A tractor mounted rotary tiller is a useful piece of equipment for cultivating the soil ready for seeding or planting. Whether you have arable fields, a large vegetable garden or an allotment to prepare, a rotary tiller makes short work of what is a backbreaking job with a hand fork or rake!

It works by digging into your soil and churning it into a fine, clod-free seedbed. Your tractor’s PTO powers the tiller’s curved tines / blades attached to a rotary shaft, and the depth can be adjusted using skid shoes. Generally speaking, the larger the rotary tiller the more depth can be achieved. If you’re looking to buy a rotary tiller make sure you buy one that is at least the width of the outside measurement of your tractor tyres, otherwise you could end up missing strips of soil and having to go over them again.

When To Use A Rotary Tiller

Generally the rotary tiller gets put to use in the spring when you’re preparing the soil for late spring and summer crops. However, although traditionalists may say that tilling is a job for the spring, you can make this task much easier if you get the rotary tiller out in September or October.

Although we may be experiencing a wet summer, it is easier to use a rotary tiller in the autumn months when the ground is not too wet and boggy. In the spring this job can be tough as you wait for the ground to dry out enough or get bogged down in the sticky mire.

If you plan to introduce organic matter to add nutrients to your soil, deep tilling it before the winter will give it amble opportunity to break down and nourish the soil. This will mean that your soil is in great condition the following spring and will only need a single tilling or harrow – or even get the hand fork out – to be ready for planting or seeding.

For allotmenteers and smallholders who wish to grow winter crops or a green manure, it can also be helpful to till the soil having harvested the last of this year’s summer crops. This will break down any clods or impacted ground, introduce oxygen into the soil and improve drainage – ensuring those onions, broad beans, and peas get the best start in life.

Tilling For The First Time

If your soil has never been tilled before or if you’re planning to start reusing an area that hasn’t been planted for some time, the following tips will help you get started:

  • Prepare the ground first – if you’re reclaiming land that is heavily impacted or overgrown with weeds, you’ll need to prepare the ground before tilling. Farmers will often plough fields in the autumn and then till them in the spring, which may be appropriate for large areas and very heavy or compact soil. Weeds, grasses and shrub should be topped first and woody material removed from the ground.
  • Start slowly – going to fast on land that hasn’t recently been tilled can result in a poor finish. Too fast and the tiller won’t grind the soil properly, especially when dealing with large clods and compacted ground.
  • Don’t go too deep – similarly trying to turn over large amounts of soil that hasn’t been tilled before can put too much strain on the rotary shaft and cause damage. Remember it’s a rotary tiller, not a plough!
  • Go over several times – build up gradually by going over the land several times and then adjust the depth if you require a deeper till. For a vegetable plot, 9cm – 15cm (4 – 6 inches) is generally deep enough.
  • Make sure you overlap – check that you are overlapping with the previous strip you’ve tilled so you don’t miss any areas.

If you decide that you need more than a rotary tiller, a stone burier is the next step up. This will rotovate and also bury any stones to improve drainage and also give a smoother sowing surface. It will also make short work of left over vegetable crops such as beets.

Farm Tech offer a choice of rotovators and stone buriers:

FTS Basic rotovator FTL range 85cm – 115cm wide with a tilling depth of 9cm

Winton Stone Burier WSB range 115cm – 165cm wide, tilling depth 12cm

Italian-made Agrint Rotovator City range 85cm – 125cm wide, depth 15cm

To discuss your requirements and the best option for your smallholding, allotment or vegetable garden, please get in touch with our team. Call 01420 520510 or email Sales@farmtechsupplies.co.uk