First-time Rotovating grassy soil?

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DanielCoffey

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First-time Rotovating grassy soil?
« on: June 03, 2018, 20:36 »
I am wondering how to approach the first-time rotovation of about 750m2 of former paddock. I need advice on the weather to wait for and the depth setting on the rotovator to use.

The rotovator itself is a two-wheel, rear-tine rotovator by Bertolini with a 196cc Honda engine.

The surface is uneven and lumpy which is why I am passing the rotovator over it to make future mowing easier. It has rested all of last year apart from regular mowing with a mulching mower and has a thick sward which has a lot of buttercup and moss in it.

The soil underneath is rich and deep but predominantly clay with natural river stones in it.

The past few weeks have been bone dry and the clay around the rest of the property is like concrete but we did have some light rain for a few hours yesterday which has softened everything up without soaking it.

The rotovator has three depth settings of (roughly) 3", 6" and 9" and this is achieved by the use of a skid plate that sits just behind the blades. When I tried it today on the middle setting, it tended to skate over the top just ripping through the vegetation. I had to go over it about four times before it started slicing down below the root layer.

Should I stay on the middle setting or should I go straight to the deep setting? What sort of weather should I be waiting for?

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Pescador

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Re: First-time Rotovating grassy soil?
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2018, 17:20 »
As you're needing multiple passes just to get into the root zone, it doesn't sound as if setting it deeper will help at this stage.
Some rain to moisten the top layer might allow the tines to penetrate easier, but June looks as though it's going to be quite dry up with you. Can you get some irrigation on it?
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DanielCoffey

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Re: First-time Rotovating grassy soil?
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2018, 17:46 »
I certainly can wet it down more, yes, over a small area to start with anyway. That way I can see how it helps. Too little and it will be tough, too much and it will be sticky.

Thanks for the thought on the depth setting. I'll stay on Medium as all I need to do is even out the hoof divots from when they were in this area of the paddock.

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Pescador

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Re: First-time Rotovating grassy soil?
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2018, 20:30 »
I would irrigate an area, wait 24hrs for it to soak in, and then put the rotavator on it and see how it goes.
If the aim is to remove the hoof marks, but leave it to grass, I would think just getting down to the root zone would be ideal as any rhizomes would still be in the top layer to re-grow. However I don't know how deep the hoofs are!

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DanielCoffey

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Re: First-time Rotovating grassy soil?
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2018, 20:40 »
Let's just say enough to swallow a whole boot to the ankle!

Before we bought the place, our "bite" of the paddock was right outside the turnout yard the horses used. That was where they got fed in the winter and as a result the nearby part of the paddock was where they spent a lot of time standing. It was heavy clay soil and got waterlogged in a wet winter so they went in deep. Some of them were big horses, not ponies.

Now out 750m2 is behind a fence and the turf is recovering. It was last grazed (and stood on) in winter 2016 then they were excluded. All last year I hit it with the mulching mower and the green stuff recovered really well but still had the physical damage to the soil. When mowing with a normal push mower it is bad enough that a hole will swallow a whole wheel (or two if you are unlucky). That means the mower bogs on the grass and moss and I  have a hard time pushing it.

I intend to ravage the top six inches with the rotovator then (probably) reseed it with "flowering lawn mix" from a local Scottish seed place before a light rollering. I know that 90% of the existing stuff will come back (grasses, moss, two types of buttercup and a lot of other small stuff I can't identify) but a few of the new species will survive and make it nicer to look at and for the insects.

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jezza

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Re: First-time Rotovating grassy soil?
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2018, 20:14 »
hello how many gears has your rotavator  if its multi geared for the wheels choose a low gear on a shallow pass then go a little bit deeper if its one with a reverse direction rotavator still use a low forward speed using the reverse rota  then use rotas in forward direction a couple of times going deeper each time    jezza

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DanielCoffey

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Re: First-time Rotovating grassy soil?
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2018, 20:23 »
The rotavator has two drive speeds on the wheels and I was already just using the low one. You cannot reverse the wheel direction with the tiller attached (the scythe and snow auger accessories do allow reverse wheel direction).

It has one drive speed on the tiller and  it is fixed to rotate the tines in a "contrary/reverse" direction to the wheels.

It has three depth settings at (roughly) 3", 6" and 10". I did my first pass on the shallowest depth setting but the ground was too hard to allow the tines to penetrate the clay well.

Hopefully all I have to do is wait for softer conditions and it will be fine.

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sunshineband

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Re: First-time Rotovating grassy soil?
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2018, 08:53 »
Keeping things on hold during this weather is the best idea  :D :D
Wisdom is knowing what to ignore - be comfortable in your own skin

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