What does a rotavator do?
A rotavator also called a cultivator or tiller is a machine that breaks up, stirs, churns, and aerates the soil before planting to ensure a balanced seedbed. It can also be used to kill weeds by uprooting them. For instance, rotavating an allotment, field, vegetable path, or garden will bury leaves from a weed to disturb its ability to make energy through photosynthesis so that it is practically dead.
Furthermore, rotavating warms the soil to promote plant growth and clears up the area to expose insects to birds.
Other things rotavators are useful for include:
- Digging unused land ready for cultivation
- Digging space for fruit trees
- Digging trenches for potatoes
- Ploughing/tilling the plot to turn over the soil
- Cultivation of the ground by getting rid of weeds on the surface
- Mixing mulches into the soil to fertilise it.
What is the difference between a rotavator, cultivator, and garden tiller?
When assessing the different types of rotavators, you will come across terms such as rotavator, cultivator, or garden tiller. Essentially, all three terms are the same and refer to a machine that mechanises the process for crops to be planted into, churn the soil to increase water, add nutrients to the soil, to control weeds, and to warm the soil before planting.
Nowadays, large agricultural commercial cultivating tasks are performed by tractors that are equipped with hydraulic wings, but for the purposes of this article, we will only discuss rotavators that are made for the gardener who handles small to medium tillage jobs.
The main difference between cultivators and rotavators lies in their tine blade positioning.
More affordable, smaller rotavators are called cultivators because their front-tine is slightly smaller and is located in the front. The tines which dig into the soil propel the cultivator forward.
Higher end models have tines located at the rear side mounted behind the drive wheels. The engine on these rotavtors is mounted on the front of the machine which gives the machine better control and traction. Because of their wheel, they are easier to handle and work more smoothly than front-tine cultivators. These models are best for maintaining larger gardens.
Best rotavators for sale
When purchasing, keep these buying criteria in mind:
- Avoid buying second-hand rotavators because minor damage can pose serious health risks. Making an extra 10% investment can ensure you have a solid product that will last for years
- Choose a rotavator size depending on how often you use it and the size of your garden or allotment
- Make sure your cultivator has a good engine that has at least 3.5 BHP (brake horsepower).
- Check to make sure if there are extra accessories that are available to purchase because added accessories can transform you rotavator into a machine that can handle far more other tasks.
- Read product reviews
Here is a list of the best rotavators for sale analysed by Weedicide.:
Best Manual Rotavator
Wolf Garten Multi Change Soil Miller
If you do not find a machine cultivator suitable for your garden related tilling tasks, then you may be interested in using a manual rotavator. The manual rotavator is the Wolf-Garten multi-change soil miller. It has a 10-year guarantee and is manufactured with cold-rolled steel with a silver finish.
The Wolf Garten Multi Change Soil Miller has an oscillating hoe at the rear and sharp tines to cut through soil effectively. It not only breaks up the soil, but it also mixes it to get a nice blend of nutrients. One thing you need to take a note of is that this Wolf-Garten manual tiller requires you to purchase the handle separately which costs about 10 GBP.
Best Electric rotavator
VonHaus Electronic 1050W Cultivator
This garden tiller is equipped with four strong blades and can turn soil up to 22cm in depth. It is a very easy to use machine suitable for small to medium sized gardens or allotments. It extended 10-metre power cord allows give you a farther reach. It includes a 2-year warranty.
Vonhaus electric rotavator has a full control ergonomic grip and an overload protection system that prevents you from damaging the tiller.
Best Petrol Rotavator
Hyundai HYT140 4-Stroke Petrol Garden Tiller & Cultivator
The Hyundai HYT140 is a top of the line petrol rotavator that has a cutting width of 37 centimetres and is suitable for any soil. It is self-propelled with its 4HP 139CC 4-stroke engine with a robust gearbox that drives the four steel blades mounted behind the wheels. It is perfect for garden use where aerating is required before plant cultivation. The product currently ships for free within the UK and is at a discounted price. It includes a 1-year warranty
Best Heavy Duty Rotavator
Titan TP1000 9HP Diesel Tiller
The Titan Pro TP1100B rotavator is a top of the line product suitable for heavy duty gardening tasks. Although it runs on a 9HP diesel engine, it has an entirely electronic starting system. Also, it has a fully adjustable handle which lets you adjust to your height/size. Similarly, it even has adjustable blade tines that can be changed from 8 centimetres to 13 centimetres
This a heavy-duty rotavator with 3-speed options through a gearbox.
How to use: Instructions
When we are using a rotavator on the soil, it is called tilling. A rotavator helps to break up the soil for planting, and at the same time, you can blend in nutrients for a well-cultivated garden. We’ll show you what you need to start a good planting bed such as evaluating your soil, adding amendments and operating the rotavator. Now, if your planting bed is small, you can use an electric cultivator.
- If you are not tilling on bare ground and starting a new garden in turf, you should first remove the sod. Also take some time to remove the weeds or apply a weed killer a couple of weeks before using the rotavator. Use the best brush cutter to clear the area of excess vegetation.
- For existing gardens, pull up any thick weeds but don’t bother with pulling smaller weeds. The tiller will chop them up.
- Make sure you check with your municipality to make sure you are not digging near any utility lines.
- Before you start tilling you will need to evaluate the soil. If the ground is usually wet or has high clay content, you can add sand or gypsum. This helps to stir and allow moisture and nutrients to travel through the soil. You can test the soil for other conditions with a soil testing kit that will check things such as pH levels, and nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium content
- If the soil test gives a low pH reading, the soil is acidic. Add lime or wood ash to balance it. If the test reveals a high pH reading, the soil is alkaline. To balance it, add some peat moss, composted leaves, or sawdust.
- After you have added the amendments, it’s time to mix them into the soil with a rotavator. It will blend organic material deep into the earth where it is needed the most. The optimal time to till is a day or two after it rains, so the soil is somewhat dry.
- Get your rotavator and set the depth at a shallow setting if your soil is hard and compacted. If your soil is soft, adjust to a medium setting.
- Start the cultivator after following the manufacturer’s instructions
- Work the tines in slow strips across the garden.
- After you have tilled the entire allotment, adjust the cultivator to its highest setting and make perpendicular passes while walking slowly. Keep tilling until the organic material is mixed thoroughly to a depth of 10 inches.
- Now you need to leave the soil alone for a few days or if possible, several weeks. The materials will begin to decompose and enrich the soil with nutrients.
- Once the land has rested, it is time to till it again to aerate it to make sure the nutrients are well-mixed. Therefore, adjust the rotavator to medium setting and make passes across the garden. By now the soil will be loose, soft, and adequately textured, ideal for planting.
Rotavators can help your garden or allotment when it is in need of soil therapy. The tilling effects of a cultivator are appreciated gardeners see their effort pay off in the form of positive plant growth. The right rotavator can be a great investment not only for yourself but your garden where a thriving ecosystem has the potential to exist. Remember to follow all safety precautions outlined in your rotavator’s user manual. All things considered, rotavators continue to be helpful machines used to ensure soil quality.