Meg’s Guide to Gardening: How to Use a Rototiller

If you plan to plant an area much larger than one hundred square feet, you need a rototiller to help you dig. A shovel will only give you blisters, a sore back and a growing resentment for that bare patch of land. A rototiller, on the other hand, will make short work of even tough garden soil. You can rent them from most home and garden centers and they function like lawnmowers so they’re pretty easy to use. Here are the tips that I’ve picked up over the years that might make the job a little easier.

Follow Expert Advice
A rototiller may be easy to use, but even seasoned gardeners can benefit from a bit of expert advice. If you’re renting your rototiller, you’re lucky. You have the advantage of the rental agent’s advise and expertise. Make sure he walks you through its operation before you leave the store.

Once you get the rototiller home, read its manual from cover to cover. It contains important safety information that will keep you safe and prevent any user-related accidents that might eat up your investment or deposit. Once you know the ins and outs of its operation, you’re ready to head to the yard.

Clear the Area before you Till the Soil

Rototillers may look like heavy machinery, but you have to use them with care. Rocky soil will eat away at the rototiller’s blades. And while they ding the blades, they may get kicked up into the air. Dig up any of the big rocks you can find before you start to work the soil.

While you’re down there, remove any weeds and their roots. The rototiller chops up weed roots. This doesn’t get rid of the weeds and it makes certain species of perennial weeds angry. They’ll come back bigger and badder just when the plants you planted are trying to gain a foothold.

How to Rototill the Soil

Now that the soil is clear and you know what you’re doing, you’re ready to till. Start at one corner of the garden plot. Turn the rototiller on and set the engine to neutral. If you don’t know how to do this, you didn’t read the manual.

Adjust the rototiller’s depth guide to the desired depth. For gardens you’ll need to till six to eight inches deep. For grass and other shallow ground cover, three to four inches will suffice.

Now engage the blades. Once they’re turning, lower the rototiller into the soil. Push it forward in a straight line. Move at a slow and steady pace to give the rototiller’s blades time to dig up the soil. Once you get to the end of the row, turn the rototiller’s engine back to neutral. Put the rototiller in position to till an adjacent row, then turn the engine on and work your way slowly forward again. Repeat until the plot is tilled. Then go over the plot a second time. This time make the rows at a 90-degree angle to the first rows.

Now that the soil’s double-dug, you’re done. Hose the blades off, dry it then store it or take it back to the rental center.

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