Rototilling the Lawn


My plan for today was to rototill the lawn, which is lumpy and all weeds and clay.  My friend Frank was kind enough to let me borrow his truck so I could go get a tiller.  I called Interstate Rentals this morning to make sure they had one available, and then called Frank and headed over to his place to get the truck.

While I was discussing this project with Frank and Brian at work the other day, Brian encouraged me to get one of the big rear-tine tillers, rather than a smaller mid-tine or the really little ones.  He said the rear-tine ones are self-propelled, and they’re heavy enough (and powerful enough) to really dig in, thus saving you a lot of physical work.  Sounds good to me.

So the rototiller I rented was a 13 HP Barreto monster.  They loaned me some ramps to get it in and out of the truck, and they put it in the truck for me.  One problem I hadn’t considered had to do with the camper shell on the back of Frank’s truck.  The handles of the tiller were too high to fit under this, so they stuck out the back, which wasn’t a big deal.  The tricky part though, is that once I arrived home, I had to crawl into the back of the truck (even as small as I am, I had to double up my knees) and pull the starter cord to get it running, so I could back it out of the truck.  We talked about this before I left the rental place, so I knew what to expect.

When I got to the house though, I discovered an additional problem.  Somewhere along the trip home, even though I was going kinda slow and taking it easy, the tiller must have slid around, pushing the handle set up against the top of the camper shell.  This unfortunately resulted in snapping the on/off toggle switch clean off.  Uhhh… oooooops.  Good thing I opted for the damage waiver.

The little spring was still in there though, and so I was able to carefully push on that and get it in the on position.  After a few pulls, I got the tiller started, and backed it out of the truck.

Since there was no one around to take pictures, you’ll just have to imagine me running this huge rototiller.  As I said, it is self-propelled, so really I was just walking along and guiding it a little bit, so it’s not too bad.  However, when I got to the end of a run, I had to turn it around to start the next pass.  Sort of like a lawn mower, only much much heavier.  I had to throw all of my weight to one side to pull it around each time.  Even so, this was way better than that post auger, and the whole experience was pretty fun, actually.

I had no idea how long this was going to take me, but I figured around four hours.  However, I actually managed to finish in less than two.

Just after I had finished, Nate showed up and washed it for me.

We got the tiller back in the truck and returned it to Interstate Rentals.  Then we dropped off the truck at Frank’s place and drove back to my house with my car.  We had lunch at Nicola’s (one of our favorite places), and then he headed off, and I went back and raked the loose soil a little bit, to get a feel for regrading it.

Here’s what the yard looks like after rototilling.  I joked with Nate that maybe instead of planting grass, I’ll just rent a tiller once a month or so and keep tilling it up.  The Barreto did a great job, walking on the yard now is like walking on your bed, it’s so soft.  Of course there are nooks and crannies that I couldn’t get to, and some missed weeds along the edges, but good results overall. 

Below are a couple photos of some of the things in the yard that the rototiller turned up, or that we found while digging the trench.  Most of this was with the rototiller in the lawn, including the big piece of concrete… glad I didn’t break a tine on that.  Items include some pieces of bent metal rod, lamp cord, white plastic grill from a toy truck or something, a bouncy red ball (do not taunt Happy Fun Ball), a green ceramic tile, a garage door roller, a spark plug, and an unfired Luger 9mm round.