rototilling rocky soil

Page 1 of 2  
The soil my yard sits on it extremely rocky. It's very nice soil, all glacial till and stream bed composition, but more rocks than I care to count. Digging a hole is an exercise in futility as I will encounter round rocks about the size of a baseball or grapefruit more often than not.
I would like to take a rototiller to a patch of land but fear what will happen with all those damn rocks. What kind of things should I look out for when rototilling really rocky soil? Do I need a special tiller, should I simply not do it, would renting one be a bad idea (I'm thinking of damage to the unit), would a rototiller not do a good job? Are there other options besides a tractor?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Sounds as good an argument for raised beds as I've ever heard. Or you could build some of those quaint rock fences that are so popular in New England. First, get yerself half a dozen illegal Mexicans (Canadians just ain't no good for this) and some implements of destruction. Be sure to work with them, to model the proper work ethic and you'd be amazed what can be wreaked in a day.
Of course, they would rather be back in Mexico but NAFTA and our $10,000,000,000 CORN SUBSIDY (ain't that a kick in the head?) chased them off their lands.
--
Billy
Coloribus gustibus non disputatum (mostly)
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Consider digging all of it up (well, one bed or small area at a time presumably) and putting it through a screen. These screens are usually homemade from a wood frame and hardware cloth, and look something like this: http://archaeology.about.com/od/fieldlabgear/ig/Archaeology-Tools-of-the-Trade/Shaker-Screen.htm
If you really want to get industrial, there are fancier versions of this with vibrating screens and such, but I've only done the hand/shovel version.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

What kinds of plants do you want to grow in the area you're talking about? Some plants don't mind rocks, while others MUST have soil free of rocks. Carrots would be an example of the latter.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

rototiller can handle large rocks and difficult soil without damaging the unit.
I'm gathering from the fact that no one wants to directly address the question that the answer to it is "no". So now I know what not to do.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sat, 23 Jun 2007 20:44:27 -0700, "Eigenvector"

I'll directly address it. It's a slow day here today, most folks are elswhere. It hasn't been that long since you posted.
Yeah, you'll likely damage a tiller, though you didn't specify what kind of tiller. Rear-tine, front tine, belt drive, gear drive?
Likely you'll be shearing pins on a reartine, belt drive, if equipped with shearpins. Likely will shear drivewheel pins, as rocks get wedged between the tines/guard/drivewheels.
If rocks are large enough they can be forced inside the tinebasket and be a bear to get out.
Been there done that, no fun, noisy, bends things.
So yeah, tilling is gonna be rough and damaging. Maybe to yourself as well. Rocks can split or be shot out and cause injury.
Charlie
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
<Charlie> wrote in message

Yeah that definitely doesn't sound like what I want. Thanks.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Charlie's right about the tiller having a bad day with large rocks.
I asked about the plants because if this were a vegetable garden, and you were cycling multiple crops through it each season, you'd want to get it really clear of rocks because you'll be working with that soil every year. You'd want it to be easy.
On the other hand, if this is an area where you're putting in a fixed number of shrubs, why clear the entire area of rocks? Focus only on the spots where each shrub will be planted.
It's summer. High school kids need jobs. Hire one or two to de-rock the area. Just make sure they understand how much force can be applied to a pitch fork before it breaks.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I missed the OP, butt I've dealt with rocky soil and didn't really want raised beds. So, I just dug down the 18 inches or so I wanted for a decent perennial bed and sifted them out of the soil. Took dang near forever, but it really worked nicely. Rocks either frame the bed/paths or form the few raised areas I made in individual beds.
C
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Those size of rocks will tear up the tines, and possibly, lock up the tiller.
Rocky area here. Range from fine gravel, enlongated broken stuff to rocks the size of a small car. As another replier stated, a raised bed is probably appropriate. I dig holes in it using a rock bar, leather-gloved hands, and alot of sweat. This, when I put in fence posts. Garden plot is not feasible.
Empathy, no sympathy. Dave
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

The rototiller may jump out of the ground and eat your leg. Literally. A tractor tiller may do you some good, but you're going to have to pick out the rocks brought up.
I have similar soil... trees are planted by backhoe, and we sometimes have to change the planting plans because the rocks are just too big to deal with without dynamite. We have approximately half a mile of rock wall 2-4 ft tall surrounding a two acre property, legacy of the previous owners when they prepared the slab (not basement, slab on grade) for a three car garage. I pulled half a ton of rocks (estimated by weighing buckets I was filling and carrying) from the top 4" of our alleged lawn, about 1/5 acre -- and I left all rocks under 1.5" diameter.
The five trees planted this spring (bareroot, small stock about 3/4" caliper) went in with auger-dug holes. I have a 1/2" x 6" steel bolt, one of two that secured the auger to the PTO -- it's bent and partially stripped from hitting a rock. I pulled anything baking potato size or larger out of the holes, and had to add about 50% brought in soil to fill the planting holes.
I've been making my own soil by composting wood chips gotten from the tree crews and growing most produce in large planters. Anything planted in native soil otherwise goes in by seed or with a tree bar for small seedlings.
I vote for raised beds, which will happen here after new house construction.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload


"alleged lawn" - that's funny. :)
Sounds like you're in the Adirondack Mountains. Or someplace.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
"Eigenvector" wrote:

In a word, no. No tiller will remove rocks, and the size rocks you describe will definitely impede tiller operation, probably cause it and/or yourself damage. Tillers are not designed to work virgin land anyway, even without rocks, needs busting up first with a plow, spade, fork...
For a relatively small plot (500 sq ft or less) you can choose to bust your butt spading and picking out rocks by hand but with larger plots you really need a tractor (or a team of oxen) fitted with a plow to bust up the sod and a box rake for picking out rocks. For ground you plan to till each year (ie. crops) you really need to remove the rocks, but for planting trees and woody shrubs you can get by with just clearing a planting hole.
Without knowing how large an area you need cleared of rocks and what you plan to plant (if anything, you don't say) then all anyone can offer you is wild speculation.
There's one other option... a crew of illegal aliens with picks, shovels, and rakes. LOL
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Well damn damn damn. Lots a lots of backbreaking work it is then. Might as well do it now while my body is still reasonably resilient. Actually it sounds like a tractor is the best route to go. I have plenty of experience working with the large ones, doing farm labor to put me through college, but wasn't ready to crack out the 8 wheeled articulated to work a 20x30 plot of land. I've never used the small homeowner ones though - John Deere 146 is the smallest I've driven.
BTW: I know you all are wondering what the hell I'm asking this for. Its not that I'm being deliberately vague just to piss you off, its just that I wanted to have the basic question answered without wading through all the alternative solutions that will inevitably come out.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

In the 70"s some older folks in the NE USA were sort of famous for taking on large tasks a little at a time. I can't remember their names but making a large pond by a few wheelbarrows a day sort of gives you a glimpse of how they worked and it may have sold books.
When I have many tasks I decided to do I work on one then slide over to another when it becomes drudgery. Some times nothing prevails.
Bill forget instant gratification aside from .........
--

S Jersey USA Zone 5 Shade
http://www.ocutech.com/ High tech Vison aid
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I'm doing something similar (but different): Following the shade around the yard as I work. It means that each of four areas will look unfinished until Monday or Tuesday. But, it beats sweating all day.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
g'day,
my suggestion would be to give the tilling a miss and go for raised beds, then the rocks are no problem.
On Sat, 23 Jun 2007 11:46:10 -0700, "Eigenvector"
snipped With peace and brightest of blessings,
len & bev
-- "Be Content With What You Have And May You Find Serenity and Tranquillity In A World That You May Not Understand."
http://www.lensgarden.com.au /
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Building 300 sq ft of raised bed is the same labor but more dollars than spading and picking out rocks. I have a 2,500 sq ft vegetable garden (50' X 50') that I spaded and picked rocks by hand, took me a good forty hours of hard labor over a week. I probably didn't have as many large rocks as the OP but I had enough and it was back breaking work. My plot is sort of a modified raised bed as I enclosed the space with railroad ties, (real RR ties), and then added like 30 cu yds of topsoil I had delivered. Then I spent an entire day tilling the new soil into the old with a 7 HP Simplicty tiller (don't you believe those ads of some ninety year old lady guiding a tiller with one finger, no way). But now that my garden is in nice condition I can strongly recommend the Mantis tiller for regular tilling maintenance, what a great little machine, definitely not a toy... my Simplicity 'killer' tiller is in retirement.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Reading your post made me realize something obvious. I intend to increase my raised garden substantially in size. Right now, its cram packed in an 8' X 8' space. Was considering hunting down some railroad ties as well. Light went on, there's some old utility poles on my property left behind from years ago before I bought the place. They're 16 footers. Intend to make 2 plots adjacent to each other. One for the chickens, one for the garden. Move the chicken coop every couple of years in the winter to the former garden side, and the garden to the chicken side. Dave
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

A utility pole border will definitely work, and better since yours are free. But you'll need to do something to keep them from rolling. Even with my RR ties I drilled holes through every four feet and hammered lenths of rebar through eighteen inches into the ground. I also joined the ends and corners with fish plates. I don't know the climate where you live but here in Upstate NY the wood would definitely move from all the heaving from freezing and thawing.
Freshly tilled:
http://i19.tinypic.com/4thteeh.jpg
http://i12.tinypic.com/6g1rxhk.jpg
http://i8.tinypic.com/5ybq32d.jpg
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.