Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Rotavator advice  (Read 10281 times)


  • Joined Jun 2012
  • Spalding
    • Six Oaks
    • Facebook
Rotavator advice
« on: December 07, 2012, 08:05:33 pm »
Ok it looks like we shall be staying put here for at least another year before we can realistically sell up and get our smallholding. If that's the case then we shall be wanting some more veg beds.

We have a decent sized back garden with one veg bed and a fruit bed and space for a few more veg beds. The garden is mostly laid to lawn apart from the beds we dug out.

We were thinking of getting a rotavator to make the new beds and to go over the old beds. Is that a good idea? These veg/fruit beds we started last year were our first attempt at grow your own so we are fairly new to this. We figured a small rotavator could be used in this garden and in a future polytunnel, but have no idea about petrol/diesel vs electric and only bought our first lawn mower this summer!

We're in Scotland with fairly poor soil (lots of stones and far too much broken glass/bits of metal/broken crockery) but have managed to grow a few bits.

I was reading another thread that seemed to point towards rotavators with wheels being a better option.

Thanks in advance for any help anyone can give!

9 sheep, 24 chickens, 3 cats, a toddler and a baby on the way


  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Rotavator advice
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2012, 10:20:08 pm »
Actually the easiest way to make your new beds is probably build up the side with scaffolding boards, put cardboard on the ground inside the beds and fill up with compost.
Difficult to advise on what rotovator with not having seen your soil. We bought a Mantis Tiller this year, but being on heavy clay it meant that we didn't use it outside more than once  :gloomy: ... soil was just too wet all year. We did use it in the polytunnel to "dig" the manure/compost into the beds and get them into ready to plant condition - but we can control the  :gloomy: in the polytunnel.
The Mantis is easily handled in raised beds like we have, so I hope we will get to use it more next year.... or move to another country with better climate!!!! :rant:


  • Joined Jun 2012
  • Spalding
    • Six Oaks
    • Facebook
Re: Rotavator advice
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2012, 11:29:04 pm »
Thank you.

Our garden is sloped which we were going to try and even out (another job for the rotavator if I'm understanding it's use right). OH isn't keen on raised beds unfortunately as he doesn't want anything too permanent that might put next buyer off.   :-\

I've added 2 pictures. One is a close up of the veg bed once we had dug it over, the other is of the garden in general.

I'm hoping that next year will be less wet but we're in Scotland so hmmmm.

Just to understand the logic behind the suggestion, would the cardboard help kill off the lawn, allowing the plants access to the soil beneath in the future?

Thanks again

9 sheep, 24 chickens, 3 cats, a toddler and a baby on the way


  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Rotavator advice
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2012, 01:36:06 am »
 :wave:   I don't think that raised beds would put potential buyers off - filled with veg they would surely attract buyers.
Because your soil is very stony a tiller such as a Mantis would really struggle.  We don't have many stones but when the machine does pick one up it gets stuck between the blades and is the devil to remove.  If that was happening every couple of feet you would get really frustrated.  I don't think the garden size would warrant a larger rotavator.  Maybe a better idea would be to hire one for a weekend and see what it is like if you really want to use one.
If that was my garden I would put it down to raised beds, even though I normally hate the things  ;D . As they would be only temporary you wouldn't need to go for something as hefty and expensive as sleepers, but you could use cheaper thinner boarding, then take it with you when you move.
 I would spend the money you would save on not buying a rotavator or tiller on buying in good quality top soil and compost to fill the beds.  Take off the turf first and turn it upside down in the bottom of the bed-to-be, then top up with at least 9" of soil, measured after it's settled.  That would give you a depth in which you could grow most veg.  The turf underneath will rot down and add another inch of soil depth.
It looks as if your soil is lacking in humus/nutrients, so if you can find a stable which keeps its horses on straw not shavings you could buy in a trailerload of that to enrich the soil (except the beds destined for carrots and parsnips)
Once your beds are made you don't really need to dig or rotavate them.  Add mulch onto the top and let the earthworms pull it down.  They will create a good soil structure which would be damaged by digging.  Weeding of raised beds is fairly easy by hand, especially as you would be starting with clean soil.  Grass paths are a nuisance as the grass grows into the beds, so something like gravel laid on a weed suppressing membrane would be better.   You can buy it from LBS in 100m rolls for not too much, in the right width for paths between beds.
                            :garden: :garden: :garden: :garden: :garden: :garden: :garden:
« Last Edit: December 08, 2012, 01:38:03 am by Fleecewife »
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.


  • Joined Dec 2010
  • Talley, Carmarthenshire
Re: Rotavator advice
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2012, 07:39:43 am »
Dans, I tend to agree that I don't think raised beds would put prospective buyers off. When they see your lovely veg growing it could be an asset
Life is like a bowl of cherries, mostly yummy but some dodgy bits


  • Joined Jun 2012
  • Spalding
    • Six Oaks
    • Facebook
Re: Rotavator advice
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2012, 11:07:56 pm »
Thank you all.

The gist I have got is that rotavators don't do very well on stoney ground.

Think I will try and convince the OH on raised beds, should help make the garden look more level, will allow me to rotate and will give me better soil to work with. Now to work on being able to get out into the garden!

Thanks again

9 sheep, 24 chickens, 3 cats, a toddler and a baby on the way


  • Joined Dec 2011
  • Gascony, France
Re: Rotavator advice
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2012, 01:55:22 am »
There are two basic types Dans. The self propelled ones with contra-rotating tynes that don't work well in confined spaces and are expensive but effortless to use. Then there is the basic tiller type that you have to pull backwards to make it dig forwards -very hard work. We have a 6hp of the latter type. Stones are a problem so you would need to remove the outer two of the four tynes and drop the gearing. The smaller units are not worth bothering with in my opinion. I think you should hire one and see how you go.


Rotavator with plough & till attachments - a little advice needed

Started by Dreich Pete (11.73)

Replies: 6
Views: 6880
Last post April 23, 2014, 11:31:15 am
by Fleecewife
Using a Cultivator/Rotavator

Started by Norfolk Newby (8.39)

Replies: 6
Views: 17431
Last post October 09, 2009, 08:57:52 am
by aparker155
I've bought a rotavator/new toy!

Started by Dreich Pete (8.39)

Replies: 16
Views: 7891
Last post April 10, 2014, 08:10:15 am
by Dreich Pete
Rotavator seat

Started by vfr400boy (8.39)

Replies: 4
Views: 2009
Last post February 22, 2016, 08:22:27 pm
by vfr400boy
Any experience of a Howard 300 Rotavator?

Started by arobwk (8.3)

Replies: 22
Views: 6291
Last post July 27, 2021, 05:31:11 pm
by Kevm

Forum sponsors

FibreHut Energy Helpline Thomson & Morgan Time for Paws Scottish Smallholder & Grower Festival Ark Farm Livestock Movement Service

© The Accidental Smallholder Ltd 2003-2021. All rights reserved.

Design by Furness Internet

Site developed by Champion IS