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  1. #1

    Default Buying a rototiller

    I need some advice please. I would like to start a garden about 40x60 feet and would like to purchase a rototiller to assist. My soil is exceptionally hard packed with a lightsand and heavy clay mixture. I would like to first break up the ground and then turn in soil amendment after. I am at a loss as to the size and type of tiller to purchase. I would rather overbuy than get something too light. Please help.

  2. #2
    Gold Member
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    Sep 2001
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    santa barbara, ca
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    kubota b7200hst

    Default Re: Buying a rototiller

    Let me tell you a little story. I am not sure how much it will help, but it is my story.

    I bought a 5hp MTD front tine tiller about 12 years ago when we lived in the bay area. We had a 6000 sq ft lot and a 20x40 garden. I used that little MTD tiller to till up the garden, the back yard and the front yard. That little thing bucked, kicked, screamed and was a monster to hold onto, but it did the job. I rented a sod cutter for the back yard (the bigger of the two). I lucked out on the front yard and was able to slip the bobcat operator who the driveway contractor hired to remove the old driveway 20 bucks to have him scrape the front yard. I was in my mid 30's then and holding onto a bucking bronco was an interesting experience then. I put in raised beds in the garden after a couple of years and the 5hp front tine tiller could be lifted into the garden to till in amendments every year.

    We moved to our new house about 4 years ago. The ground here is good old california clay, similar to what we had at the old place. The former owners had a 40x100 garden are with an 8x16 shed in one corner. I tilled up that garden with the front tine MTD the first year we were here. It bucked, kicked, jumped, twisted and was generally a bear to hold onto just like before. It did the job but I paid the price. I was sore for a week.

    The next year I was certain that having tilled in a bunch of compost it would be easier to till than before. Boy was I wrong. An hour into the bucking process I called it quits. I went down to the rental yard and hired a 10hp rear tine tiller. 4 1/2 hour later I had managed to complete one pass at a minimum depth. The depth adjustment was finiky at best and the durned thing was just as bucky and hard to control on the hard clay as the front tine model. I got the garden in and the gophers and bugs ate it all.

    Eventually I convinced myself I needed a tractor. I really did need it. After all, we all DO need our toys, don't we? There were only three essential implements on my "absolutely must have" list. A front end loader, a box blade and a tiller. I have since added a post hole digger. Tilling the garden the spring after I bought the tractor was an absolute joy. Get up in the morning, drink my coffee, argue with the 3pt hitch for a half hour removing the box blade and installing the tiller, start it up and go for a little drive. Tilling the entire garden took a half hour. Just engage the PTO, lower the tiller into the ground and feather the hydro peddle. I sometimes have to jump on the clutch when it bogs down. Other than that, it is just move along at a half a mile an hour while the machine does the work. The tiller is bucking, jumping, wiggling and twisting just like every other tiller I have used, but this time it is trying to beat up a 2000 pound tractor, not a 200 pound me. It is also being turned by a 18hp diesel motor instead of a 5-10 hp gasoline motor.

    I still have the 5hp front tine tiller. I use it for final bed preparation even today. I break the ground and till in most of the bulk amendments with the kubota, mark out where the growing beds will be, and do a final till with the front tine tiller to clean up any compaction caused by operating a tractor in such a confined space.

    You don't say what is where you plan on putting your garden. If it was formerly grass you will probably want to remove the grass. I know people who have had success simply spraying the lawn with roundup and tilling the grass into the ground, but most recommend scrapping off an old lawn before starting a garden. If you do have to scrap off an old lawn, and you have no need for a compact tractor, it might make sense to either rent a tractor with a loader and tiller for the initial preparation, or pay someone to do the job. The reason I say a loader is to spread the 15+ yards of compost you are going to be turning into the ground assuming a 3 inch layer. You can probably get away with less machine for subsequent tills unless your ground hardens up as bad as mine.

    The tradeoffs you face are cost, capability and manuverability. You can get a smaller tiller further into corners than a bigger tiller. My garden is fenced I can get the tractor based tiller get no closer than about a foot to the sides and two feet to the ends. I have to clean a bunch of it up with the small front tine tiller. This would not be an issue if your garden is to be in open space.

    I love the 3pt tiller on the kubota. It makes garden prep a snap. I broke the ground and spread 3 tons of mushroom compost (1 1/2 inches) in a matter of a couple of hours. Much of that spent shoveling the compost out of the back of my pickup and into the FEL. I probably would have spent half that much time if I had a dump bed in my truck. But, it is definately overkill for what I do, and it would be overkill for your needs. You could do everything you need in your 40x60 garden with a shovel and a WHOLE LOT of work, a front tine tiller and a LOT of work, a rear tine tiller or a tractor tiller.

    While I myself have no experience with them, I have considered one of the "walking tractors" for when I get rid of the kubota. They are basically motors with multiple attachments. They make tillers and trailers and slashers that all plug on to the same motor assembly. That might be something to consider if you intend to "overbuy".

  3. #3

    Default Re: Buying a rototiller

    Thank you for a very informative and interesting reply to my query. You have given me much to ponder. The area has never been a garden and has been treated over the past few years with Round Up by the previous owner. Now many weeds have taken over and somehow manage to grow in that steel ground (hardened clay). The worst of all are the cockleburries. I have already purchased a Sear GT5000 garden tractor with a box scraper and scarrriers but that seems to just bounce across the ground. I have thought about putting on weights to hold it down but realize what I really need is more of a tilling action which is why I have started gathering information on tillers. I don't really have the space to justify the kubota even though I was really impressed by its abilities. The GT5000 has 26 hp so it should handle all my other needs once I get the ground prepared. I will look into the walking tractor concept. Thank you again for your feedback.

  4. #4
    Super Member Bob_Skurka's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buying a rototiller

    I just gave away my rear tine tiller and bought a 50" tiller for the 3pt of the tractor. My garden was smaller than your 40x60 but the rear tine, as good as they are compared to the front tine, still beat me up.

    I'm not familiar with your garden tractor, but I suspect it does not have a 3pt hitch or pto so that leaves a tractor power tiller out? However, you should be able to buy a tow behind tiller that is powered by a gas enigine. It might be an excellent choice given the size of your garden. The tractor will take most of the grief instead of your muscles!





  5. #5
    Platinum Member bontai_Joe's Avatar
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    northeast PA
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    Deere 316 (Kohler) Deere 316 (Onan) Deere 210

    Default Re: Buying a rototiller

    There is a Canadian company that sells self powered tillers for the back of most tractors and some models that do use the tractors PTO. Do a Google search for "Bercomac" and you should be able to locate a dealer near you. I have not used their products, but have seen them and they are a good value for the money. Bercomac builds some models for Deere for the "L" series. Those models sell for around $1000 +/-. I'm a firm believer in letting your tractor do more than just cut grass. Your Craftsman GT5000 will easily handle a tow behind tiller.

  6. #6
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    Kubota B2910; Kubota T1670

    Default Re: Buying a rototiller

    Whatever you do, don't buy a walk-behind rear tine tiller with forward-rotation. They work great for soil that has been tilled before, but are lousy for hard-packed earth. What happens is the tines bite into the hard soil and the tiller lunges forward. Even at minimum depth settings, it's a problem. I've never used a rear-tine counter-rotating tiller, but that's supposed to work better.

    I'd look into a tow-behind tiller as well. You might be able to find a used one on ebay too.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Buying a rototiller

    Depends on how much work you want to put into it. I just opened up about a 2000 sq. foot area that has been 'lawn' for many years and before that pasture. Fairly heavy clay soil here and it had never been tilled.

    Cut the grass short and used my 26-year-old TroyBilt Horse (rear tine, forward-rotating, bar tires) and just tilled in the existing sod. Made the first several passes in mid-April and tilled shallow. Yes - under those initial circumstances it's a bit of a workout and some care is required but it's not all that bad. The biggest problem then was that I was pushing the season a bit and things were too wet here to really till well. However I wanted to bust the sod layer and help things dry out.

    I left that sit a few weeks and hit it again around the beginning of May with a couple of passes working up to full depth. I just 'final' tilled the last two weekends to prep the seed beds. Most of it tills fine now - I can two-finger the tiller to guide it. The biggest problems come from the occasional fist-sized rock or old trash that I'm still kicking up.

    So - if you use a hefty enough (my Horse is 300 lbs) walk-behind tiller you'll be fine. A light unit is probably not going to bull it's way through as well.

    Tim

  8. #8
    Platinum Member bontai_Joe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buying a rototiller

    I suggested the rear tiller for your tractor as a matter of economy. I personally own an old Troy-Bilt Horse and it does work pretty well. It will buck and pull as described above on "virgin" soil. The cost of a new Troy-Bilt will at least match if not exceed the cost of a rear tiller for your tractor, and the tractor mounted unit is bigger with less effort to operate. It is harder to operate a tractor inside a fenced garden, and harder to transport if you don't have a full size truck. If you get a self powered tiller (has it's own engine) then there is another engine to maintain also. But for the convenience of operation and cost, I think it is the way to go. You may want to check out the Sears tiller that is sold for your tractor. If you do, ask about tine replacement and cost. I've seen some units in the past that the tines were very difficult to replace and very expensive. Lots of ways to go with this. I hope I haven't given you too much info.

  9. #9

    Join Date
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    Upstate NY
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    Kubota B7100DT

    Default Re: Buying a rototiller

    The trick to breaking tough clay is waiting for some rain - and till when things are still soft and wet, but not too sticky. I have three tillers - troy built horse, allis garden tractor, and compact diesel - big, bigger, biggest really. Boy what a difference weight makes when tilling...the troy built does a fine job, best of any walk behind, but it is simply slow due to cutting width. I much prefer the diesel only because it is 48" wide and gets the work done quicker.

    It is also worth mentioning that I first cut my soil open with a one bottom plow, makes the tilling much more enjoyable as the tiller isnt banging on the hard clay....I know a plow is available for the sears tractor, but dont really know if such a light rig will tear into sod.

  10. #10
    Veteran Member
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    Default Re: Buying a rototiller

    </font><font color="blue" class="small">( The cost of a new Troy-Bilt will at least match if not exceed the cost of a rear tiller for your tractor, )</font>

    Too true. A new BIG TroyBilt is close to or over $2K. The smaller units that sell for under $1K are just not the same thing. If I had to buy new and had a tractor with a PTO to run it, a Cat I 3-point unit would be the only sensible way to go. However, one other option (depending on how confident you feel about home mechanics) is to buy a used Horse. I doubt you'll see one for much less than $400 but they seem to start there and go up to maybe $800. If it's an old K-series Kohler unit (7 or 8 hp) and was even modestly well taken care of it will probably run forever. But used is used and you takes your chances.

    Tim

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