The Beast

On Fridays we find out what’s been happening in gardens around the region. Send your updates and photos by clicking on the email link at the right.

A couple of  years ago I bought an old Ariens Rocket rototiller from a friend for $200. I believe it dates from the 60’s, with a 7 hp Tecumseh cast iron engine that uses dual shafts to go in forward and reverse. It weighs a ton, and could break into fresh sod without jumping around the way lighter rototillers do. When it worked.

Alas, it tills no longer.  My spouse applied his ingenuity to keeping it going for two years by, for example, replacing the head, welding the counterweight, fixing the starter motor, re-gluing the flywheel weights and rebuilding and reattaching the carburetor.

Despite his attentions, the Beast had been in declining health all spring. Yesterday, I steered it confidently into the lower part of the garden where it putted uneventfully for about 10 minutes before abruptly choking up and going silent, leaving wisps of steam or smoke curling from the air baffle. The engine had seized.

While it sits motionless in the field, I ponder whether it is now time to commit unflinchingly to the Ruth-Stout-No-Work-Garden route, or whether I need to find another rototiller. Let’s just say that I’m in the market, if anyone wants to pass along some leads.

Tiller at Rest

Tiller at Rest

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4 Comments on “The Beast”

  1. Louise says:

    Just mulch – you’ll be amazed. We tilled our 50 by 70 foot garden for years with a Troy Built but didn’t replace it when it died. Our pattern was to mulch all summer with spoiled hay, till under what remained in the spring, then mulch again. I realized I was tired of wrestling the tiller around the garden, bouncing over deep rocks, and steering clear of our 8 foot game fence. So I cleared the mulch from planting beds and rows, loosened the soil with my long-handled spading fork, smoothed it out with a hoe and planted. That was probably ten years ago, and the soil is much less compacted. I move beds around from season to season, so spots that were rows the previous year take a little more work. But I enjoy digging (mostly in the evening after work) and don’t miss the noise of the roto-tiller. We use about 75 to 100 bales each year and the soil is in great shape.

  2. Barb Heller says:

    Hi Ellen,
    I’ve got a nice BCS tiller with an interchangeable mowing head, all in good shape if you’re still looking. It’s too big for our tiny garden – we do ours with hand tools these days…. just email me for more details! – Barb

  3. Ellen Beberman says:

    Louise – your place sounds amazing! If you send pictures and descriptions to my email ( link is at right) I would love to feature your garden on a Friday update.

  4. Michael Greer says:

    We have a Troy-Built tiller, but in recent years it gets less and less use. We do a lot of heavy mulching, and have a broad-fork for deep breaking the soil, so the big tiller gets used to incorporate old mulch and to break new soil only.
    We did get a little Mantis tiller last year, and if you don’t have rocky soil, it’s the best. Recently, I used it to prepare a fine seedbed for carrots after going down the rows with the broad-fork. It has small pointy tines, and it turns at a pretty high speed, so it shreds the mulch and bumpy soil very well. Rocks of a golf ball size will stop it dead, and would ruin the machine in pretty short order

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