Tractor Tips

How to be a More Engaging Ground Engager

Per industry jargon, they are ground engaging tools. And what a selection. It can be a challenge determining your real needs when you are trying to decide what tractor attachments you want to buy for your grading, leveling, earthmoving and other applications like snow removal.

You want to avoid spending more than you need to. And you want to avoid, when you can, tying up money in attachments you may only use once or twice a year. But you do want tools that solve as many of your land care and grounds maintenance needs as possible. You want tractor attachments to be simple. Fortunately, there are four popular and widely available ground engaging tools each of which can go a long way towards helping you get more work out of your tractor. Top choices for grading, leveling, maintenance and more are rear blades, landscape rakes, box scrapers and grading scrapers.

Rear Blades:

Versatility = The Highest • Ease of Use = Good but you do get better with practice • Options = The most

Rear blades are the Swiss army knives of soil, debris and landscape management attachments. Rear blades are perhaps the most versatile 3-point-hitch mounted ground-engaging attachment, but performing rear blade tasks may require a little more attention and finesse from the operator. Rear blades, when operated properly by a practiced operator, can perform more tasks that other more specialized landscape equipment can accomplish. Adding to rear blade versatility, you can add optional end plates to morph the rear blade into more of an earthmover --- something like a box blade. Add an optional tail wheel to make it easier to keep the rear blade at a constant leveling height --- you make your tractor and rear blade combination into a type of road grader. Tilt and angle a rear blade to create a ditch or swale for water run-off management. Rear blades are very versatile and very popular for snow removal too.

Landscape Rakes:

Versatility = Very High • Ease of Use = Very Good • Options = Several

Sure, landscape rakes can speed gathering rocks and roots when you are opening a new farm field, garden space or a new lawn. Some landscape rake users have success using them to rake heavy accumulations of Fall leaves off their lawns. Most of the time landscape rakes take on tasks on much more demanding than gathering up Fall's leaves. They are built to handle rocks and roots after all. You can rid a job site, pasture, or field of large sticks and rocks. Similar to rear blades, most landscape rakes can be angled to create windrows of the unwanted debris. Even add a tail wheel to keep your rake at a constant level until the job is completed, this is especially useful when performing a job in softer soil.

Box scrapers:

Versatility = Good • Ease of Use = Very Good • Options = Some

Box scrapers may not be a versatile as a rear blade but they still have many applications. Operated correctly box scrapers can accomplish some of the same tasks as rear blades, landscape rakes or grading scrapers. The box scraper height can be adjusted by the tractor operator using the 3-point hitch level control and you can use the height adjustable 3-point lift arm to tilt the box scraper. With a little practice using a box scraper can quickly result in a smooth leveled surface. Where box scrapers shine is at jobs that require moving considerable amounts of dirt, gravel, or any other material from one location to a distant, different location. Box scrapers are able to do this because their heavy-duty digging moldboard at the rear of the implement is fully enclosed on the ends. Therefore, box scrapers can carry the material until you choose the spot you want it to unload and you lift the box scraper with the 3 - point hitch. To add to their digging performance and versatility, box scrapers usually come with a set of scarifier shanks at the front of the box scraper that can to raised and lowered to help break up and loosen hard and compacted surfaces.

Grading Scrapers:

Versatility = More specialized but good • Ease of Use = Very High • Options = A few

Grading scrapers are a bit more specialized tool, but you can smooth or level many types of ground for many purposes with a tool that is - by design -- an excellent and easy-to-use grader and leveler. If you have yards and yards or miles and miles of driveway, road or trail to maintain, a grading scraper needs to be seriously considered. Typical they have a gang of scarifier shanks near the front of the implement (like on most box scrapers). These are useful to rip into the toughest, hardest packed spots and provide loose material for the following scraping and leveling blades to spread, level and firm. A grading scraper on your tractor can be the fastest route to a smooth path, field or new lawn resembling that of a professional landscaper's handiwork. A grading scraper operating tip: if you happen to be attacking a pesky pothole, use your front shanks to dig down close to or even below the bottom of the pothole. That will free up enough loose material to completely fill in the pothole and make the entire driveway area smooth and more uniform.