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Hiller Attachment Helps Prep Beds, Plant Potatoes
Rick Ratcliff gets raised beds ready for veggie planting with a potato hiller attachment that was originally designed to make trenches for planting spuds. He modified it to make beds, flatten the tops, and lay drip tape all in one pass.
  “We have an acre and a half of potatoes, sweet corn and a 100 by 100-ft. market garden, all on raised beds,” says Ratcliff.
  Ratcliff’s hiller attachment consists of two steel arms made out of 2-in. square tubing welded side by side for greater strength. They pin to a female receiver clamped to the hiller’s rear frame. This simple hinge allows the arms to float behind the hiller.
  A 5-sided box with a 3 by 18-in. steel plate attaches to the rear half of each arm. Used to prepare vegetable beds, the steel plate drags across the top of the new bed as the hiller forms it. It levels and shapes the beds.
  Extending out of the box, behind the plate and down into the newly made bed, is a short length of steel tubing. It makes a small depression for the drip irrigation tape it feeds onto the surface of the bed.
  “The beds warm faster and everything grows faster and matures quicker,” says Ratcliff. “Potatoes grow a lot faster in a raised bed than in a trench in the ground.”
  This year Ratcliff and his wife grew 25,000 lbs. of potatoes on their raised beds. They sell them from an unmanned roadside stand using a self-serve, honor system.
  “It’s been so popular this year that I can hardly keep it stocked and find time for farming,” says Ratcliff.
  He can use his hiller attachment to create “raised trenches” for planting.
  “I detach the arms and flip them over,” explains Ratcliff. “The boxes rest on the ground between the two hiller coulters. As I drive across the rototilled field, the ground is thrown up against the sides of the boxes. This creates two 24-in. wide beds with 6-in. wide, 6-in. deep trenches in their centers.”
  The boxes were fabricated from 2 by 2-in. steel tubes for internal frames. A 2-in. wide strip of flat steel connects the side frames on five sides. Two side panels made from high-density polyethylene mount to the side frames. The steel plate that flattens the vegetable beds serves, in this case, as weight to keep the boxes from riding up over the dirt.
  “The thrown dirt slides off the plastic, and the front of the boxes are angled so they would skid over the tilled field surface,” explains Ratcliff. “One person can walk along the trench and toss potato pieces in while a second person pulls the trench sides down over them.”
  When using the arms for vegetable bed flattening, Ratcliff attaches a flat bar between the arms and over the hiller’s disk arm.
  “When I lift the hiller, the connecting bar makes sure that the boxes lift as well,” says Ratcliff. “The bar pins at either end so that in the lowered position, the leveling arms are still able to float free.”
  Ratcliff has now switched to a modified conventional potato planter that’s been raised to plant into the top of the raised beds.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Rick Ratcliff, Box 10, Bella Coola, B.C., Canada V0T 1C0 (ph 250 982-2597).

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2012 - Volume #36, Issue #6