If you've ever turned soil with a back-breaking pitch fork and a shovel, then you'll certainly appreciate the convenience of a powered rototiller. Rototillers take the guesswork out of soil preparation, both in speed and in the consistency of the soil. Many companies make rototillers in varying sizes and types for small home gardeners to the large commercial farmer.
C.W. Kelsey of the Troy-Bilt is credited with inventing the first American-made rototiller in 1937, according to Troy-Bilt. The first American rear-line rototiller was modeled after the German Earth Grinder model. This hefty machine had a 4.5-horsepower output, but it weighed 400 pounds. Later models and types of rototillers from Troy-Bilt and other companies increased the power of the rototiller while decreasing the overall weight of the machine.
There are two main categories of rototillers to choose from--rear-line and front-line tillers. Rear-line tillers are manufactured for medium-sized gardens to large agricultural fields. These tillers pack a lot of power, but are surprisingly easy to manage because the tines spin backward, instead of forward.
Front-line tillers are designed for small- to medium-sized gardens. These machines typically pack a much lower horsepower output than the larger rear-line tillers. Some models have as little as 1 horsepower. Front-line tillers are useful for reaching into small areas, small gardens and for working around tight spaces within existing plantings. Front-line tillers are not only available in the standard gas fuel models, but are also available as electric models.
Follow the manufacturer's operating instructions for safety. Do not wear loose clothing that can get caught in the machine during operation. Wear safety goggles and a face mask, if necessary, while operating the rototiller. Wear work boots or sneakers to completely cover your feet while operating your rototiller.
How to Use
Read the manufacturer's instructions and warnings before using your rototiller. Add gasoline to your tiller. Set the blades to a shallow level and then work your way down to a deeper depth after the first or second pass. Use it in straight lines and go slow to pay attention to any obstacles in the way--underground rocks or large roots--and to protect yourself from injury. Once the job is complete, hose off the blades and let dry before storing.
It is a good idea to use a rototiller in the fall after the leaves have fallen to prepare your soil for the spring. Rototilling at this time of the year is a good way to recycle yard debris into on-site compost--mix it into the dirt and let it compost in the soil throughout the winter.
Mow over fallen leaves in your yard and then rake or blow the chopped leaves into your vegetable or flower bed. Add weed-free grass clippings to the mix as well. Turn over the soil with the rototiller and then see how rich your soil will be next spring.