Garden tractors are small, light tractors which are perfect for managing a large garden or smallholding. Models designed for light towing and grass cutting are called lawn tractors (or sometimes ‘ride-on mowers’) and cost less on tractor sale sites – but are also less sturdy and less versatile. When considering which tractor is right for you, think hard about what you might ask it to do in the years to come.
If you own a smallholding and your paddocks are getting over-run with wiregrass, dock or other perennial weeks, you may be in the market for a small tractor, or ride-on mower – but don’t rush into it! Buying a tractor or ride-on mower is a major and serious expense, and it’s worth spending some time researching which tractor to buy so that you make sure you get one that’s going to do everything you want.
Tractors on sale: things to consider
In general, the bigger the engine the better, because it means getting more work done – possibly in difficult areas a smaller machine might struggle with – in less time. It will be very frustrating indeed when you can’t…quite…get the things finished because the tractor just doesn’t have the power. But of course, the bigger the engine the more expensive the machine. With a purchase like this, it’s a good idea to treat it a bit like a tractor auction: decide on your budget ahead of time, then you won’t be tempted to dig deeper into your pocket.
Ride-on mowers are on sale from £1200, but go much higher. If you want to be able to add attachments, the tractor will cost around £6000+ with the attachments extra.
2, or 4-wheel drive?
If you need to keep areas difficult terrain under control, such as steep slopes or very uneven ground, you will need 4-wheel drive. Wiregrass, dock and nettles will quickly take over any untended patch, and mowing a couple of times a year (late May / early June, and again in September) is a good way to keep then in check. Four-wheel drive also means you’re much more likely to be able to drive your tractor home again rather than leaving it stuck in mud while you go in search of a much bigger tractor to pull it out.
Getting more from your tractor
Are you just planning on mowing the paddock, or do you want your tractor to handle other tasks as well? If so, you want attachments. Some mowers have the mowing bit built in, and it’s impossible to disconnect it from the tractor part. Even so, there may be a tow hitch at the back. On others the mower itself is a separate unit and can be interchanged with a variety of other useful attachments, on sale separately, such as a trailer. This is incredibly useful. If you have to move a few bales of hay, it’s much easier to do it with a trailer than a wheelbarrow – especially over soft ground. They’re also great if you need to shift a load of firewood, bricks, cement – you name it, a trailer makes it easy.
You can also get spreaders, gravel rakes, graders (useful if you want to repair or level pathways) and chain harrows. Harrows, if you weren’t sure, have several purposes. They help to break up clods of earth and level the ground, and can also remove weeds. They’re also used to cover seeds in a large area.
Here’s an excellent and not too expensive trailer model:
And a spreader, which can be used for either broadcasting seed, or fertilising:
|All the above are available from UK Lawnmowers|
Do you want to plough?
If you’ve got ploughing in mind, you don’t want a ride-on mower – even if you do see one with a plough(-ish) attachment. Ploughing takes more power than a lawn or garden tractor can supply, and what you really need is a small, older farm tractor. Small, because the bigger they are, the more expensive – sometimes incredibly expensive. Try searching for a ‘micro’ or ‘compact’ tractor sale. Older, because used vs. new is a similar situation to buying a car: it’s (cash) value halves once it’s driven off the lot! But it’s (work) value doesn’t – so look for a good, used (small, older) tractor. There are plenty available – here are a couple of websites to get you started.
An alternative to tractors
If you have a piece of land that you’d like to keep mown but you don’t want to spend the whole day riding around on it, consider getting a few sheep instead. They’re very easy to care for. All they need is somewhere warm and dry to lie down in during cold, wet weather, enough to eat, an annual haircut (for sheep) and a hoof trim every so often. Sheep won’t eat wire grass very much, and avoid fresh nettles and thistles. Goats will, but be warned – they’ll also eat clothes hanging out to dry! In fact, they’ll eat just about anything…