Two-wheeled tractors


The most useful, and versatile, gardening tool I own is my two-wheel BCS tractor.  This Italian-made tractor was designed for small farms in hilly areas areas where riding on a tractor risks a roll-over, so with a BCS you walk behind the tractor, steering it with handle bars.   It is a powerful machine – I call it “the beast” – but very maneuverable, and you can attach a wide range of implements to its PTO.

In fact, my wife calls the tractor “a Barbie Doll for men” because I am always buying “new outfits” –new implements — for this machine.  Currently, I have a rototiller attachment for cultivating the garden, a snow blower for clearing the driveway in the wintertime and a pasture mower for cutting tall grass and brush.  I can also mount a grader blade on the tractor to smooth the driveway when it becomes rutted, and a snow plow blade for light snow removal in the winter.  The tractor pulls a small cart which I have used for everything from hauling compost to the garden to collecting stones for my wall-building efforts.   In addition, I have a small tow-able sprayer for use in my sustainable lawn business, and a “stone burier” – a specialized tiller that sifts and rolls the soil as it goes along, burying stones and sticks to create a ready-to-plant seed-bed.

The most versatile tool I own
The most versatile tool I own

These are only a sampling of the implements available for this ingenious machine – to see more, visit the Earth Tools website.

This is not an inexpensive machine but it is built to a real farmer’s specs and has proven a workhorse on my property over the last 10 years.  As a mechanic told me before I bought it, if I keep up with the maintenance, changing the oil regularly, the tractor will probably outlast me.  It is immensely satisfying, in this era of disposable, poorly made tools, to have at least one implement that defines quality and durability.  It was built, after all, in the Ferrari factory in Torino Italy.  A Ferrari car may not be in my budget, but a Ferrari-made tractor I can afford.

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Thomas Christopher

My father was a compulsive tree planter, but it was my mother who taught me the finer points of gardening.

Her homeschooling was followed by two years in the New York Botanical Garden’s School of Professional Horticulture, and then ten years as horticulturist at an Olmsted Brothers designed estate on the Hudson River Palisades.

I’ve worked as a horticultural journalist for 35 years, contributing to publications ranging from Martha Stewart Living to the Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society and The New York Times.  My most recent book is Nature Into Art: The Gardens of Wave Hill, which is a tour of the lessons to be learned from that great public garden.  I’m currently focusing on my new podcast (at which features weekly interviews with leaders of environmentally-informed gardening.

My special enthusiasms include sustainable gardening, especially sustainable lawns;  heirloom chicken breeds; and recreating vintage New England hard ciders.


Contact Tom by email


  1. I’m not familiar with PTO as an acronym in this context–could you please expand?

    The backyard of the place we’re renting is full of non-soil objects, scattered there when a room was torn down due to massive damage over ten years by the prior tenants. It needs a good tilling and levelling. I’m a short woman: would this machine, provided I can find one to rent, cooperate with me?

    • PTO means “power take-off”; it’s a fitting on the tractor that allows power to be taken from the engine to operate some sort of implement or attachment. It’s a standard feature of full-sized farm tractors, and is used to operate mowers, harvesters, hay balers, etc.

      For a smaller-sized person, a smaller BCS model such as the #732 or #710 would probably be best. My local tool rental business rents BCS tractors with tiller attachments..

      • I think Barbie BCS would also adore getting a flail mower. Mine takes down dense plantings of 10 foot tall sorghum and reduces it to confetti with no effort. Berta, another Italian manufacturer, makes that accessory which utilizes the same PTO quick hitch.

        Earth Tools is the Mecca for walk behind machines and the folks there are extremely pleasant and helpful. If you live near enough to visit, you will wonder how they ever ended up across a creek in the middle of the woods that far from the rest of humanity. The answer I’m sure has something to do with the sixties.

        I too am interested in this soil sifting tiller. Is that a reverse rotation type?

        • The soil-sifting tiller, the “stoneburier”, throws the tilled soil backward through an array of parallel bars; small rocks, sticks, etc. are stopped by the bars, drop to the bottom and then are covered with the sifted soil as the machine moves forward. A roller at the back of the stoneburier packs the soil lightly so that it is ready for seeding or planting. It’s designed for market gardeners with gravelly soil.

    • A smaller machine is definitely recommended for a smaller person. Even someone small but very strong would still have problems with the hand controls. My 830 BCS is a real challenge for me. One of the first and most important lessons to learn with these types of tools is to not fight them. They will always win and you will always lose. One of the reasons they often outlast their owners is the ease at which they can eliminate said owner from the equation.

      • “One of the reasons they often outlast their owners is the ease at which they can eliminate said owner from the equation.” — LOL – not quite sure what kind of endorsement this is…

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