Grade “A” Driveways

As millions of Americans rediscover their green thumb around the yard this summer, it’s important not to neglect the path that leads to your sanctuary from the world.

For many, the driveway is the welcome mat to the American Dream. It has evolved into an extension of your home. The driveway has long held a rich tradition of a gathering place for friends and neighbors. In the words of the late journalist Charles Kuralt: “The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines.” And the familiar crush of the pebbles beneath one’s tires is a calming sound to many a weary traveler.

Once designed for the horse and carriage and exclusively the dominion of the wealthy in colonial America, the driveway has been transformed into an additional aesthetic investment for your property. A few simple tips can help you maintain your gravel driveway in top condition for years. Gravel driveways may be more economical than concrete, but they do wear faster. A harsh winter and rainy spring has likely left the route to your house with potholes and an uneven surface. With a rear-mounted grader blade attached to your compact tractor, a few careful trips down the driveway can ensure a smooth appearance and prevent water buildup and damage.

“It’s recommended that you grade your driveway at least three to five times a year, depending upon the amount of traffic,” says Don Van Ruler of Gerlach Service Inc., a Massey Ferguson dealer in Cottage Grove, Minn. “It’s usually best to start the process after a light rain. The moisture softens the gravel surface a bit and provides a little more flexibility in the process.”

Van Ruler recommends that in most instances, a standard three-point, rear-mounted grader blade attached to your compact tractor will be sufficient to complete the job. Building a slight “A” shaped crown to the driveway also encourages water to drain to the edges, reducing opportunity for puddles and eventual potholes or even ruts.

Traffic on the driveway will eventually transform the crown into a “W” shape. Reshaping the crown twice a year is recommended — once in the spring to repair any winter damage, and once in the fall to prepare for the winter. The process cuts down to the bottom of all potholes and ruts and levels out the surface.

In the event of an extremely rough surface, a box blade can be used to more effectively plane down the high spots and deposit gravel into holes, ruts or low spots. These heavy metal three-sided boxes are open to the front, top and bottom. The box captures dirt or other material, to remove high spots and fill low spots. Box blades also mount to the rear of the tractor with a three-point hitch and have shanks to loosen dirt. They also have a heavy-duty, double-bevel reversible cutting blade to help grade and smooth material. When choosing a rear blade, it’s important to match the tractor with the appropriately sized blade, and your local dealer is a great resource for help.

“If weather and traffic have badly damaged your driveway, you may need to add gravel,” says Van Ruler. “In this case, start by reshaping the driveway with the rear blade, add gravel to the length of the driveway, and then finish up by leveling the driveway and building the crown.” The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends gravel driveways should be maintained with a ½ in. of height per foot of width.

“Depending on the condition of your driveway, one or two trips up and down the driveway should do the trick,” adds Van Ruler. “Work at a slow speed because faster speeds may cause the blade to bounce. It’s not an all consuming job, and it does wonders to the landscape of your property.”

Whether you own a Massey Ferguson or another brand of compact tractor, your tractor and its accessories are, in fact, an investment in your rural living experience and a valued asset to help you get the most enjoyment out of your property for years to come.

For more information about getting the most from your compact tractor, contact your local Massey Ferguson dealer, or for more information on Massey Ferguson visit www.masseyferguson.com.

Tom DiBacco is a communications leader for Broadhead + Co., based in Minneapolis, Minn.

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