Best Rototiller For Rocky Soil

Creating a deep, finely tilled bed to plant your vegetables, hedge or flowers in can be one of the most labour intensive, back breaking jobs a gardener will face. If the only tool available is a spade or a shovel you are guaranteeing a “sweat-athon” from hell. Don’t allow this to happen to you- it is not worth it, invest in a rototiller and enjoy your garden.

I have performed this task many times manually, before discovering the unbelieveable benefits of having a rototiller do the hard work for me.

There are many different types of rototillers available, but some will not be suitable for more demanding jobs- such a tilling soil with rocks or stones in it- These need to be robust machines which i have found out to my expense, through many years of using them.

In this article we will discuss the different features you should look for and keep in mind when deciding on which rototiller suits your needs best.

Why should you buy a rototiller?

Apart from saving you hours of back breaking work, rototilling provides many benefits to your soil, it helps to loosen it up, preventing compaction in the soil allowing air, water and nutrients to get to the roots of the plants. This will enable your plants to flourish and thrive.

There are lots of jobs which we need to dig the ground over at least 6 to 8 inches deep, such as when planting potatoes, cauliflower, peas, turnips, parsley and many more. Small tillers can also be used to till the soil in flower beds to get them ready for planting, or even to help weed them.

This breaking up of the soil can be done with hand tools, but it then needs to be broken into smaller pieces before you can plant anything into it.

The amount of physical labour and time involved with manually digging your beds is immense.

It is due to this fact most people never get their soil as well tilled with a spade as they do with a mechanical tiller.

Garden soil types change wherever you are in the country, from sandy silty soils, loams, and hard clays.

A major issue faced by gardeners when preparing soil, either if using a spade or a mechanical tiller is the stone content. Unless you are in a coastal area with sandy soils you will most likely have stones somewhere in your garden.


Hazards when using a rototiller

There are many hazards when using powered machinery but rototillers are especially dangerous. Read through the list below to become more aware of them.

  • One reason why using a rototiller in stony or rocky soils becomes more dangerous is the risk of a stone being thrown out from the soil by the tillers blades.
  • The tiller will be more difficult to hold onto than usual because of the many hard stones in the ground.
  • When a powered tine hits a very large stone or rock it will kick the rototiller out of the ground and this can result in injury to you.
  • Common injuries are feet and legs getting hit with the blade when it jumps out of the soil.
  • Another thing which can happen is the tiller can jolt forward when a tine hits hard on a stone. This can pull the handles out of your hands or even break a wrist.
  • If the tiller gets out of control it will be very difficult for you to grab hold of to regain control again. People standing nearby should be at a safe distance.

Best Rototiller

I have chosen a list of 4 tillers i feel will be most suited to working in soil with stones in them.

They have certain features which make them better equipped to deal with stones- such as..

  • Easily replaceable strong tines
  • Strong handles
  • Cutouts on engines
  • Easy to maneuver and control

They are not for working in soil with massive stones- as no tiller should. These very large stones should be removed before you begin rototilling.

You may find that you uncover more stones as you till the ground- that is ok, you can remove them before you begin your next run of tilling.


Gather large stones before you begin

My advice to anyone who has a very rocky or stony patch which they want to rototill, is to walk through the plot first with a garden fork and locate the large stones (anything 4 to 6 inches in diameter and larger).

I would put these into your wheelbarrow and tip for use later in drainage or paths etc.

Now you can then rototill your first pass at a shallow depth – this way you can help prevent uncovering a massive stone buried deep underground, and avoid the tiller kicking out of the ground.

You may find more stones after this first pass, you can remove those and set your tiller deeper and so on until the plot is tilled to your required depth.

I have included one front tine tiller and the rest are rear tine tillers. I hate using front tine tillers – they are jumpy and hard to control in compacted or stony conditions – but the Earthquake 20015 is a pretty good option with regard to front tine tillers.



1. Earthquake 20015 99cc Tiller

Best Tiller For Raised Beds

The Earthquake 20015 is the only front tine rototiller i have included in my list. This is a heavier machine, weighting in at 86lbs and will be capable of most jobs in your garden and allotment.

Powerful 4 stroke engine

This machine has a 4 stroke engine which makes refueling simpler, will be easier to start and is quieter to use.

Adjustable working width

It is also adjustable in cultivatable width- from 11 inches to 16 inches out to a maximum of 21 inches.

  • Good points I found on this rototiller would be its 4 stroke engine, heavy duty blades and adjustability of width. 
  • Although this is a non wheel driven rototiller, it’s large front tines can help to pull the tiller through the soil which can ease the labour of pushing. Most smaller tined tillers require the operator to push the tiller forward when cultivating at depths over 6 inches- very tiring!
  • This machine would have no problems operating in soil with stones up to 3 inches long.
  • Bad points are few, one is that is the exhaust seems quite exposed and you could burn your hand if careless around the engine.
  •  The other negative point about this machine is that it has a slightly lesser quality feel to it than flagship Husqvarna models – but that is to be expected at this price.

Summary

I would recommend a rototiller like this for medium sized gardens/allotments which have a mixure of medium to small sized stones throughout. This tiller is suitable for those with a tighter budget and especially for those who may not be sure about how often they will use it.

There are quite a few good reviews about this tiller on Amazon, head over and check them out.


2. Earthquake Victory 29702

Best tiller for large gardens

This is the Earthquake Victory 29702 and it is the first of the wheel driven rear tine tillers i will review.

NOTE: I have used many tillers similar to this type of rear tine tiller over the years and the major advantage is that the driven wheels pull the tiller blades through the soil. This makes using a rear tine tiller a much more pleasant experience – which also means you spend more time making the soil ready for planting. Front tine tillers are nasty and energy draining to use compared to rear tine tillers.

This model has a 196cc 4 stroke Kohler engine which will have plenty of power for all conditions.

  • The tiller has two large rubber tyres in front of the tines which gives the machine plenty of traction in deep soil. A wheel driven rear tine rototiller is a pleasure to use compared to a non wheel driven front tine tiller.
  • Like many wheel driven rototillers, this model has a reverse gear to back it up at the end of your run or in tight corners. You don’t have to engage another gear to reverse it, simple pull a lever. This is a major advantage as it is more operator friendly.
  • It is also safer to use as it has a dead mans handle which will stop the tiller if you let go of the handle.
  • For stones to be an issue using this tiller, they would need to be quite large (over 3 inches in diameter), which you should be removing from the soil as you find them.
  • This tiller will chew through roots of trees up to 3/4 inch in diameter, thick sods and hard clods with relative ease.
  • Some owners reported poor build quality issues.
  • Drive belts wear relatively quickly

Summary

I like rear tine tillers like this one by Earthquake. It is quite well made and has many of the feature of the leading brands such as forward and reverse but at at a slightly lower price.

Have a look at the reviews on Amazon to hear what others feel about it.

3. Husqvarna CRT900 14″ 

Best rototiller for clay soil

The Husqvarna would be the tiller of choice for me – but it seems overpriced compared to the Yardmax and im not sure it offers that much extra reliabilty or build quality for the extra money.

This Husqvarna has the best build quality backed by one of the best brand names associated with quality and durability. This tiller was designed to be used in harsh environments such as stony conditions and features postive reviews from the majority of users.

  • Best engine of all the tillers – Honda
  • Best overall build quality
  • Best for peace of mind
  • Most expensive

Be aware that this model the CRT900 seems to have supply issues and may be stopped production in favour of a newer model- the TR317D.

There are few owner reviews on Amazon for this tiller but they are mostly positive.

4. Yardmax YT4565

Best tiller for hard soil

I had to include the Yardmax YT4565 in my list as it is a good tiller –but it has its faults

Yardmax are an American based company- Illinois since 2015- and they offer pretty decent value for money and quite hard wearing tools. But they also have their share of issues.

  • Strong frame and handle
  • Strong tines
  • Easy to operate
  • Good Engine -Briggs and Stratton
  • Some users had issues selecting forward and reverse gears

Have a look at some of the owners reviews on Amazon – there are lots and the majority are good.

Summary

The last three tillers in this list are truly the best options for stony conditions and are all good machines. For me the Yardmax and the Eathquake 29702 offer the best value for money, but if i was being offered one i would take the Husqvarna.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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