Rototiller Question

Many years ago, when I was digging my first vegetable garden, I rented a rototiller to remove the lawn and ended up regretting it. The machine inverted clumps of grass which still had to be overturned by hand in order shake off the useful soil. If (in a fantasy world), it had NEATLY overturned them exactly 180 degrees so the grass simply died, that would've been great, but it was a fairly random mess. I ended up finishing the thing by hand, which wasn't TOO awful, since I'd just bought a really nice spade & fork.
At my new house, I'm about to create another vegetable garden. Again, I have excellent tools, but I'm wondering about renting a tiller, since I'm dealing with a 20x40 foot area. However, I'd like to avoid the same mess. Was the previous fiasco due to the type of tiller, the way I used it, the position of the moon, or what? Combination of all factors?
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Can you wait until Spring?
And what kind of grass? If it is St Augustine, this will work. If it is Bermuda, it won't.
I'd weed-eat it down to the dirt, wet it, cover it with 6-8 sheets of newspaper, cover THAT with 1-2 feet of dead leaves (ergo, do it when the leaves fall) and keep those moistened. In Spring, St Augustine would be dead, you'd have an inch of compost between the newspapers and the bottom leaves, and THEN till it.
Worked for me a few years ago. If you are organic enough to have worms, most of that paper will be gone by Spring...done (vermi)composted.
hth, John

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I just moved into the house. It's your typical grass: Whatever they sell at the local home centers as "the right mix for Rochester NY". Considering the previous owners, I'm sure they didn't go looking for anything different than that.
I was hoping to do this work over the next couple of weeks so I could work in a few billion pounds of manure & peat moss, and have it nice & settled in April.

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Doug Kanter wrote:

It's hard to say, but it may have been too wet, and/or you went too fast for how deep you were going.
The first time you till someplace, you may not be able to have ideal conditions for tilling. If there's a lot of clay, it may be too hard unless it's too wet. If it's so dry that the blades are bouncing, you're not doing the machine much good. On the other hand, if it's so wet that it clumps on the blades, you're not doing the machine any better. If you had a generally loamy soil to begin with, tilling when it's too wet would also destroy the soil structure. Of course if you're dealing with clay that hasn't been touched for two decades, destroying what little structure is left is the least of your problems.
Going slower will give you a finer till unless you're in mud. If you're using a front tine tiller, make sure you have that rudder down. Slow down by pressing down to dig the rudder in further. Lift up slowly to move ahead. Don't let the tines work like wheels. They need to dig in.
If you're converting a grassy area to a garden, I'd recommend first scalping the grass. Then till it once about 4-6" down to loosen most of the roots. Rake them out before going further. Then till a second time to go down as deep as you can with the machine you're using. (You did get the area hot-lined to make sure there are no underground utilities, I'm assuming.)
If you're doing it this fall, after you've finished tilling, just rake it out rough. Then use that area as your shredded leaves depository for the winter. Put a couple of 99-cent bags of composted manure on top to hold them down. I actually cover my vegetable garden with a tarp after soaking it down. Turns it into a huge compost bin, and keeps down the weeds.
When spring comes, rake off the top of the leaves if they haven't started to decompose, and till in the remaining leaves. I usually do this during that "unseasonably warm" week that usually comes in late winter or early spring. After tilling, I'll take a soil sample to see if there are any problems that are best fixed before I move the starts into the garden (in May out here).
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A sodcutter makes a real clean grass scalp. Most are adjustable from 1.5" to 3.5". After you removed the turf you could decide on tilling the bare soil. Something you could do is cover this freshly uncovered soil with hardwood mulch and let it overwinter. Or start using it immediately for food production if your needs reqire.
J. Kolenovsky
Doug Kanter wrote:

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Celestial Habitats by J. Kolenovsky
2003 Honorable Mention Award, Keep Houston Beautiful
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A sodcutter makes a real clean grass scalp. Most are adjustable from 1.5" to 3.5". After you removed the turf you could decide on tilling the bare soil. Something you could do is cover this freshly uncovered soil with hardwood mulch and let it overwinter. Or start using it immediately for food production if your needs reqire.
Removing the sod also removes most of the weed seeds, resulting in a more weed-free garden. Tilling is much easier with the sod gone.
Bob
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Great, but nobody rents sodcutters around here.
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news:UHL4d.7155

Hmm. I would have thought they were available everywhere.
Bob
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wrote in message

I haven't begun calling outward from the city toward the sticks yet. We'll see.
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All tillers mix the layers of soil and whatever cover is on it. The only thing that that will turn the soil over 180 degrees is a spade/spading fork or a large turning plow (16 or 18 inch bottoms) Tilling is not usually a major problem if you go over the ground several times to thoroughly incorporate the plant debris.
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Maybe that last sentence is the clue here. The first garden was created on top of what appeared to be a pottery factory which was blown to pieces the size of dessert plates. I probably just got pissed off and stopped tilling.
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Kill the grass first, then till it in. Use Roundup at double the recommended rate, wait 2 weeks, then till it. Roundup will not affect next years garden crop, nor you.
Bob
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Where did you get the idea that Roundup was safe to use on a vegetable garden, no matter HOW far in advance of the actual growing season?
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An age old argument. Roundup works *only* by absorbtion through plant leaves and interfering with the life cycle of the plant that absorbed it. It does *not* reside in the soil and even if it did, cannot be absorbed through the root system. Ergo, no risk to subsequent planting next spring. If you read application data, there is one rate for grasses and another rate for hardier plants. If the max rate is not exceeded, it is not illegal us use as I suggested. And the only reason I suggested that in the first place was that the OP stated he was under time constraints. I know organic gardeners despise all chemicals. But there are times when the work required by not using them far exceeds the benefit. And I keep going back to toxicity. The standard by which all other is measured is table salt - very high up the toxic chart, yet commonly used.
Bob S.
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I'll stick with things which can be (and have been) properly tested in the same fashion as medicines. Thanks for the tip, though. Incidentally, cancer is the ultimate time constraint. :-)
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ah, yes...salt. The herbicide used by the Romans at Carthage. Worked rather well, I hear tell. Third Punic War.
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It may be toxic, but try as I might, I am unable to find any information which indicates that table salt has mutagenic/carcinogenic properties.
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Doug Kanter wrote:

The problem is they can't keep the test subjects alive long enough. High blood pressure keeps killing them off. ;)
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Warren H.

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<drum crash!> Have a good weekend, Warren!
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Bob S. wrote:

Used *as directed*, dangerous residues will be below generally accepted danger levels. Doubling the application rate, which is illegal, may not have the same results. That's assuming the generally accepted danger levels are acceptable to you in the first place. Remember, they aren't saying that nothing is left behind. Only that the level is an acceptable risk based on currently known information.
Personally, I feel that we're exposed to enough risks that we cannot easily minimize. Purposely adding additional risk without gaining a significant benefit isn't a good way to go about life. Poisoning the existing vegetation to make room for food crop may be a easier than mechanically removing the existing vegetation, but not that much easier.
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Warren H.

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