Traditional gardeners were very keen on digging over the ground with a spade and this method can still be useful for small areas or where the extra depth of cultivation is needed.
Modern rotavators though are much quicker and at Jackson & Gocher we hire 3 sizes of machine. The C8 is a good general-purpose rotavator, the C10, which is slightly larger and also has a harrow attachment (for getting a fine tilth) and is good for preparing ground ready for turfing or seeding, and the hydraulic rotavator which is good for heavier clay bound soils.
How to rotavate for the best results:
- This is ideally done in spring or autumn when the ground is softer
- Depending on the final use of the area it is best to kill all weeds with a proprietary weedkiller first as they have a habit of re-appearing!!
- If you will be growing fruit or vegetables these should not be planted for a few weeks after weed killing see manufacturers instructions
- For the best results it is better to clear the ground of grass using a turf cutter (also available for hire from Jackson & Gocher) otherwise the ground will be lumpy and difficult to rake and the lumps of grass often take root again
- Ensuring the ground is soft enough for the tines to dig in, rotavate the area planned (this may need to be done 2 or 3 times in different directions to break the soil up ready for planting). Be careful close to trees as the machine can kick if it hits a large root I know from experience!
- If you a creating a vegetable or flower bed now is a good time to add some compost or manure and use the rotavator to mix it in with the soil
- If you a going to seed or turf the area very fine soil will be needed and the C10 rotavator with a harrow attachment is good for this. Small areas can be levelled with a landscaping rake. For a really flat lawn it is best to leave the area to weather for a week or two before seeding or turfing as it is surprising how many humps and hollows appear!
Jackson & Gocher also hire cultivators but these are really only suitable for going over an existing flower beds or vegetable patches where the soil is very loose and soft. Because they rely on the rotating cutters to move the machine through the ground they are much harder work than a rotavator with a powered drive.
The use of weedkillers or fertilisers is not our area of expertise and information on these is best obtained from a horticulturalist at your local garden centre.