three back rails on the outside edges. Two pieces of flat, on edge and 22 1/2" long, tie together all three rails. The placement of these two pieces depends on the spacing of your lift arms but is also limited by the placement of the tine brackets. Two flat pieces, 5 1/2” long and cut at a 45 degree angle on top, are mounted just in front of the 2nd rail back. They are welded to two 4" pieces of 2" x 3/4" bar stock, which sits in the lift arms of most Gs.

mounting bracket 2
mounting bracket

Tines are mounted every 6" along each rail. With four rails that gives a tine every 1 1/2". Starting at the center and moving right (looking from the drivers seat of the G), the first tine is a left (adjustment loop on the right of the bracket) and is mounted on the back rail. Second tine is a left on the second rail from the font, third tine is a left on the third rail from the front and the fourth tine is a right mounted on the front rail. Repeat that pattern until you get to the end.

P2020150JPG

The first tine is mounted so that the tine comes out of the bracket 3/4" from the center line of the frame. Once you have your first hole for each rail, the next holes are just 6" over. The left side of the frame is the mirror image of the right.

Width of the frame depends on your beds and wheel spacing. The pattern that you mount the tines in may change depending on the width of your frame. The front rail needs to be shorter than the others for wheel clearance.

 

Suggestions for use

I set up my rows so that there are two tines "in row," which really means a tine 3/4" to each side of a row. I mark those tines (the adjusting loop) with one piece of colored electrical tape. The tines next to those I mark with two pieces of colored electrical tape. I call the "in line" tines "primaries" and the tines just outside of those "secondaries."

For delicate crops and crops that are just germinating I keep both the primaries and secondaries up (disengaged). This leaves a pretty good swath of undisturbed soil in the row, and for crops like lettuce it reduces damage to leaves.

For more established crops and tougher crops like corn, beans, squash, I'll just put the primaries up. You can also experiment with "blind cultivating" these crops, cultivating with all tines down. It's scary to do but it actually works pretty well. It works better with direct seeded crops. I almost always blind cultivate garlic and potatoes. I've had some luck with beans, peas, and corn but they have to be at the right stage of growth.

Driving faster usually is more effective. You always want to cultivate just before you can actually see the weeds. The loosening action of the tines on the surface helps create a dust mulch that limits weed seed germination. In crusty conditions I've found it helpful to make two passes, the second digs in much better.

In general you don't have to go very deep. The tines will be 1/2 to 1" below the surface. The tines will not take out all of the weeds, and sometimes it looks like it's not really doing anything. You can really tell a difference if you have two side by side beds, planted the same way and one is raked weekly with the tines. The tines will keep the soil condition on the bed top loose and will delay hand weeding and more aggressive cultivations. Generally, starting with a clean seed bed, the first hand weeding or hoeing won't be needed for four to eight weeks.

I like to alternate the tine weeder with heavier cultivation on crops that will take heavier cultivation. For example, in broccoli I might tine weed for two weeks, then run the sweeps one week, then tine weed the next week, then go back to sweeps. The tine weeder is faster and flattens the soil which helps the sweeps have a greater effect in the following week. I don't need the extra soil movement from the sweeps as frequently, and the raking also helps eliminate trash and clods that clog the sweeps or bury young plants.

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