How to Rototill My Yard


Rototilling is the process of digging and turning the soil with a motorized cultivator called a rototiller, also referred to as a rotary tiller or garden tiller. Many gardeners rototill their gardens in spring and fall to keep the soil aerated and to prevent soil from compacting. Although size and style of the tiller determine its ability to till soil, most require the removal of sod from the area before tilling.

Step 1

Select the area to be tilled and mark with stakes and string to form straight borders. For rounded edges, lay a garden hose or rope along the border in the position you prefer.

Step 2

Mow the area with a lawn mower if it is an established lawn. Once mowed, remove the sod by hand with a garden spade or rent a sod stripper to remove the sod. Otherwise, pull large vegetation by the roots or dig clumps of weeds and grass to expose the soil. Remove any rocks or debris from the area.

Step 3

Check the moisture level of the soil. Wet soil clings to the tines of the rototiller making it difficult to operate and compacts easily when you walk on it. Squeeze a handful of soil in your hand. If it forms a ball, but crumbles easily when touched, the soil is ready to rototill.

Step 4

Till the soil following the strings or rope as your guide. Till in a back-and-forth motion across the entire width of the area, being sure to turn all areas of soil. Repeat tilling in a front-to-back motion until the entire area has been tilled twice.

Step 5

Remove any upturned rocks, roots or other debris. Rake smooth with a garden rake discarding any stray weeds or bits of vegetation as you work. Weeds that have been uprooted will root quickly and begin to grow if not removed.

Things You'll Need

  • Wooden stakes
  • Twine/garden rope
  • Garden hose (optional)
  • Rototiller
  • Garden spade
  • Sod stripper (optional)


  • Oregon State University
  • Colorado State University
  • Ohio State University Extension

Who Can Help

  • Preparing soil
Keywords: rottiller, rototill, tiller

About this Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with more than four years' experience in online writing. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in teaching 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.