At High Ledge Farm we are growing for a large market and a 25 member CSA. To get the consistency we want week after week, we are transplanting all the time. Having worked on farms that were using water wheels or mechanical transplanters, the benefits of consistently spaced plants are apparent: easier cultivation, improved airflow around the plants, reduced disease pressure, and knowing an accurate number of plants you will use to fill a row. The problem we have at High Ledge Farm is a tractor mounted transplanter is not only too big for our farm, it also requires more people than are available most of the time. Enter….the rolling dibbler, a hand held plant and row marker.

I first learned about this tool from the Healthy Farmer, Healthy Profits program from the University Of Wisconsin. You can do a search and find them online. Although the design is good, theirs uses PVC, and is pretty expensive to build. I made ours in about 30 minutes using $15 in materials. It paid for itself almost immediately. I used rot resistant white cedar, because it often gets left outside. I have different drums that give me various spacing options.

My Allium drum is based on an 8” row spacing, but the one I use most often is calibrated to give me a 16” row spacing. The drums are 12 sided, and the slats are approximately 2” wide. The plant markers are made with a piece of 2x4 that I milled down to be 1½” square and 2” long. The handle and axle are made out of a piece of ½” conduit. I used a pipe bender for this most recent project, but in the past I just bent it free hand.

The bends on the top of the handle help with pulling the roller down the row. At this point, the axle connects with an elbow, but I am working on a better system. My plan is to flatten the end of the handle and drill a hole to slip the axle through. Then I can use lynch pins to secure it. This will allow a quicker, no tool change between drums, and a much more reliable connection.

I can’t imagine farming without this tool. It has given me a precision I couldn’t get with guessing at spacing, and allowed me to increase the efficiency of planning and planting all of my transplanted crops.