The following question from a BCS owner was answered by Larry, BCS General Manager and BCS owner for over 40 years:
DEAR BCS: We just can’t get the tiller to go more than a few inches into the ground. When I watch videos on breaking new ground with the Rear-Tine Tiller or Rotary Plow there doesn’t seem to be any problem. We live in Indiana and have that sticky play-dough clay. There was nothing but pure grass–not a weed in sight behind the house. We were excited when we got the BCS 853 with attachments. Sadly, it just wouldn’t go down into the ground. We had to go over, and over, and over the ground just to get it in some workable condition. Can you point us in the direction of some options for using this machine?
I’m sorry to hear of your inability to get either the tiller or rotary plow to penetrate your ground more deeply.
And I can empathize with your situation, because my family faced the same problem when we purchased our farm 50 years ago. We often joke that, if we had had a shovel with us when the realtor showed us the farm, we would never have purchased it.
My point is that I think the problem is more biological/geological, than mechanical.
When BCS represents that the tiller will mix soil to a depth of eight inches, the operative word is “soil”. In our case, the clay is more like cement than play-dough, so our approach was to first use a subsoiler behind a large tractor to penetrate 12-15 inches, in order to create cracks in the clay that would allow air, water, and plant roots to penetrate to a certain extent. We then tilled the surface, using the ground up sod and root mass as the beginning of our soil-building process.
Not being able to financially afford to import top soil and expensive amendments, we focused on raising shallow-rooted, light-feeder crops and building our soil with cover crops, manure, and any organic matter, e.g. old hay, that we could acquire. For heavy feeders, e.g. tomatoes, we literally dug a hole for each transplant, put a shovel of compost in the bottom, some soil on top of that, and then the plant. I’m happy to report that those days are behind us.
In your case, I suggest talking with some of your neighbors with a clay situation similar to yours. With some types of clay, there’s a particular level of moisture that enables it to be worked, so you may be able to omit the need for a subsoiler.
As for operating the BCS, you are not going to achieve better results by working harder. My suggestion with sod ground is to set the depth control lever in the third hole. Make a pass with no downward pressure on the handle. Then, because the drag bar under the tines is beveled, take a second pass at the same setting but with a light downward pressure on the handle. The bevel will allow the bar to sink through the loose soil and give you a fresh “bite” at a deeper level.
Next, raise the drag bar until you feel it contact the bottom side of the tiller gearbox. Don’t worry about putting the horizontal pin in a hole; it won’t slide downward of its own accord. Repeat the above procedure — one pass with no downward pressure on the handle; the second with a light downward pressure.
In all likelihood, these four passes will have enabled you to till what’s tillable.
Regarding the rotary plow, if you raise the transport/depth control wheel and insert the pin in the lowest hole, one pass will suffice. While watching this video [on the rotary plow] is helpful, it lacks detail. The technique is parallel to conventional plowing. Create two empty furrows adjacent to each other, then reverse direction so that you throw dirt into the empty furrows. Now that you have loose dirt in those first two empty furrows and a full-depth furrow on the outside, simply plow back-and-forth as per the video.