View Full Version : garden advice? rotor tiller size?
01-11-2005, 10:02 PM
a few questions on a vegtable gardens.
i am not an expert grower and usually only grow a few types to have a few fresh summer salads.
i will probally be looking at corn, carrots, radish, green peppers, hot peppers, 3 selections of tomatoes, cukes and strawberries. i am thinking of trying lettuce this year too.
- any advice on a decent priced rotor tiller unit?
what about HP and size? my garden is about 20x20
- what tips and tricks do you have for growing big vegtables?
- what do you like to grow?
01-12-2005, 05:35 AM
The best roto tiller I've seen is a pig. Buy one from a farmer and put it in your fenced off garden. When the pig is done tilling it all up, you can butcher the pig and cut it up and freeze it.
01-12-2005, 06:39 AM
hahaha a pig! now that is something i have not thought about. i am being introduced to bees and chickens this year for the first time so i just dont see a pig fitting in too. haha gave me a good laugh Michael just thinking about it smile.gif
01-12-2005, 06:44 AM
I am so looking forward to putting in a vegetable garden this year. we normally do a pretty large one. Havent had one in 2 years due to moving 2x in that time span :mad:
Re: tiller size, for a 20x20 garden, it may be worth renting one if you only plan on tilling in the spring before you plant. If you absolutely need to own a tiller (and I can certainly understand that!) top of the line tiller would run you sone serious $$ and prob not necissary. I have a little mtd that I picked up used for about a hundred bucks that has lasted me almost 10 years with little or no maintenance on my part. Not that a good troy built or toro wouldnt last much longer.
And that pig idea...........
01-12-2005, 07:23 AM
I second the renting suggestion. A homeowner will rarely have enough work to make ownership pay. Invest that $ in a high income investment, and use the proceeds for the annual tiller rental. Or watch for a good used one for sale.
01-12-2005, 07:31 AM
For a 20x20 garden, I wouldn't bother with a rototiller. Spend the money on a few more hives. When I put mine in, a buddy and I just cut the sod into squares with shovels and flipped them over in place. The elderly neighbor lady saw us and paid us a buck each to turn hers over too:) Then I just gave it a while for the roots to break down and planted. It was pretty tough digging, but the plants all thrived. I crowded everything together, once the ground is shaded, the weeds mostly give up and wait for next year.
I would estimate I'm up to 20x60 right now, and the only reason I have a tiller is because my buddies dad felt sorry for us and gave me a free one. Which let me learn how to polish and gap the points on an old Tecumseh. But I'm not even sure it's going to come out of the garage this year.
As for what I grow, I started with strawberries, the biggest problems I've had with them is keeping them contained, they spread into the grass even, and quackgrass in the patch. Also, picking them, since I let the rows all run together into one big square. I don't mulch them for winter at all, unless I run out of places for the leaves in fall, and we're generally sick of berries long before we run out.
I've got raspberries that I dug from my grandparents patch, they keep asking if I'm sure I don't want more, but once they got established, I had all I wanted;)
I would highly recommend heirloom tomatoes, Wal-mart even sells them now, the difference is amazing. Just don't bother with the usual tomato cages, get a cattle or hog panel, cut it in half and stand the two halves on each side of the plants to form an A frame, it'll never tip and the openings are plenty big to pick through. And if the plants aren't blooming to your satisfaction, don't be afraid to grab a scissors and de-foliate the plant, it'll bloom like crazy after that. Around here, tomatoes need constant soil moisture, otherwise they get blossom end rot, they're the only thing I usually have to water.
And a final point, if you go into a "Big Pumpkin" contest, keep tabs on the competition, and don't be afraid to stack the deck with a little covert night action. It won't be your proudest moment, but it will save a ton of humiliation at the hands of people you considered friends:)
01-12-2005, 07:32 AM
Oh yeah, and you guys have missed the second best point about the pig (after the edibility), as it tills, it fertilizes.
01-12-2005, 07:45 AM
and I thought the 2nd best point about the pig is that cute little oink oink sound it makes while it runs around the garden.
01-12-2005, 08:30 AM
Take a look at this little critter.
01-12-2005, 08:32 AM
If you realy think you need a tiller look into a mantis or one of the trimmer shaft attachments. they are light, easy to use and can be used to cultivate between rows and around shrubs. the faster tine speed makes up for the smaller size and they last quite well.
01-12-2005, 08:38 AM
when it comes to growing big vegetables you need good fertilizer. If there is a dairy farm near to you check to see if they are using sand to bed ther cows. if they are try to get some manuer from them it is nitrogen rich and doesnt have all the seed and extra organic matter that absorbs nitrogen and adds to weed control.
what we grow? asparagus, raspberries, blue berries,carrots,cukes,raddishes,beets,corn,pumpkin s and squash. good luck with the gardens and the bees.
01-12-2005, 09:10 AM
Rototillers will actually cut your production over time. I would hand till by double digging and raking and spending the money on soil amendments approptiate for your area. Even better is building raised beds. I live in a coastal marine climate so raised beds are the best. My garden is a half acre and the raised beds allow me to double up on about 50% of the sapce. I plant early spring crops like Spinach and lettuce , onion sets etc. and when they are done I can then grow carrots, radish etc. in the same space. I use all natural fetilizers from the horses and compost and try to use only natural pest control. I do not raise bed crops like corn , Squash or sunflowers. the best advice is to amend the soil amend the soil and amend the soil again.
01-12-2005, 10:18 AM
The Mantis style tillers work real well in a small garden. I got one from Sears and it is like a hoe with a motor on it. I also have a big heavy rear tine Ariens that will work me to death, I try to use it as little as possible. Plant some garlic and spinach in September and you will be amazed. I will second M Bs suggestion about the pig and will also add that a movable pen with chickens in it will do a great job of cleaning up weeds and seeds.
01-12-2005, 10:09 PM
The best rototiller I ever had, (and still do, but in pieces :( ), came from Germany. I can not remember the name, but I bought it form a little organic gardening magazine I used to get. It had counter rotating tines and no wheels. If you tiped it forward it went forward, tip it back, it went backwards, hold it flat and it dug holes until it was burried, then it would walk out by tipping it a little.
It was great and I used it for years until the nylon gears wore out. You could till into a corner and back out or turn around in place. It could be used in either a large or small garden and was very easy to use in tight spaces.
The tines were curved on one side and flat on the other. The curved side would not dig in deep and the flat side would really dig in.
The tines could be re-arranged for a narrow and light cultivating, or for a wide deep digging.
That was a nice little magazine, I also ordered a European chainsaw that was very light and worked almost as hard as my Sthil.
01-12-2005, 10:27 PM
that little mantis deal looks like just the ticket. i think i might look into it. i have seen similar units that attach to weedwackers but i though they looked pretty cheesy. the mantis looks good to so i can till up my flower beds too.
asparagus !!!! i never even thought about growing those little babies. my favorite veggie next to an artichoke (stuffed of course).
i am all set with fertalizer from a horse farm down the road. a garbag can full does wonders but i am tire of mixing it into the soil with a shovel.
01-13-2005, 07:21 AM
that little mantis deal looks like just the ticketWe use one in a 1/4 acre garden along with a Troybilt Horse. The big machine is used for the prep and covering lots of ground, the Mantis for smaller areas and cultivating during the season. I've used the Mantis to prep the soil and it does a good job of getting down deep. It's just not large enough to rototill a big garden, but for 400sf it should do fine.
01-13-2005, 03:23 PM
On the pig: My wife and I are in a fairly new house. Deer have been a problem so we moved the garden close to the house and fenced it in. It is about 30x30. We had 2 pigs this past summer and they helped some with rooting out weeds thereby digging up the soil. We have thoroughly enjoyed eating them and making homemade sausage. But they are a long term commitment and require lots of fencing to keep penned. So for pure monetary reasons go for a tiller. For the money I am sure you can rent or buy cheaper than you could fence in a pig and feed it.
On tillers, I have heard that rear tine is the way to go, not sure why right now. THe rental yards around here will rent them out for about $35 for 3 hours. Gardening friends are cheaper. The problem with tight compacted soil is poor loosening of the soil with the common garden tiller, especially for the time involved. ONE local shop around here has a hydraulic $7000 tiller that comes with its own trailer. This BEAST will tear up my soil in no time, go almost 8 inches down. Even after the pigs I will rent this for $70, till up my soil (and pig/chicken waste) then add amendments prior to tilling again.
The closest I have seen to this behometh has been a BCS tiller.
01-15-2005, 08:35 AM
I have a little Honda I really like that is similar to the Mantis, (and less expensive). First, what type of soil do you have? I live in a giant sandbox, so short of adding concrete, I don't have to worry about compacting my soil much. If you have a really heavy soil, I would rent something a little bigger the first couple years.
Corn may be a challenge in a plot that size, in theory you need at least 3 rows so it can pollinate. So think squares instead of rows for the corn. It is also a heavy feeder (takes lots of fertilizer) So should be rotated if you want to do it right.
I would be careful with the horse manure. Try to compost it ahead of time. Horse droppings can be really full of weed seeds.
I would keep asparagus on one side, because it is a long term commitment, and would probably put strawberries in another bed entirely. Neither is really hard to grow, but can be in the way in a regular vegetable garden.
The pig thing works really well if you can make it happen. Dad always ran the pigs in the spot for a year before we started a new garden. However, if you are semi suburban, they can be a bit problematic. You need to fence them, and feed them, and give them a shelter. But, they do turn up the ground really well. (and the neighbor's yard if they get out)
01-16-2005, 07:48 PM
I was rather puny this summer (I have multiple sclerosis), so I planted my garden in rows and weeded with my rear-tine tiller every 2 weeks or so.
Easiest weeding I have ever done, even though I had expanded the size of the garden. Not the BEST weeding, but it worked so well I will do it again next year.
01-17-2005, 02:12 PM
My Grandpa bought a Mantis and he LOVES it..........he is 80.........I love it too...........I will probably buy one to compliment my regular tiller as it is GREAT for weeding between rows.......
01-22-2005, 05:07 PM
Get a cow. Run a pig behind the cow. Run chickens behind the pig.
Wish I could get my wife to let me take my own advice!
I have a troy built rear tine tiller. It has worked well for me. The wrong tiller can work you to death. The right one is a breeze. But if you are busting sod the first time pay your neighbor to bring his tractor over. Or else set the tines very shallow and prepare to spend some serious time.
Although right now it sounds kinda fun to think about speindg serious time tilling, given the 10 degrees, foot of snow blowin around by 40 mile winds!
01-22-2005, 07:38 PM
I suppose it's obvious to some of us, but tilling soil that is the right moisture content makes all the difference in the world. Too wet, it's soup. Too dry, it's concrete. Use sprinkler to get it soaked and wait for it do dry enough to be nicely moist.
01-23-2005, 11:36 AM
I garden a small (6000 sq ft) veggie garden for farmers market sales using raised beds and intensive gardening. I got the Mantis last year and consider it one of the best investments I have made. With that said, it is the fact that I use raised beds that makes it valuable. With regular (row) gardening on open ground I think I'd use a hoe and shovel for less than 2500 square feet or a rear tine tiller on larget plots. If you look they can be had, used but in good shape, for 350 or so.
03-21-2005, 06:09 PM
well i have been really thinking about getting a mantis off ebay for $300 shipped. i might even get the industrial version (honda motor) for $50
2 questions :
1) has anybody heard about using red weed control covering for tomatoes? the red is suppose to reflect on the fruits and make them grow larger.
2) i purchased a bunch of seed packages for this year. anybody use seeds too? i usually purchase the plants already growing in planters. suggestions for up north in NE?
03-21-2005, 08:19 PM
I'm not sure a pig is a good idea,but,will churn up the ground.We had chickens and pigs for years.2o years later fenced turkeys in there.They got a disease,legs went wobly,eyes got all pussy,thin,poor feathers,never got any over 20 lbs.Our big ones before that dressed up to 48 lbs.Sheep manure would probly be best,bud don't dig ground to good.
My current personal policy on small gasoline powered devices, if it doesn't have a Honda engine, it's not coming home with me. I'm through trying to coax stuff to start when I want to do some work. My small Honda engines start first time, every time. The Honda Harmony small tiller is great.
03-22-2005, 04:33 AM
For first time tilling, the small tillers will make you work.
Roger's post about turkeys and pigs seems to indicate that maybe pigs were the problems with turkey health, but as I understand thigs, turkeys are tougher to raise than other birds. The turkey farmer I used to live with always was treating them with drugs...
THe large tiller I used was called something like Bareto, Barreta.
03-22-2005, 05:43 AM
The Mantis is a good tool but not for initial tilling.
For breaking sod, rent one or hire someone to do it for you.
If you are going to buy one machine, a small rear tine is the best. Do not buy a front tine tiller..... they are a pain in the arse.
Do you have a lawn tractor? Most will have tillers available.
I run old Cub Cadets made by International Harvestor (I have 7 of these rascals).
03-22-2005, 05:44 AM
I agree with Ross........ Honda is hard to beat!! For sure get a 4 stroke.
I have used my Honda Harmony to break blackland sod for flower beds. It will dig through Dallis grass. I would not want to do a whole garden with it, but it's great for cleaning up grass after the garden is up and growing. If you can cut the sod first, it is much easier to till with any tiller.
03-22-2005, 09:51 PM
We have a circa 1970s Troy-Bilt "Horse"
Oh yeah, it breaks sod. It gives the impression
that it would happily churn through blacktop,
sidewalks, and 2-inch thick titanium without
a thought. Bought it at an auction for $50, and
gave it some new rings and a cylinder honing to
bring it back to life. I guess the prior owner
never realized that the oil needed to be changed
at least once a decade. smile.gif
Honda engines? Ha, this thing has a 8HP Tecumseh.
A block from the days when the engines were made
of cast iron and the men were made of steel. No
plastic on this baby. A child of 8 could tear
down and rebuild the engine using only 3 wrenches.
When I lived in New Hampshire, I sent a soil
sample into the state, and they said I needed
everything but rock. When I lived in Florida,
I sent a soil sample into the state, and they
said I needed everything but sand. In North
Carolina, I needed (you guessed it) everything
but clay. Now I live in Virginia where the
soil comes ready-to-grow, and need several
reference books just to identify all the weeds.
03-23-2005, 07:40 AM
<<Ha, this thing has a 8HP Tecumseh.>>
There's a chance my dad(or grandpa, or one of many aunts, uncles, cousins and schoolmates) made part of that engine:)