If you've always dreamed of growing your own crops, either for personal consumption or sale, you may be excited to finally have your own plot of land on which to start. However, those who live in areas where flat land is hard to come by may wonder whether they'll be able to grow anything but grapes and other climbing vines that can adapt to any type of terrain. Fortunately, the variety of innovations in farm machinery has made planting and harvesting on an uneven or hilly surface easier than ever before. Read on to learn more about the tools and tricks you'll need to successfully farm crops on a non-level surface.
For planting: consider "contour farming"
When planting on a steel hill or uneven surface, there are a few different tactics that may provide you with some success.
One is contour farming. This involves creating contours or terraces in which you can plant crops, allowing them to grow straight up rather than out. When done correctly, contour farming can be beneficial for the environment by reducing the risk of flood damage to your crops and helping preserve topsoil and loam that provide nutrients to your plants.
In order to begin the contour farming process, you'll first want to look at the natural contours present on your hillsides. Sticking as close to these natural elements as possible will minimize the amount of work you'll need to do when excavating or shifting the contours, although in some cases, some reorganization may be necessary. You may also want to go outside and observe your hillside during and shortly after a rain – doing so will allow you to see exactly where water tends to puddle (or turn into a stream), which can present problems for your crops.
If your existing contours are long and sloped, you'll usually want to shorten them; this can slow the speed of rainwater down the hill and prevent topsoil from being leached away during a heavy rain. You may also want to dig some ditches running perpendicular to your contours to provide rainwater with an exit path that won't require it to head straight toward or through your growing crops. Planting ground covers like sedum (or just covering the ground with mulch or sawdust) can also help preserve topsoil and reduce the amount of runoff and crop loss you'll experience.
For harvesting: a hydraulic surface leveler for your combine
Unless you have only an acre or two and a bevy of workers or volunteers willing to hand-pick your crops over the course of just a few days, you'll likely need to use a combine harvester to harvest your crops at the end of the growing season. However, most traditional combines are designed to work on a flat surface, making it difficult or even impossible to successfully harvest crops at an angle without damaging your planting surface or the crops themselves.
Fortunately, you'll usually be able to modify your combine harvester using combine parts for sale for hill use with a removable hydraulic leveler. This leveler is able to raise or lower either side of the combine so that the harvesting wheel is parallel to the ground while the cab remains upright. This can allow you to harvest your crops in the same amount of time you'd take to harvest them on flatter land without worrying about your own physical safety (if the combine were to tip over during operation) or damage to your crops. Certain hydraulic levelers can also be adapted for use on other farming implements, ensuring that if you begin to expand your repertoire, you'll have the tools needed to farm on even the rockiest or steepest surface.