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Old 02-13-2009, 12:47 PM   #1
jbk
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Can Rocks & Roots Damage Mid-tine Tillers?


We're landscaping a yard that the previous owner had neglected and let overgrow for a few decades. We had 3 trees and various bushes cut and stumped but there are still some undiscovered roots in the ground. Plus the soil is clay with lots of rocks, most of them the size of chicken eggs and smaller. I was going to rent a mid-tine tiller from Home Depot to break up the packed dirt before planting lawn & other plants. I've never used a tiller before. Can they be damaged if their tines caught a buried root or a big rock? The worker at Home Depot didn't seem very knowledgeable about it.

Also, someone said a power rake could be used to pick up rocks (but not pebbles) that are mixed in the dirt, once I till and break up the dirt. Is that true? Does that work?

Thanks.

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Old 02-13-2009, 02:04 PM   #2
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Can Rocks & Roots Damage Mid-tine Tillers?


Rocks will damage the tiller. Be sure Home depot is not going to hold you responsible for this damage. Or at least get the insurance. Roots will not hurt it, but dig a little at a time or they will wind up around the shaft and bind the machine.

Yes.. a power rake is the way to go. But you need a skid steer and knowledge on how to do this. I use my harley power rake for this task all the time. The roller has carbide teeth that dig into the dirt and kick the rocks to the surface. I basically plow the rocks into a pile. Might get about 2 tons of rocks from a typical yard. This would have to be done by a professional. Usually specializing in new lawns.

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Old 02-13-2009, 08:43 PM   #3
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Can Rocks & Roots Damage Mid-tine Tillers?


I'm curious as to how someone mentioned using a power rake. Not that that would be a bad way to go, but kind of like wearing a tux jacket with jeans and tennis shoes to a ball game. Just doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the plan.

My two cents worth:
A. If you have never used a tiller before, I would not recommend trying to learn on this site condition. Think of learning to drive on a freeway or downtown. Yes rocks can damage the tines, but you would almost have to be cramming it in the soil to do so. If I try to make a mini dig like my 8HP, yes. If I try to make my 8HP dig like a tractor, yes.
B. If I were going to hire someone to use a power rake, I would try for a good price on a little more work and have them do the prep with bigger equipment. A power rake is the finishing touch, after all the hard work is done. Not to suggest that trying to go backwards, straight, in the dust, with a 10 mph wind, is not work. Personally, I would use a rock rake or a gill-rake pulverizer.
C. What area yard do you plan on for lawn that you need rocks removed from? Could you (or hire someone) rake them out the old fashioned way?
D. Would you be comfortable operating a small tractor? HD rents them also.
E. I would use, or hire, a tractor to break up the area first. Better suggestion if I knew what size area. One option would be to run over it with an all purpose plow to break up the top six to eight inches, then go over it with a tiller. Also, the AP plow will get a lot of those roots and rocks out. A lot of times, that's a PITA, but in your case would kill two birds with one shot. Or, get a PTO tiller but you won't get nearly the depth and this would not be my first choice because of that. And/or, if you are planning on planting very many shrubs and trees, a backhoe is really useful. I'm kind of spoiled with mine at work, so I don't do as much at home with a shovel anymore. Bottom line, use some equipment to do the heavy work and get that out of the way, then just buy a tiller and learn to use it in soil that is already loose. Like learning to drive on back streets. I presume you are buying and looking to do this for the long term. You would be surprised what I have seen renters do though!
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Old 02-14-2009, 01:56 AM   #4
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Can Rocks & Roots Damage Mid-tine Tillers?


Quote:
Originally Posted by downunder View Post
My two cents worth...
Thanks! Actually my yard is small: 50' x 50'. The soil is pretty hard: clay w/ lots of rocks. I could break it up with my spading fork, but it's slow going (or I'm impatient), because of all the rocks in the way. I thought it'd be worth $50 to rent a mid-tine tiller from Home Depot it get the job done in 1-2 hours, if the tiller's tines can dislodge the rocks without getting damaged.

Then it'd be a few more hours to rake up all the loose rocks. That's where I was considering renting a small power rake to pick up the rocks.

But what you said makes me wonder if I should really just do it manually.

Inexperience makes me indecisive....

Last edited by jbk; 02-14-2009 at 01:59 AM.
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Old 02-14-2009, 07:17 AM   #5
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Can Rocks & Roots Damage Mid-tine Tillers?


Quote:
I thought it'd be worth $50 to rent a mid-tine tiller from Home Depot it get the job done in 1-2 hours, if the tiller's tines can dislodge the rocks without getting damaged.
NOPE!

I did some work for a neighbor whom I worked with at a previous employer for several years and we still keep in touch. She has a new house and the yard was basically scraped to a smooth slope. On several occasions she has asked me to plant a new shrub, a few perennials, etc. I have to take a pick mattock to dig the holes- inch by inch. Absolutely no way with a shovel.
Early on, I talked her into some amendments in the perennial bed, at least at the front edge where she wanted a border of hostas, etc. Remember the hard, rocky soil mentioned above? Ten bags of Nature's Helper, ten bags of Black Kow. Took me about three hours to do one row, tiller width, maybe forty feet long. Consider ten bags spread out about an inch deep, two feet wide, and you get the idea.
Got home and noticed a bent tine. This is an older, heavy Sears 8HP with lo/high forward and reverse. This girl will almost dig up asphalt. Bought it because the former owner couldn't handle it anymore. Yes, I was using the tines as a plow to dig out the rocks. No, I shouldn't have.

Frankly, I quit after one row and told her that is was just too hard to dig with a regular tiller. But I did want to get at least the amendments worked into a border row for her. I also suggested that she get her son, who happens to own a plumbing/septic service to take his small trackhoe that he digs septic lines with to come over and break it up for her. Or, I would come over and run it a couple of hours if he wanted to leave it there for her. She never did, and I don't help as much there as I once did. I figure I can't help her more than her son. Did I mention that his shop is about five miles from her house?

As far as damaging a rental unit, I don't see where damage to a tine, in the ground where it belongs, should be an issue. If you dropped it off the truck or some other serious negligence, that's a different story.
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Old 02-14-2009, 07:24 AM   #6
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Can Rocks & Roots Damage Mid-tine Tillers?


Quote:
That's where I was considering renting a small power rake to pick up the rocks.
Sorry I left out this part above. What someone most likely meant (and what Bob has,) is a unit on the front of a skid steer.
NOT a DIY rental.

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Last edited by downunder; 02-14-2009 at 07:59 AM.
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