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What does rotivation do?

Hi, my names james and im a university student.
I'm currently doing my dissertation and i need a reference for the explenation of what rotivating soil does. I know the general idea behind rotivating soil but i have no way to prove that it's not just something i've made up.
In case any one is wondering I need the information as for part of my dissertation i have to go into detail as to how to establish reed beds in an area.

Many thanks



  • Rotavation is basically just a mechanical way of turning the soil-like digging only with a machine- nothing more-a rotavotor is really just a plough for garden use image

    It is that simpleimage

  • A rotovator will not dig deeply and if the ground is hard or overgrown it will struggle. They are not as easy to use as theory may suggest. Have you tried one yourself. You can hire them by the day.

    Another disadvantage is that if there are nasty perrenial weeds such as couch grass, horsetail, bindweed, ground elder to name but 4 ( there are lots more), the rotovator will chop them up with every small piece starting a new weed plant. You make things much worse. The best way to get rid of such weeds may be to hand dig and carefully remove every trace as you go.

    In my experience, unless the soil is already in pretty good knick they are more trouble than they are worth. I am afraid there is no substitute for spade/fork/elbow grease. The main advantage might be where you have already hand dug the plot and then use the rotovator to break the clods down to a nice friable tilth.( sorry about the technical terms!!)

    However having said that let's see if others have had better experience.

    Good luck with your studies, don't hesitate to ask more questions.


  • Well this is for reed beds where you flood the area area afterwards, so the weed problem isn't really a problem as the flooding kills them all. I just needed something I could reference, I'm never actually going to use one
  • blackestblackest Posts: 623 Rotavator is a brand name like hoover or xerox. There is a particular varient mainly used for rice paddys. You should know you can't cite wikipedia as a primary source however at the bottom of the page are sources you can read and cite.

    Funny thing is this type of machine was designed in part for weeding but the domestic variation left that part out, being the 60's it was thought chemical herbicides were the future, then promptly over did the use of them. The original 1920's patents will have expired so it might be possible to produce a version that weeds image  

    A search engine , good spelling , you can find anything. Even grow light surveys.

  • Gold1locksGold1locks Posts: 498

    One other benefit of rotavation is to improve soil 'conditioning'. Heavy clay soils are rich in nutrients, but the fine particles stick together (a complex process involving chemical ions that I don't fully understand), which makes the soil claggy and saturated in winter (plant roots hate this) and it dries out like concrete in summer, with cracks that allow moisture to run through into the sub-soil so the upper leyer dries out. And walking on this type of soil compacts it much more readily than sandy or loamy soil. So plants are more likely to drown in winter and die of thirst in summer, despite all those nutrients. And planting is harder work, and in summer the garden hoe just skims off the surface.

     Digging and turning  the soil so it becomes 'friable' - i.e. small particles - helps aerate the soil. If organic matter such as manure or garden compost,  or lime or gypsum are added at this stage, they have special properties that reduce the ionic effect that attract the fine soil particles to one another, so that the soil behaves a lot better in retaining moisture without going 'claggy'.

    Digging heavy clay soil is hard work at any time of the year, but a rotavator makes light work of it. And if you chuck your conditioning material onto the soil while rotavating, it becomes permanently improved. 

  • Thanks Blackest, that really helped. I tried google but i must have been spelling it wrong or using the wrong combination of words before.

  • Turning over heavy clay is next to impossible with a rotovator. Swamp in winter, concrete in summer, not to put a finer point on it. Even when soil is inbetween these conditions (blink and you'll miss it) all the other disadvantages apply too. Sorry but this is from bitter experience. Money wasted, allotment left undug, unhappy bunny.

  • Gold1locksGold1locks Posts: 498

    My little Mantis did the job for me, Woodgreen. I did lift clods with a spade to start with and let them dry out, but after that the rotovator did the rest. And it was very sticky clay. It was a newbuild house and the builders had compacted it with their machinery. I couldn't do anything with it until after I had improved it with with 60 bags of manure, 30 bags of sharp sand and 10 bags of gypsum plaster in a 60 square metre plot, all worked in with the Mantis. I was lucky with the weather, three weeks without rain in spring, but I couldn't have done it with a spade - just didn't have the time or energy. 

  • fairy54fairy54 Posts: 33

    Hi Gold1locks I think u may be my guiding light! image Hope so. Reading your comments on soil you virtually described my garden that is driving me mad. Had turf laid few years back and being a novice I didn't interfere by saying to the Gardner does it need topsoil before laying the turf! The soil if u can call it that is flinty as we're coastal. Needless to say I am paying for it now, as u described to blacknest,almost the same except not clay (  I'm waffling ) my question is as you seem to know soil. Where do I start do I rotivate it pull out weeds, topsoil then seed/turf? Is best time now or spring?

    It was solid with cracks in, in the summer unlevel, bumpy and horrible. Lots of weed too. HELP please.

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