Need recommendation for rototiller

mdevApril 13, 2010

Hi, I am new to this forum but not gardenweb. We've always gotten great advice on appliances, home building, etc.

We have 3-4 acres that was cleared when we built our house. What's left is a total mess, rocks and branches everywhere. We are having it harley raked to clean it up and want to plant an alternate of buckwheat/winter rye as a cover drop to start to generate some soil over time so that we can one day....have a big lawn...

I need a recommendation for a sturdy, workhorse rototiller. We have a modest budget- 2k- and it will be used several times a year after we cut the buckwheat and winter rye to till it all back into the soil. I know they are all small in that price range so it will take us a while to till 3 acres but any advice would be appreciated. Troy bilt?

As always- thanks in advance!

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Ubique(Pac NW)

I have three acres and would never dream of working all of it with a walk-behind. You should know that Troy Built is defunct and the name is now owned by some big box store supplier like MTD. Modern landscape prep contractors would be the way I would go.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 12:02PM
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Your $2000 budget is rather limiting, particularly for the amount of land you have. Still, there are both rear-tined tillers, mid-tined tillers, and front-tined tillers in that price range. You mentioned rocks. Are there a lot of rocks mixed in with your soil? High tine speeds and encounters with a rock can lead to bad things, like damage to your tiller and/or yourself. You might want to look at the used market, like eBay or Craig's List.

I use a mid-tined Merry Tiller myself, and like it a lot, because of all the accessories that are available for it, its low, controllable tine speed, highly visible tilling zone, and its deep-digging ability. Countless times I have rescued a toad or tiny snake from in front of the tines that would have been converted to mincemeat by a rear-tined tiller. And its low tine speed merely "stirs" the soil, leaving the all-important crumb structure intact, without pureeing it like a rear tined tiller does. Most earthworms survive my tilling, while a rear-tined tiller cuts them into many pieces.

I have the "top of the line" International model, with a 3-stage reduction transmission for very high tine torque, controllable low tine speed that doesn't need a dirt shield, and dual V-belts for high capacity clutch action. I have "rolled out" rocks bigger than footballs with it. It also tills 12 inches deep (or more, if you don't mind going slower), while most rear tined tillers are hard put to till 6 inches deep.

If I had acres to work, I would want a riding tractor with a rototiller attachment, provided that the ground didn't roll enough to make it dangerous for the tractor to turn over. The advantage of a walk-behind is that you can operate on very sloping ground. Of course, some people would say that you shouldn't till ground that slopes a lot, to avoid erosion from rain.

(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned)

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 5:14PM
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Thanks for the feedback- we are combining budgets (for our mower and tiller) and buying a JD x540 mower which has a hydraulic rototiller attachment as an add-on. A used version of this attachment is less than 2k and is 42" across, much better than 20"!

You are right- 2k for a stand alone tiller wouldn't get us very far!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 8:15PM
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Any preference for rear tine, mid tine or front tine when operating in very rocky soil such as we have in coastal Maine?

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 9:09PM
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dirtdigging101(7 - NC)

as a side note when u say rye i take it ti mean annual rye. try cerial rye groos roots faster and creats huge amounts of biomass. grows in cool weather. will grow 4 feet tall in orest of soils. each plant will grow several inches of roots per day.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 5:16PM
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"Any preference for rear tine, mid tine or front tine when operating in very rocky soil such as we have in coastal Maine?"

I gardened in Maine for several years, and I used my mid-tined Merry Tiller because that is what I had. Rocks are difficult for any tiller, but they are particularly bad for rear tined tillers because they have a high tine speed (in the neighborhood of 200 rpm) which reacts badly with rocks. My Merry Tiller had a triple reduction transmission system that produced a relatively slow tine speed and high torque that made encounters with rocks more manageable. Its twin V-belt clutch made it feasible to just roll out some pretty big rocks onto the surface using just the slasher tines and fingertip control of the clutch.

I purchased the optional Merry Tiller Pick Tine rotors to deal with extremely rocky conditions. The pick tines till a narrow 16-inch swath, so the going is necessarily slow with them. They can actually till a blacktop hard surface road, although I can't think of a practical situation when you would want to do that.

You might want to consider hiring someone to till your rocky soil with heavy equipment. Rocks are hard on equipment.

Tilling rocky soil takes patience. I made a rock retaining wall with the rocks that I tilled up over the years. It was weird. Every year I tilled up new rocks. I really wondered where they were coming from.


    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 6:42PM
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