PHOTO: Daniel Johnson
August 30, 2017

A side effect of owning a hobby farm is that maintaining your driveway can be a rather complex task. The reason is simple—the driveways on many farms can be quite lengthy, and they’re often made of gravel, which can lead to a variety of issues. Anyone with a gravel driveway is probably familiar with the way that potholes can form over time, attracting water during rainstorms to form mud puddles that gradually grow larger until your driveway is quite uneven and bumpy. So every once in a while, gravel driveways need to be graded to restore them to peak condition—and grading project that is surely appealing to any hobby farmer with a DIY attitude.

Fortunately, grading a gravel driveway is a task that can be accomplished (at least with some level of success) by any farmer with a large tractor and the right equipment, with the “right equipment” being the key.

In essence, you can tackle the process of grading your driveway in several different ways, and while the following isn’t a list of every way you can accomplish the task with a tractor, it does highlight some of the main techniques. Some people keep things simple and use the front-end loader on their tractor to scrape at the surface of the driveway. The goal with this approach is to reduce the crown (the middle of the driveway, which can become higher than the sides over time) and fill in shallow potholes to level the surface. A front-end loader can be a difficult tool to use for grading a driveway, but adding a tooth bar can increase its ability to break through hard ground.

Another option, particularly if your tractor doesn’t have a front-end loader, is to attach a rear grading blade to the three-point hitch and similarly scrape away at the surface of the driveway. While such blades can do a fine job on simple tasks (and are great for pushing and distributing piles of loose gravel), making deep adjustments to the driveway (which might be required for fixing stubborn potholes) might exceed their capabilities.

Arguably the best option for a hobby farmer is to use an attachment called a box blade. Like a simple rear blade, a box blade attaches to the rear of your tractor using the three-point hitch, but unlike a rear blade, a box blade has sides that catch gravel rather than letting it spill off either side of the blade, which can help the unit disperse the gravel more smoothly. In addition, a box blade features a row of teeth (sometimes adjustable) that cut through hard ground, breaking it up and making the whole project easier.

Still, box blades aren’t perfect. While they’re great for breaking up and leveling tough driveways, they require a powerful tractor, and some people have difficulty fine-tuning the driveway grade with a box blade (which are better suited to fill in holes and break through uneven ground). This is when a rear grading blade comes in handy—these attachments excel at the fine-tuning work and can help finish up what the box blade starts.

Grading a driveway with your tractor might require a special tool or two, but with practice you can keep your driveway in top shape—and spend extra time on your tractor as well!

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