May 17, 2016

Time for a Rototiller Smackdown

Time for a new garden! So, an excuse for a Rototiller smack-down. Troy bilt's in the shed emerged for a one-on-one race to see who could tackle our 'back 40' better, faster and deeper. Dahlias and cucumbers await in the greenhouse!

Nope - NOT a paid or even a sponsored post.  We simple needed a new garden, and with 4 rototillers in our shed, (one not working), why not haul em out and use them to create a new garden in practically virgin soil, or 'virgin' at least for the past few decades. With little time nor energy to hand dig a thousand square feet or two, the sometimes necessary rototiller (or tiller) was needed.

With at least 200 dahlia tubers started in 6 inch pots in the greenhouse, and even more tomatoes this year, plus plans for eight or so cucumber varieties, we needed the extra room.  Mostly, this space will be planted with dahlias, as we helped start a new dahlia society (the New England Dahlia Society - join if you can! There is a meeting this Sunday, and we'll be hosting our first show in September at Tower Hill Botanic Garden).

Joe has been eager to find a spot for his AA (or dinner plate) dahlias, and I will need more room for cucumbers and tomatoes (not to mention some of my dahlias). So we decided to regenerate part of our 'back 40', a piece of land way back in our back yard where my parents used to grow squash, potatoes and beans in the 1980's, and before that, red raspberries and celery. It's been neglected for about 20 years now, so the rototillers had to be called in (or dusted off from the shed). Time for a road rally.

Curtis has chosen a newer model - a Bronco Axis vertical Tine tiller. It has verticle tines that work more like an egg beater than a traditional tiller.

We have 3 rototillers. An old Pony Troy Bilt from the early 1980's, and two newer models (from my involvement over the years with the Troy Bilt company as a spokesperson a couple of years ago. By the way, this is not a sponsored post - just an honest-to-goodness post about how we use rototillers.

I believe that there is a time and a place for rototilling. If you have a raised bed, or only a small vegetable garden, then hand forking or mulch may be all that is necessary. Soil structure will be preserved as nature takes care of such things with good, soil management. But if you have a large garden, and don't own a plow or tractor, tilling will be required.

Joe selected a more traditional tiller, a Pony 250cc forward rotating rear-tine rototiller. It's always been his preferred model.
ou won't want to hand dig a 100 foot row of soil for beans, or a 6o foot by 60 foot bed like this one. Rototilling is sometimes the only way to prepare a large piece of land, either to reclaim soil for a vegetable garden such as we are in this case, or, to start a new garden where perhaps no garden existed before. They are also necessary if one has a large vegetable garden. I think this piece of land meets all three of these requirements. Let the race, begin.

Since the machines have sat in the shed for a couple of winters, the oil was drained and replaced a few times. Amazingly ( and really!) both started right away, either on one or two pulls. (I know, right? An they didn't pay me to say that - I just asked Joe when I got home from work, tonight.).

We narrowed our selection here to two different models of tiller, a rear tine, and one of those newer vertical Axis tines, both Troy Bilt tillers. In a way, this allowed us to compare the two against each other, and each had their benefits and drawbacks. Our soil is very rocky here in central Massachusetts (it's why we have rock walls around our property, like most of New England. The vertical tine mower seemed to get smaller rocks jammed into the tines, while the larger rocks seemed to stay out of them, while the Pony tiller felt stronger and much more powerful, better for virgin soil like this, or for chomping through invasive plants, which this garden also had - thank you Petasites! We love you, but reeeeeeeeaally. Slow down!

Joe changed the oil 3 times in his model too. For some reason, we think someone had put gasoline in where the oil goes, so it had to be flushed. Still, this Pony tiller started on the second pull. Impressive.

Once in the garden, both tillers handled turns well, and prepared the soil to a point where we could start planting this weekend. The Pony dug deeper into the ground, while the vertical tine tiller blended the weeds into the soil better than a food processor. The extra organic matter will help, and since it is still early spring, seed dispersal was reduced.

A horse chestnut tree blooms in the woods near the garden. Self sown from the nearest tree which is somewhere in the neighborhood 'by squirrels' I am certain. I still love the flowers and the foliage, and it is far enough from the garden and lawn so the spikey cobbles won't be a problem in the fall.

In this portion of our property, many plants were set out years ago so that we wouldn't have to keep a lawn. These included hosta, grasses, dailyness and even rhubarb, which decided to leave. As you can see, we are blessed with amazingly deep loam here in Massachusetts - if it wasn't for the rocks, it would be perfect. In the 1800's, this was a celery farm, so the larger rocks were probably pulled out back then, to create stone walls.

Saruma henryi, just gets better with each year. This Chinese native is hardy to Zone 4a but it still is uncommon in most gardens.

As the sun sets, it looks even nicer in the shade.
There are many woodland plants set about near this garden, so we had to be careful. This rare lady slipper is Cypripedium 'Sabine Pastel', one of the Frosch hybrids.

More Podophyllum pefltatum - our native Mayapple, which runs with abandon through our wild garden. Some had to be pulled out or tilled under.

Some garden plants are looking fine this spring. This Podophyllum pleianthemum or Chinese Mayapple is hiding it's red blossoms under its giant leaves, but a little peak revealed this. Love this plant. Love this genus. 
Epidemic species grow here as well, left overs from when we used to visit our good friend Darrel Probst who lives nearby. I've lost all of the name tags, but who cares, who has ever met a bad Epimedium?

1 comment :

  1. Anonymous5:27 PM

    So which was the winner? :)


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