[permaculture] A rolling dibble marker for easy transplant spacing

Lawrence London lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Thu Apr 4 12:53:50 EDT 2013

A rolling dibble marker for easy transplant spacing

A rolling dibble marker for easy transplant spacing A series of tip sheets
on labor efficiency for fresh-market
vegetable growers.

Astrid Newenhouse
Bob Meyer
Marcia Miquelon
and Larry Chapman University of Wisconsin, Madison
Healthy Farmers, Healthy Profits Project

Hand transplanting seedlings into the field can be tedious and
time-consuming. Some growers lay a tape measure or knotted string on the
planting bed to space transplants evenly. Others just estimate plant
spacing with their eyes. Many growers then use a hand trowel to dig holes
for the transplants. A rolling dibble marker, or dibble drum, is a tool
that helps you transplant seedlings faster and more accurately. The
hand-pulled tool rolls across the planting bed, punching or scooping
transplant holes into the soil at regular intervals.

How does it work?

You walk down the path beside the prepared planting bed, pulling the dibble
drum behind you by its handle. As it rolls along, “dibbles”, or scoops
which are screwed into a PVC drum at regular intervals, create indentations
in the soil for transplants. In loose soil, the dibble drum will dig holes
but in heavy or compact soil it will mark locations for transplant holes.
After rolling the dibble drum along your planting bed, plant transplants
into the holes or scoop marked holes with a trowel.

Why use a dibble drum?

Saves time. You can set out, plant and water in transplants 24% faster when
using a dibble drum to space and dig holes, compared to visually estimating
spacing and using a trowel.

[image: inefficient: measuring seed placement with a ruler]

[image: man pulling the rolling dibble drum]

More accurate. If you mark your planting bed with a dibble drum, you will
ensure exact spacing of your transplants in a grid pattern, even when the
task is performed by inexperienced workers. Consistent spacing makes
weeding easier, since you can use a hand hoe or wheel hoe in two directions
or use a mechanical cultivator. Accurate plant spacing will conserve bed
space and maintain plant quality. Even experienced growers tend to
overestimate plant spacing, which can waste productive land. If growers
underestimate spacing, plants can be crowded and yield might suffer.

Easier on the body. Using a dibble drum to space transplants lets you stand
instead of stooping or kneeling to mark transplant spacing.

[image: measuring seed placement by hand]

Simple. It can be complicated and time consuming to explain how to space
transplants to inexperienced field hands. With a dibble drum, you can
instruct workers to simply roll the drum down the planting bed and set one
plant in each hole.

How do I make one?

This rolling dibble marker, designed by Bob Meyer, is made from readily
available hardware, lumber, and PVC pipe. The drum is a section of 12" dia.
PVC pipe ($45-$50) commonly used for sewer connections. Check with plumbing
supply stores and ask for a section as long as your bed is wide. Parts for
the dibble drum will total approximately $100.
Materials and assembly.

(1) 12” dia. PVC pipe cut to length of bed width.
* *Scoops:*
(1) 2” x 3’ PVC pipe cut into (12) 4” sections which
are each cut in half lengthwise at a 45° angle.
(12) 2” metal angle brackets, fastened to each
scoop and then to the PVC drum.

*Axle assembly *(galvanized plumbing fittings):
(2) 1’x 1’x 3/4” plywood pieces, cut to fit end of drum and fastened with
(2) ¾” floor flange, screwed into center of plywood.
(2) ¾” x 6” nipple threaded through PVC handle “T” and screwed into flange.
(2) ¾” coupler or end cap.

*Handle assembly:*
(1) 1” x 10’ PVC pipe, cut into 4 sections 42”, 24”, 25”, 13”).
(2) 1” PVC “T”, to slip over each axle.
(1) 1” PVC 90° elbow to connect the 13” handle section to the 42” section.
(2) 1” PVC 45° elbow.
Glue the 42” section and 24” section each into an axle “T”. Glue a 90°
elbow to the 42” section and a 45° elbow to the 24” section.
Glue the 13" section to the 25" section with a 45°elbow. Attach the other
end of the 13" section to the 90°elbow, and the other end of the 25"
section to the other 45° elbow.
(48) ¼” x 1” machine screws, (56) ¼” lock washers, (56) ¼” nuts, (16)
1/4x1” wood screws, (8) 1/4” x 2” pan head machine screws.
• PVC glue.
• Exterior wood varnish or paint
*This material was developed by the Healthy Farmers, Healthy Profits
Project, whose goal is to find and share work efficiency tips that maintain
farmers' health and safety and also increase profits.*

[image: 3/4" thick plywood end cap, Axle assembly: 3/4" galvanized plumbing
fittings and spare weights, Drum: 12" diameter PVC (as long as bed is
wide), Scoops: section of 2" PVC with angle bracket bolted through drum,
Handle: 1" PVC]
   For more information, call (608) 252-1054 or visit our website at

   Material is not copyrighted. Feel free to reproduce; please mention
source: University of Wisconsin Healthy Farmers,
Healthy Profits Project, November, 2000; Third Edition.

Authors: Bob Meyer, Astrid Newenhouse, Larry Chapman and Marcia Miquelon,
Department of Biological Systems Engineering,
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin, 460
Henry Mall, Madison, WI 53706.

Design: Bob Meyer 1999

Research for this publication was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention’s National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Work Efficiency Tip Sheet: A
rolling dibble marker for easy transplant spacing

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