I planted the garden plot I have, and a couple others, with my Sears GT18/ 6--what a workout!! I have bad knees, and they let me know I had really abused them with the repeated use of the clutch as I moved up and back on the furrows.
That was in late fall, 2012 This spring I tilled the garden with my White Yard Boss (MTD990) Hydrostatic. What a difference! I had read you need to run the engine at full speed with a hydro--I kept the speed up, but not max, and didn't notice a problem with overheating, etc. It sure was easier than using the clutch repeatedly.
I then furrowed about 2/3rds of the plot for potatoes using the same machine. It wasn't as taxing on it as plowing would have been, but still gave me an idea of how it worked. I also used the machine to plow some friend's gardens... again I really appreciated the convenience of the hydrostatic, albeit lever operated.
When I bought the JD 420, I LOVED the power steering... it had a lot of slop in it, but still turned well and was quite agile. I used it's loader on several occasions, and found it challenging due to having to regulate speed with the hand lever, and use the other hand to operate the boom and curl on the loader---tried to steer with my knees, but no go there.
The Bolens HT23, with its 500 lb capacity FEL (compared to the JD420s 300 lbs) did a lot more work, and the pedal-operated hydrostatic was so slick to operate. However, it was hard to turn, and the steering has quite a bit of slop, so it doesn't turn as quickly, or as sharply as the 420. I replaced the wide stock front wheels with narrow trailer wheels and it helped a lot as there was less ground contact, thereby less friction when turning. Hanging a counter weight on the rear would undoubtedly help a lot. In fact, I'm about 1/3 done with a 3ph so I can hang my (heavy) scraper blade on it. I had tried using the 3ph off my 1886 but the vertical lift arms are integral with the horizontal arms and they hit the frame when raising the hitch.
So, putting the scraper on will ease the steering problem somewhat. I also have one of the combined valve/cylinder type power-assist systems off a JD400 that I could install, but I'm wanting to install an orbital valve and cylinder instead, and bypass the worn sector gear and draglink altogether.
I plan to do this in conjunction with my repowering the HT23 with the Mitsubishi L3E engine--it will become necessary then, since, even though the Mitsi engine is one of the lightest you can find for it's power, it still weighs about 60 lbs more than the Kohler K582 twin currently installed. Add the radiator and water, ups the weight even more.
Nonetheless, I appreciate the input I've been receiving--PLEASE keep it coming!! I've learned of tractor models I never knew existed, several of which are good candidates, and I've also had to "tweak" my requirements as I've gleaned information from the experience of those here on the forum... Thank you for sharing that...