How to: Potato Hillers AKA Tobacco Plows AKA Buzzard Wings

Mon May 04, 2009 7:43 pm

The 144 manuals refer to these tools as Potato Hillers. In these parts, we have always called them tobacco plows, or "baccker plows." Some people call them buzzard wings and I have heard them referred to as layby plows. Anyhow, they are versatile tools for gardening/farming.

These are not as aggressive as disk hillers, but they do an effective job of putting soil up around the crop plants. As I have preached before, when cultivating, never remove soil unless you plan to put it back immediately, and try not to do it even then. Adding dirt to the row helps because not only do you dig up weeds, you also bury some close to the crop that you couldn't get at with the cultivators. That may be enough to snuff the weeds out, and if they do grow back through the soil, the crop has a bigger "head start."

I am demonstrating on, ironically, potatoes in my family's garden. You will notice they are pretty weedy with an abundance of lambsquarters. For the last week and a half we have been busy trying to get the 'real' crop planted, and haven't spent any time in the garden. My dad asked me to plow them today, and then he will come back in a day or two with his hoe and clean the taters out good.

Here's the setup. The tools are attached on the front toolbars. The IH books show them attached with a wedge clamp to the angled toolbars but we have always done it this way. Doing it as IH shows would allow you to make a wider row.
If you notice, I usually set them so the shank of the hiller is just about touching the toolbar. Notice the "tips" of the wings are about 5-6" apart. Don't worry, that isn't too close unless your crop is really bushy. Make sure the ends of the shanks don't protrude so high that they bump the underside of the clutch housing.

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Here I am starting into a row. I had sidedressed with a 50-50 mix of 34-0-0 and 10-10-10 before hand, by hand. Besides getting the weeds, I wanted to bury the fertilizer.

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In action. The shape of the hiller blades cause them to pull dirt from the row middles and the area beside the row, and move it up over the sides and top of the row.

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Aftermath. Notice the uprooted weeds on the side of the row. The leading edge of the hiller drug them out. Unless we get a packing rain in the next 24 hrs, they are as good as dead. A lot of other, smaller weeds are now buried under 1-2" of dirt.

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