Using a rotavator

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Barry
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Using a rotavator

Postby Barry » Tue Apr 17, 2018 2:53 pm

On a recent edition of Gardeners' Question Tim on Radio 4 there was a brief conversation about rotavator use, but I also wanted to check with you experts as well as to how best to use a rotavator on heavy clay soil.

From what I remember, the experts on GQT were concerned about using rotavators on heavy clay soil since they leave a hard pan of clay underneath well turned over and chopped up soil.

But doesn't that happen anyway on heavy clay even if you hand dig? The top spit or so is fine, but underneath a hard pan remains, except if you are going to double or triple dig it, which most of the plot holders at my allotment are never going to do; they simply don't have the time.

The reason for seeking advice is that we have just been gifted a second hand rotavator and I want to know the best way to use it.

I usually advise people to hand dig soil first and remove perennial weeds before using rotavators; otherwise, you end up with a literal carpet of weeds.
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robo
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Re: Using a rotavator

Postby robo » Tue Apr 17, 2018 3:05 pm

Hi Barry ,I'm no expert but I find it depends on how powerful a machine you have ,our plot is the same solid clay around twelve inches down, the first rotavator I had was a Westwood it would churn anything up and dislocate you arms in the process ,it destroyed itself when it picked a brick up ,the next one was a handy I found it useless as I found the foreign one from eBay ,the one I settled on was a mountfield from screw fix it's easy to use and digs a decent depth but all of them just skid across the clay sometimes churning a bit of it up but not often
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oldherbaceous
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Re: Using a rotavator

Postby oldherbaceous » Tue Apr 17, 2018 3:36 pm

If the soil is clay, it really does pay to dig it in the Autumn, early Winter....and let Mother nature work her magic. Then in the Spring, when it has dried really well, you can get on it with the rotovator. Of course that's in the perfect world.
Fast spinning tines will polish the clay at the depth the tines are set to, and digging will just leave a compact level, where the bottom of the fork digs to.
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Pa Snip
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Re: Using a rotavator

Postby Pa Snip » Tue Apr 17, 2018 4:33 pm

As suggested already, late season turn over, either by fork or rotavate, and then early season use rotavator when ground dry. nothing to be gained by trying to work wet heavy clay except a bad back


After a wet winter like we have experienced it would pay to add a good oad of sharp sand and then to pass the rotavator over 2 or 3 times. Do not expect it to be effective on one pass

Oh and yes remove the weeds , or weedkiller them off, before you even start to rotavate
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Re: Using a rotavator

Postby tigerburnie » Tue Apr 17, 2018 4:48 pm

My Dad bought a rotavator as the digging got too much for him, later I used to do the work for him, to be honest I don't think much to them . He had clay, which we had double dug by hand and it had a lot of farm manure and old mushroom compost dug into it. If it were mine today I would just keep piling on compost/manure and not dig at all. Raised beds would be my choice and keep off the soil so no need to dig, ever.
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Barry
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Re: Using a rotavator

Postby Barry » Tue Apr 17, 2018 5:54 pm

Unfortunately, we have only just been given the rotavator, which even I haven't yet seen, so don't know how good it is. Thanks for all the advice, which I shall pass on to all who use it.

I always try to disuade people from going down the endless dig method of gardening, advising them, where possible, to undertake a good initial dig, removing all roots, and then either make level beds, which are never again walked on, or raised beds, which are also left alone.

Although the latter is hard work, it is worth the effort in the long run on heavy clay, particularly given the wet winter we have had.

I used to suggest this to all the new gardeners we have at the allotment, but even though their plots are tiny (7m x 6m), none of them ever seems to find the time to do this. Instead, I now promote the level bed idea: just rope off beds 4ft x 3m and keep feeding the top, but even that seems to defeat most people, although works brilliantly if you have little time to dig in the open field method.

I think television gardening has conspired to make people think that growing vegetables is easy, whereas good attention to the soil is the secret.

I'm hoping the rotavator will help some of them short cut their digging, although I suspect they will still find problems with that. On occasions, I think they want somebody else to do the work for them, leaving them to simply sow the seeds and harvest the produce.

A year before I arrived at my present allotment, somebody was daft enough to use a rotavator on a plot full of twitch, they were left with a wonderful carpet of couch grass as far as the eye could see. Naturally, they gave up and passed the problem onto somebody else. We sheeted the plot with black polythene for a year just to give the next people a start at beating the weeds!
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robo
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Re: Using a rotavator

Postby robo » Tue Apr 17, 2018 6:38 pm

We had a new member at our allotment who phoned the council up and asked when somebody was coming to turn his plot over , he did not last long
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