If you’ve got a new garden bed to dig especially in very heavy soil, or an existing bed that needs extra cultivating or new soil additives incorporated into the soil, then using a rotavator, also called a rotary hoe or tiller can do a week’s back-breaking work in a few hours.
This is an expensive machine that you’re going to rent, not buy. Driven by a small petrol engine, the rotating steel tines cultivate the soil to a depth of about 8 inches (200mm) as the rotavator drives itself forward at a steady pace, which you can easily vary, usually by simply raising or lowering the handlebars.
But renting garden rotavators for weekend projects can be a daunting task, to know what size to choose, or how long you’ll need it for. Mistakes can be made that result in damage, injuries, and extra costs. However, with some forethought and knowledge one can rent a rotavator (click here for Erento’s website) and avoid many problems later.
Rotavators and rotary hoes should never be used in wet soil. Apart from damage to the machine, you’ll also damage the soil itself, causing smearing and compaction. Moist soil is best for light cultivation however if you have a hard subsoil pan below your topsoil that’s preventing good drainage, waiting until it’s very dry can allow you to shatter the subsoil as you cultivate.
As with most garden jobs, you often have to schedule it in when you have the time, and equipment is available, but if you’ve had heavy rain you should definitely postpone your work as you’ll do more damage than good.
Rent the Correct Size
Match the size of the rotavator to the size of your garden. If a garden is only a hundred square feet (10 square metres), you’ll want a small, under 5hp rotavator.
You also need to think about the size and strength of the operator. Although rental rotavators are designed for home garden use, if they hit a rock or large tree root they can still require some strong control to prevent tipping.
Look too, at the soil conditions in which you plan to use it. Smaller rotavators (often called tillers) are suitable for cultivating loose soil in existing gardens and brilliant for incorporating soil additives but they will not cope with previously uncultivated soil and heavy ground. For these applications you need a bigger machine and something larger than a 5hp engine – probably 8hp or even larger. Larger machines often have wheels and tines that work independently of each other, allowing the wheels to travel at variable speed while the engine and tines remain at full speed.
Many machines have folding handlebars so you can fit them into a car, or you can pay the rental company extra for delivery. As the larger machines weigh about 550lbs (250kg), if you can’t wheel it on and off a trailer, you’ll need the delivery! There’s often a retractable transport wheel for moving the machine around that’s locked out of the way before beginning cultivation.
Test the Machine First
When renting a rotavator, ask about starting a machine at the shop to make sure it will actually start. Read through the instruction manual before you leave so you can ask any extra questions. Check that you’ve also got all the safety gear you need as well, like strong boots, eye protection and ear muffs.
Know How to Use It
Read through the instruction manual again when you get home and take note of any minor maintenance requirements during use, such as tine cleaning and checking the oil. Make sure you know the correct fuel to use.
Clear any debris off the area you want to cultivate and make sure that children and pets cannot come anywhere near you while you’re working.
Don’t overwork the soil. Often one pass at a steady pace is sufficient. If you spend too long in one spot or go over the same ground too many times trying to achieve a very fine tilth, you’re more likely to pulverise your soil which can contribute to poor aeration and drainage.
Keep well away from trees as rotavators can cause debilitating damage to tree roots, as well as make the machine difficult to control.
Read the Rental Contract
Different machines have different safety warnings. All rotavators have safety drive stops that stop the machine going forward when you let go of the handlebars but there are important operating warnings to follow too, including things like not using it on a slope greater than 20 degrees or in very wet soil. If a renter signs a contract there will most likely be clauses that indemnify the rental company from any injuries incurred during the rotavator’s use.
Rental contracts can be straightforward, have lots of fine print or even be downright dodgy, so read everything carefully before signing, so there’s no nasty shocks later.
Return a Clean Machine
Common courtesy dictates that any rental machine should be returned clean and free of damage when possible and it’s often mentioned in the contract that dirty and/or damaged tools can warrant extra fees. Many rotavators also need to have heavy soil cleaned off the tines during prolonged operation.
Return the Rotavator On Time
If a gardening project requires more time, a gardener should ring up the company and ask if the rental can be extended. Otherwise the company may add considerable penalty fees or even report the rotavator as stolen. Make sure you report any damage (and never try to repair it yourself).
[This is sponsored post from erento, an online rental marketplace. It brings together businesses with products or services to hire out with customers wanting to rent them. With more than 1.5 million rental products across 2,200 product categories, it serves as a one-stop shop for renting everything from wedding dresses and iPhones to karaoke machines, rotary tillers and heavy construction equipment.]