How To Use A Rotavator

Whether you hire or buy your very own rotavator, we show you how to use it correctly to get the most out of it.
Written By: Archie Rich | Updated:
How To Use A Rotavator
Archie Rich/DIY Works

Manually breaking up soil with a spade or other hand tools is time-consuming and back-breaking work. However, with the use of a rotavator, you can power through it by using the blades to break up and aerate the soil. Some of the latest garden rotavators are suitable for a range of budgets and are available with a petrol, electric or battery-powered motor.

Depending upon the rotavating you intend on doing will determine the best-suited machine for your job. For example, in the photo above, we bought a rotavator for heavy-duty work, such as chopping through heavy clay soil filled with thick roots. However, if you only plan to rotavate a small lawn or allotment, you wouldn’t need such a powerful machine.

Regardless of the rotavating task you have planned, below are our recommendations for using a rotavator on your lawn or soil.

How To Rotavate A Garden

1. Analyse The Soil Moisture

As you can imagine, using a rotavator in wet conditions isn’t recommended because it can cause big “clods” to stick to the blades. If you are unsure whether the ground is too wet, it’s advised that you dig up some soil and see if it will break in your hand. If it doesn’t break up, we recommend waiting a few days for dryer weather.

2. Remove Any Weeds

Removing any weeds on the ground before rotavating is highly recommended. Obviously, any rotavator will break them up, but it’s the fact that they can become caught up in the blades of the rotavator. This can, therefore, cause them to spread across your plot and cause even more work for yourself. Ideally, you will want to use a weed killer a few weeks prior, but if not, removing the weeds by hand is advised a few days beforehand.

3. Setup The Rotavator

Depending upon which type of machine you are using will determine how you set it up ready for use. For example, if you are using a petrol rotavator, ensure that it has enough petrol and the oil is at its recommended level.

If you are using an electric rotavator, ensure that you have enough cable length (if not, use an extension lead) and that you keep the cable behind the rotavator.

Finally, if you have a battery-powered rotavator, ensure that it has plenty of charge, or you have a spare battery if required.

4. Operate the Rotavator

Once the ground is prepared and the rotavator is set up, you can begin using the rotavator. Obviously, you’ll want to keep the rotating tines away from your hands and feet at all times. You may also wish to wear ear defenders and gloves if you intend on rotavating large areas, which may take a few hours.

Whilst using a rotavator, you may find that it jumps when it hits something hard such as a root. Therefore, it’s important that you stay relaxed, keep a firm grip on the handlebars and control the rotavator appropriately.

How To Use A Rotavator For Garden Use

Archie Rich/DIY Works

5. Rotavate in Strips

For the best possible results whilst rotavating, it’s recommended that you rotavate the ground in strips. Upon your first pass, you shouldn’t dig down too much (2 to 3 inches is plenty) and then rotavate slightly deeper upon each pass after that.

As you use the rotavator in strips, you’ll want to slightly overlap upon each pass and continue to rotavate until you are happy with the overall soil quality.

Our Top Tips

  • Don’t apply too much downward force, as it can cause the rotavator to jump
  • Keep a firm grip on the handlebars at all times
  • Don’t rotavate at a large angle
  • Remove any debris or thick roots before rotavating

If you wish to see a rotavator in action, below is a video that we posted on our YouTube channel that shows us rotavating clay soil.

The area being rotavated used to have several conifers, but these were removed, and we rotavated the area so it was ready for turf to be laid.


Using a rotavator may seem a bit scary at first, but after a few minutes, you should begin to feel more confident. If you require further information regarding how to use a rotavator or rotavating in general, feel free to get in touch, and we will try to provide our assistance where possible.

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