Buying A Two-Wheel Tractor
Taking on an overgrown and uncared for garden can be quite daunting; especially when it’s close to an acre in size, you have very little experience and you plan to make a living running it as an organic market garden. The thing about an acre of overgrown, uncared for garden is that it’s too small for a tractor – even a compact tractor (they also tend to be prohibitively expensive for a project like ours) and it’s too big to work with a garden fork and a hoe. Luckily there is a very useful compromise in the form of two-wheeled tractors (or pedestrian tractors as they are sometimes called) – hurrah!
I wasn’t even aware that such things as two-wheeled tractors existed until I saw one recently. It was when I attended the brilliant Permaculture Design Course run by Caroline Aitken at Ragmans Lane Farm, from where Nat, Danny, Jon and Ben run Ragmans Lane Market Garden. Like The Edible Garden, their plot is around one acre and was also unused and overgrown when they took it on. But, with their passion for growing organic produce and a lot of determination and hard work they have built up a superb organic market garden that I one day hope to emulate.
Just like their larger four-wheel cousins, two-wheel tractors come in various shapes and sizes ranging from very basic to all-singing-all-dancing models. Most have at least two changeable attachments such as a rotavator/tiller or a mower of some description, while others like the one we eventually bought are more like four-wheel tractors in that they have a PTO (power take-off) that can drive lots of different attachments.
Having spent several weeks searching for a suitable (and affordable) tractor we eventually found one on eBay that came with a good size trailer with a seat, a flail mower, a rotavator, plough, furrow and best of all a chipper/shredder – pretty much everything we need right now. There were two downsides though. Firstly it was quite a bit more than we were budgeting for and secondly, it was in deepest darkest Devon – a fair old trek from Nottinghamshire! However, we decided that if it was as good as it looked on the internet (always a gamble with any auction site) then it would be a valuable addition to our resources.
So, after much deliberation and a fair bit of procrastination we eventually put in a bid, won it, paid for it, hired a van and Julia and I made the 650 mile round trip to pick it up. Although neither of us said anything, I’m sure that all the way there we were both hoping the photographs on the Ebay listing were recent and we weren’t in fact driving for 14 hours to bring home a pile of broken down rust!
You just know a place is going to be rural when its nearest village is called Sheepwash. And when I say rural I do mean rural – almost a mile from the site our sat nav cheerfully informed us “you will have to walk from here”! However, after a bit of rally-cross (always exciting in a long wheelbase transit van) we made it and were more than happy with what we found.
The seller had obviously cared for the tractor and all the attachments very well because it looked even better in real life than it did in the photos. He was also keen to show us how everything fitted together and that it all worked as it should do and was even happy to help us load it all into the van.
Not knowing how to operate a two-wheel tractor made for a very interesting off-load back at The Edible Garden but thanks to some much-needed help from our neighbour Chris from Saddle and Spur equine supplies we managed to get it all off without the loss of any body parts.
Something I was surprised to discover while looking for a two-wheel tractor is that although they seem to be used a lot in the rest of Europe and particularly in Eastern Europe and also in the USA they are not easy to find in the UK – especially second-hand ones. I would hazard a guess it has something to do with the fact that these countries traditionally have a culture of homesteads and smallholder farming so hopefully, with the growth in sustainable small-scale food production in the UK, it won’t be long before these useful little workhorses are just as easily available here too.
Obviously having only just acquired my first ever two-wheel tractor I’m not going to claim to be an expert with regard to these great little machines. Having said that I did learn a great deal from researching two-wheel tractors and I did buy what seems to be a nice little machine that will hopefully be a great asset to The Edible Garden over the next several years. So here are my tips for any newbies like us considering buying two-wheel tractors.
Six Tips For Buying A Two-Wheel Tractor
Think about what you actually need: There is no point in spending hundreds of pounds you don’t have on horsepower and attachments you don’t need and will never use.
Do your research: Two-wheeled tractors aren’t cheap so make sure you know what’s available for your particular make and model. Is it a reliable make? How much will it cost to maintain and run?
Dealers: Make sure that you know where you can get advice, information and parts if needed.
Loading ramps: Two-wheel tractors are very, very heavy, so when you go to pick up your new toy…. sorry, tool, you will need to have either loading ramps if you’re using a van, a trailer with a ramp or even better still a van with a tail lift (I wish we’d thought of that).
Safety: Two-wheel tractors may be small compared to four-wheel tractors but they are still very powerful machines that can do a lot of damage if not treated with respect. If your tractor doesn’t come with an operating manual make sure you can find one on the internet or get one from a dealer.
Have fun: Most importantly make sure you play with your new toy as soon as you get it home!