Rototillers - An All Around Landscaping Tool
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Rototillers - An All Around Landscaping Tool

Rototillers come in all shapes and sizes and make home gardening and landscaping tasks easier.

Have you ever observed an old rototiller rusting away behind an old tool shed or setting out in the middle of a blackberry patch. Once I observed the deterioration of a brand new walk behind Troybuit, it was abandoned to the elements after only a couple of uses. I don't know why it was abandoned, whether it needed a new sparkplug, or the owner just lost interest in using it. But many years later it was dug out of the blackberry vines and with some modest effort it was restored to service. Today it is used to put up a beautiful garden and is treasured by it's new owner. Rototillers are very useful tools and can make your garden and landscape project more enjoyable.

    Often the rototiller only comes out in the spring or fall to help with vegtable gardens.  But  rototillers can be used in for many different situations. This article will consider  how we can use  the mini and the typical walk behind - rear tined tillers more effectively.

    Mini  tillers are little powerhouses and are used in a variety of ways. Although you wouldn't want to break up established sod with these little guys, they work great in tilling loose soil and chopping up pesky weeds. Be careful though, if you run into sizeable stones or roots. They can kick up like a baby mule on a spring day. Many of these small tillers have two cycle motors, and a few, with four cycle engines, are available. There are also, corded and battery powered versions. If you are considering a purchase, go to a local dealer and get a hands on demonstration. Often decisions to purchase are made after watching staged video presentations. These often portray only ideal conditions of use. Your requirements may not be suitable for one of these tillers. But if you are satisfied with the capabilities, and if the limitations are acceptable, you can get years of service from your purchase.

    There are several companies that make mini - tillers.  Some offer additional attachments for added versatility. For example, a Mantis powerhead can be matched up to a thatching attachment, a single or double hedge shear, edging tool and many others. The add ons are spendy though. Consider your real needs before deciding to purchase.  Remember the main reason you buy these machines is to do the light tilling, weeding and trenching.

      With patience a mini-tiller can dig small trenches. But in tough conditions it may need help.  After laying out your lines. Take the bigger walk behind rototiller and break up the area  you want  to trench. Then finish with the smaller tiller. I have a 6 inch trenching shovel that is just the right width for cleaning out the loosened soil. Some small tillers have a narrower set of tines available,  which are ideal when only a shallow, narrow trench is required. (This is ideal for burying low voltage wire, drip irrigation pipe, invisible fences and sattelite cables . I have narrow trenching shovels (2 inches) to help cleanout these trenches also.) While no substitute for a commercial style trencher, the little mini tiller can save both money and time.  Why not adapt the tools you own, when appropriate, to the task at hand?

  A mini tiller can spread piles of loose dirt and sand. Start at the top of the pile and then start pulling the machine in the desired direction. You can make short work of a good size pile of dirt this way. Much easier than trying to pull with a rake or using a shovel.

    For a small garden wall, the mini tiller can help excavate and shape the beds for  the rock or wall units. Although, conditions may require the larger tiller be used for difficult soil conditions. Use the mini tiller to finish and level. In certain situations this works better than swinging a pick, and speeds up the job to boot. You can even use it to cut into a bank and spread the dirt to the front of the wall bed if desired.  (If you are installing a garden wall to hold back a small incline, a front tined rototiller is excellant for removing material and squaring up a soil bank. This is one of those situations where the front tined rototiller is ideal.)  Remember, don't over excavate, or you will have to shovel the material back in place.

    Often a patio or walkway excavation may need some leveling. Again the small tiller or walk behind rototiller can help. With the mini tillers remember to put the tines in the direction that is the least aggressive. This will gives a little more control over the material removed. When employing the larger walk behind tiller, set the depth bar adjustment to a shallower mode, then finesse away the amount of soil required. Again, avoid over excavating, it will keep things simpler.

    Some projects require the removal of sod.  Both types of tillers can be employed for this task. Mini tillers often come with an edger attachment. Merely cut your sod into manageable strips and used a flat shovel to remove it. When using the walk behind - rear tine tillers. Set the tilling depth,  to the thickness of the sod. You can then chop it up and remove it, again with a flat shovel.  This is not as efficient as the sod cutters but most of us don't have these in our tool shed. With any excavation project, of moderate size,  a rototiller may help make any job a little easier. Some have used rototillers to excavate small ponds in the landscape. It is still a hard physical challenge, you have to  shovel out the dirt.  But maybe you will use the pick a little less if you have a rototiller available.

    So whenever you need to move dirt, excavate or dig a small trench and if you have rototiller loafing in the shed. Give it some thought, maybe it will make your job a little easier.


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Comments (1)

Rototillers are best rented out in the spring. Companies like Home Depot have rototillers for rent all year around. Buying a rototiller is like buying a wall bed. It is cool at first, but it may get used once a year. A one use a year item is best rented out. You dont have to worry about the gas level or even getting it started. The rental company will have kept the tools in tip-top shape.