Everyone from hobby farmers to landscape contractors are aware of the value a rake attachment can bring to a project. Pulled and possibly powered by a utility tractor, these versatile attachments help prepare soil surfaces — grading terrain, windrowing rocks, pulverizing coarse debris — in projects that range from seed bed preparation to gravel driveway maintenance. Of course, no one rake can do it all, which is why there are a variety of rake implements for compact tractors. Selecting the right rake for the job and matching it to the host machine will require a little know-how, so let’s start with…
What Are the Options for Rake Attachments on Tractors?
When it comes to rake attachments, Darin Gronwold says, “Functionality is king.” Gronwold is a product specialist for Ignite Attachments, the Moorhead, Minnesota-based attachment manufacturer that offers a premium collection of compact tractor attachments, including rakes. So first, let’s think about the kind of jobs your rake will be used for — specifically, the kind of soil or material it will handle — and its anticipated frequency of use.
“If it will be used for daily work primarily on hard, rocky soil, it makes sense to select a heavier-duty or more expensive model that can stand up to that tougher environment,” Gronwold specifies. “Buy a well-made rake that is compatible with its intended carrier.”
Kioti senior product support manager Joel Hicks agrees about calculating how and how often you’ll use the rake and suggests keeping an eye on budget. “If you’re looking for a tool to occasionally clear debris or fluff the driveway, a landscape rake is a good, budget-conscious choice. If you plan to smooth rough areas or overseed the pasture, a pull or three-point drag harrow is also budget-friendly. For landscape professionals, the power rake is hard to beat, despite the cost. A soil pulverizer can serve as a less expensive option, but it may require extra labor to clear rock and debris.”
No matter the style, quality is a key factor. Attachments and implements are investments, so look for products with high-quality welding, material and components, and make sure it’s backed by a good warranty and a good dealer.
“Massey Ferguson always advocates connecting with your local dealer first when it comes to equipment purchases,” says Adam Sills, marketing product specialist with Massey Ferguson. Local dealers have insight on the area and can make recommendations. They’re also close by for service, parts and questions. For online shoppers without a nearby dealer, Sills suggests checking reviews on the equipment and the company before you purchase. “You want a reputable partner that can answer questions and provide service for the life of your implement.”
The first thing a reputable dealer will tell a perspective buyer is that there are a lot of rake options on the market. Ignite Attachments, for instance, offers those classic tractor tine rakes you probably have in your head. These tractor rakes collect debris and smooth lawns in preparation for reseeding and fertilizing as well as quickly rid surface debris for maintaining gravel parking lots, driveways or walking trails. This style of rake is also called a three-point landscape rake — noting here that manufacturers use different terminology for their products — as it’s great for moving small items like tree limbs or trash, as well as for smoothing gravel and slightly compacted soil.
Rotary Tillers for Tractors
By Dee Warren, Vice President of Marketing and Internal Operations for Land Pride
Preparing the soil can be a multi-step process depending on your soil condition, soil type and what your overall goal is. A primary tillage tool for seed bed preparation is a rotary tiller. Tractor-mounted rotary tillers all have similar components: a gearbox, rotor and drive system. The rotor has C- or L-shaped blades mounted in groups of four to six per flange. A chain- or gear-drive system is mounted on the side of the tiller. The drive system is powered by a gearbox that is in turn driven by the tractor power take-off (PTO). There are options to consider — forward or reverse, chain or gear — just to name a few. Reverse-till models are well equipped for small farming operations. In most cases, a reverse-till model leaves a more desirable seedbed, depositing weeds, residue and larger clods below the surface and finely tilled soil on top. In rocky soil, however, reverse-till units are not recommended. The reverse rotation brings rocks to the surface and significant damage from rocks being pulled under the hood can occur. The tiller drive system is another option to consider and is a matter of preference (chains or gears).
Ignite offers three sizes of landscape rakes — 60, 72 and 84 in. All of these steely rakes feature high-carbon curved tines, the ability to rotate a full 360 degrees and five forward and five reverse settings to move debris wherever it needs to go, says Gronwold. “These implements do not require power take-off,” he indicates. They can be adjusted by relocating the index pin.
The classic tine rake is, well, a classic, but today there are lots of unique styles of pulled and powered rakes for compact tractors. With the help of Kioti’s Hicks, we have created this list:
- Drag harrow: A drag harrow uses wire fingers. It can be pulled behind the tractor or attached by a three-point hitch. Drag harrows are fairly inexpensive compared with other options — especially in drag- or pull-type variants. Three-point models are more expensive but offer more flexibility for overall use and can be easily transported. Drag harrows are especially useful for leveling, grooming and smoothing over ruts or rough terrain. They also make seedbeds in thin grass or in areas where there is no cover in place. Use this in the spring when breaking up cow manure that has frozen or hardened over the winter or when leveling areas where cows or tractors rut up during the wetter times of the year.
- Soil pulverizer: A soil pulverizer uses a combination of metal fingers and spiked aerators to break down chunks of soil. Although it is pricier than the drag harrow or landscape rake, it is worth investing in if you frequently tackle seeding in areas where there is no cover or where the cover has been removed — because soil pulverizers excel at sifting and breaking clods of dirt to prepare a seedbed. It’s important to pay attention to size, as soil puliverizers typically have more overall mass than other rake attachments.
- Power rake: A power rake uses a drum with spikes or carbide teeth and is the most expensive of the rake attachments. Because it is PTO- or hydraulically-powered, the rotating drum can rake, break and sift materials over a wide variety of soil types. It can grade and level and dethatch and remove old lawns in preparation for seed or sod. When outfitted with carbide teeth, power rakes can be used to windrow rocks or large debris and remove cover and break clods when preparing a lawn for initial sowing. Since this implement is powered in addition to being the heaviest option available, sizing becomes more important, as there are horsepower and weight restrictions that must be met to maintain top performance.
- Grader rake: Grader rakes can clear coarse materials, including bricks, rocks, roots and sticks. Adjust the angle for rough leveling or scarification.
- Auto rake: Auto rakes use a bucket with a rake chain or a bar with teeth in order to remove small rocks and debris from loose soil quickly and easily. They sift the surface soil to finish it in preparation for seeding or sod. They don’t work well on compacted soil or with rocks and debris with a diameter larger than 6 in.
- Preparator rake: A preparator rake does the jobs of a grader rake and auto rake in one: cleanup, rock removal and soil preparation. It features a rotating bi-directional drum that places rocks and debris into a perforated bucket that sifts out dirt.
How Much Do Tractor Rake Attachments Cost?
As you might imagine, these various tractor rake attachments vary in price. Those three-point landscape rakes from Ignite range from $699 for the 60 in. to $949 for the 84 in. Gronwold explains that a typical power rake can range anywhere from $7,000 to $15,000. “That’s a significant price differential and [is] why it’s important to choose an attachment based on its intended use. If it’s not needed to handle tough soil, a regular rake will be more cost-effective.”
Hicks observes that drag harrows and landscape rakes typically cost a few hundred dollars. “Soil pulverizers can start at less than $2,000 up to $4,000, depending on its size. Power rakes can range upwards of $10,000, depending on the specs and size.”
Because it has more components, a power rake will have a higher upfront cost, as well as a higher total cost of ownership, adds Sills. In addition to having more wear parts, a power rake needs routine maintenance on the gear box, PTO shaft and other systems. “This is another reason power rakes are used in more commercial applications. Their efficiency can provide ROI, but only if used frequently.”
Dee Warren, vice president of marketing and internal operations for Land Pride, which makes rakes compatible for Kubota tractors, estimates that power rakes can cost up to six times as much as landscape rakes. When making such a big financial decision, Warren says, it’s important to make sure the rake attachment matches your tractor. “Is it wide enough to cover the tire tracks? Does the tractor have the lift capacity to pick it up? If PTO-driven, is it rated for your horsepower?”
How Do You Match a Rake Attachment to a Specific Tractor?
Different rakes are designed to pair with tractors of different sizes. Ensuring that you’re purchasing a rake that is compatible with your tractor is critical to prevent damage to either machine while also maximizing the power, lift and pull to operate successfully. While the internet may hold some answers for tractor-rake compatibility, your dealer will ultimately be your best resource. For instance, a dealer can explain how (as mentioned) landscape rakes are not power-driven, so there’s no need to worry about the PTO specs. The primary concern with landscape rakes is width.
“Look for a rake that is at least 1 to 2 ft wider than your tractor, if running parallel, or that it is at least wide enough to cover your tracks if you plan to run at an angle,” says Sills. “These limits overlap as you try to rake out wheel tracks.”
Power rakes are heavier and have more components. “You will need to pay attention to your tractor’s lift capacity and PTO capabilities to ensure you’re not going to stall out in the field,” Sills says. “Make sure your rake is at or below the lift capacity of your tractor, and you’ll have no problem. Here again, you want to make sure the rake is wide enough to cover your tractor tire tracks without backtracking.”
Like any attachment, a rake’s compatibility with a tractor is based on frame size and weight, horsepower and overall width. Fit Finder, a proprietary tool from Ignite that compares the specs of a buyer’s machine with the specs of attachments and implements, ensures each attachment is a perfect fit for its intended carrier, Gronwold says. Similarly, KubotaUSA.com can help match tractor to rake.
“But first, it’s important to choose the right implements,” Warren says. “For example, a property owner could utilize a Kubota L Series compact tractor and a PR1690 to renovate turf by breaking the soil, pulverizing any clods, windrowing rocks and debris that may be present, then fluffing the soil for seed application. For those DIYers with a less ambitious project, the L Series and an LR2672 can be used to smooth large sections of soil for a garden space.” He considers powered rakes better suited for rental and commercial applications, while landscape rakes are designed for homeowners.
Now Enjoy Some Tractor Rake Operational Tips
Rakes are best used for finishing, not for material handling. Sills advises, “You’ll save time and energy if you spread out material as much as possible with a bucket or blade rather than trying to tackle a mound with a rake.”
Slow and steady works best when it comes to using rake attachments. “Keep in mind that compact tractor rake attachments are not designed to move at high speeds — especially the power rake,” Hicks cautions. “Take your time and always pay attention to the work you’re doing in order to yield excellent results.”
While rakes are pretty straight-forward, take extra caution when using a powered rake because of the moving parts. “Keep bystanders at a safe distance,” Warren recommends. And, as with any tool, follow the maintenance tips in the operator’s manual. “Maintenance is an important operational component for long life and trouble-free use,” he sums up.
Simple Tines vs. Spinning Power Rakes
Ideal for confined spaces where compact equipment is a necessity, pull-behind landscape rakes are used to gather loose material such as soil, gravel or other fine materials. “Kind of like raking leaves in your yard,” explains Land Pride’s Dee Warren. A power rake is a PTO-powered tool with a spinning drum and welded-on teeth that can be used for similar tasks — collecting debris and rocks or fluffing soil for a seedbed — but it’s aided by the rotating spiked roller. Often used by professionals, a power rake can grade, level, shape, cultivate and pulverize various types of soil. It can also rake or windrow soil, rocks and construction debris. However, although power rakes offer a number of efficiency-enhancing features that allow users to prep, smooth, grade, level, till and remove rocks, the length of the tines limits the depth of tilling.
Both the pull-behind landscape rake and the power rake are great tools for leveling and finishing because the tines allow some material to pass through for a more uniform finish without leaving piles of material. For debris and rock removal tasks, a traditional landscape rake pulls and drags, while a power rake can windrow, making removal more efficient with fewer trips than a loader bucket.
Although both rakes perform similar functions, Darin Gronwold of Ignite Attachments, says power rakes are better-suited for harder soil. “They might be used to pulverize or break up tough soil, while a regular rake can handle surface maintenance and debris collection.” According to Massey Ferguson’s Adam Sills, the biggest differentiator between a landscape rake and a power rake is application scale. “For a homeowner, urban gardener or small maintenance crew, a landscape rake is probably sufficient for most jobs. For larger projects or more consistent use, a power rake might be worth the investment.”