In this guide we’ll take a look at the best rotavators for the UK market.
I’ve compared power, weight, build quality and cost
to give you my top recommendations.
What Is The Best Rotavator?
More Detailed Rotavator Reviews
This Garden Gear Petrol Rotavator is cordless but still packs a good amount of power to churn through all types of soil in larger gardens.
The engine is a 42.7cc beast with six tough tines (tines are the cutting blades) that easily dig through heavy ground. If you are preparing an allotment, digging a new bed, or refreshing a compacted growing area this will get the job done.
It’s cordless which means you’ll be safe in terms of cutting through trailing cables or tripping over the power source. In fact safety is top priority with this machine because it has a two point safety switch to make sure you don’t mistakenly turn it on.
The engine is cooled to prevent overheating, AND there’s a blade guard. If you’re nervous about handling all that power, it’s not necessary.
Manoeuvrability is easy as it features two separate handles to easily move the machine without hurting your back. This means you won’t lose control and accidently charge through the lawn.
The fuel tank is a pretty decent size – it’ll hold 1.2 litres of fuel which is about an hour’s worth, and because it’ll dig 20cms deep and 30cms wide in one pass you can get on with the job quickly.
All this power and safety weighs in at only 15kgs – that’s pretty impressive and a good deal lighter than other petrol rotavators.
You can use this two stroke petrol rotavator to level ground, work in fertiliser, clear weeds, dig a hole and turn over soil before planting. It’s suitable for pretty much any sized garden or allotment.
Don’t like the smell and faff of petrol rotavators? No problem. This VonHaus Electric Rotavator still punches above its weight. It’s perfect for medium sized gardens.
In terms of power this tiller is a good ‘un. It pushes out 400w with 280rpm on its six blades. Coupled with its cutting width of 40cms and depth of 22cms you can quickly get the hard work done without going over the same areas indefinitely.
Safety is paramount of course and this Von Haus rotavator has an overload protection system which will cut out the motor if its blades get stuck, damaged or loosened. Given that we tend to push on with a rotavator and sometimes burn out a motor (why are you looking at me), this is a great safety and money-saving feature. There’s an electric brake right near the handle so you can power it down quickly too.
This garden rotavator is ergonomically designed with two handles for ease of use and its weight is pretty minimal at 11kgs.
One of the problems with corded garden tools is the restriction on where you can go. Needing a nearby power source can cause difficulties, but this machine has an extra long cable – it’s a lengthy 10 metres to help reach a larger area, and just to show the thought that’s gone into this machine the cable tidies are big enough to cope with all that flex and more.
Did I mention it looks good? I know this isn’t really a decider, but that sturdy design and orange tone makes it the best looking of the bunch.
Next up we have a cordless rotavator with lithium ion battery that weighs a puny 4kgs its perfect for lighter tilling jobs.
This ultra-portable rotavator looks like a strimmer and you can take it anywhere in your garden to dig a hole or churn out weeds with no power source required. It has an 18v lithium battery which makes it light and provides more grit than a standard battery.
Battery powered cordless rotavators are a newer option on the market. They won’t run through roots, stones and heavy uncultivated soil, but then not everyone needs to dig a new veggie path or uproot dogwood each year.
This beautiful machine tills and overturns soil that is not heavily compacted with all the freedom in the world. It’s best used to prepare seeds beds and dig out weedy areas that have taken hold over a winter spell.
It’ll last between 30 minutes to an hour depending on how hard you’re pushing it, and then take an hour or two to re-charge.
In terms of handling you aren’t going to find better. It’s got an adjustable multi-position soft grip handle with a second padded handle to help guide it in the right direction.
The blades are multi-legged to help finely turn the soil and it puts out 280rpm which is pretty fast for a battery powered rotavator. It’ll dig down to 8cms and work across 20cms which is a good depth for weeds and planting out small developed veggies.
If you want less depth for seeds, lessen your pressure.
It’s certainly flexible and will easily take the place of a garden fork – you can even fit it between shrubs and flowers instead of a hoe.
This eSkde Cordless Garden Rotavator is a great buy if you’re in the market for a lightweight cordless rotavator and don’t have a hugely overgrown garden to contend with.
Stand well back, give the MAXTRA Heavy Duty Petrol Rotavator some room. If you’re looking for a handheld tractor this is the machine. It’s got more power than my first car.
Let’s talk about the power first, yes its noisy and heavy but it has a 6.5HP, 208cc, 4-stroke single-cylinder air cooled industrial engine designed for the toughest garden jobs. If you have a badly overgrown area to clear this is one of the best choices.
It has a 3.6 litre fuel tank to help cope with its 76kg weight and sturdy wheels to help you guide it.
You’d think all that weight and power would resemble wrestling a bull to the floor, but the handling is surprisingly light. This is due to the ergonomic handles and gear control on the adjustable handlebar. It has a forward and backward gear with a neutral option. The gearbox is powered by a precision copper gear drive transmission which has axletree that can prolong its lifespan.
A backward gear is a useful way to remove roots and stones that get stuck in blades without putting your fingers near the dangerous parts, and speaking of the blades, they’ll dig from 17.5cms to 35cms depending on your selection, and it’ll cultivate a strip measuring 40cms wide.
This garden rotavator is a beast, and lots of people swear by this model. It’s clearly been designed by someone who knows how difficult it is to dig through stony, compacted earth with rootballs.
Wolf Garten always produce top quality tools that never fail to get the job done. This manual tiller is a hand rotavator that cuts through weeds and aerates soil.
Perhaps you’re just looking for a tool that can cut through small weeds and dig a seed bed. It doesn’t need a motor, but it’s more than just a hoe? Then this is the one for you.
Described as a universal gardening tool, or an oscillating hoe, this 1.7kgs tiller head is one of several tools that can fit onto a long handle (that comes separately though)
A working depth of 15cms means it’s more than enough to freshen the beds, chop through weeds, and mix in fertiliser or manure.
The star-shaped wheels do a good job of loosening and crumbling the soil because the blades are pleasingly sharp and specifically hardened so the tines resist bending, wear and corrosion. A handy extra is the rear bar that helps you keep the cutting blades at a consistent level.
You’ll need to put in some effort in with the Wolf Garten DAS Multi-Change Soil Miller – it’s great at what it does but it comes with elbow grease requirement which is something to bear in mind if you have a large area to cover.
This hand rotavator is suited to prepping and maintaining seed beds and flower borders in small gardens.
One of the best aspects of this tilling tool is the silence. Listen to the birds sing and get some exercise – that’s what gardening is all about.
Rotavator Buying Guide
We love gardening, but some aspects are back breaking work. These tasks include clearing rough overgrown areas, cutting back a large hedge and most exhausting in my humble opinion, digging the veggie patch.
There’s no denying that manual digging puts a strain on your lower back and arms no matter what level of fitness you’re working with or how light your carbon pronged fork – and that’s where a garden rotavator valiantly steps in to take the strain.
Tempted? I’m not surprised. The problem is there are hundreds out there that could potentially do the job, so I have compiled together the 5 best rotavators that seriously move the earth.
Before you jump into buying your dream rotavator think about what you actually need it for.
It can be tempting to buy the biggest most powerful engine, but if you need to till over a small veggie patch one a year that’s a bit excessive.
Here are a few things to consider:
- Your Soil
Consider your soil type. Loamy, sandy and aerated soils are the easiest to work with and require less power, but compacted clay soils need a tougher hand.
- Rotavator Weight
Be realistic about your strength and endurance because some of the larger machines can pull and take some heaving around. If you aren’t a fan of exercise go for a lighter rotavator.
- Size of Area
Large gardens and sizeable allotments mean you’ll need a powerful garden rotavator just to get through the amount of space. A battery powered rotavator probably won’t last long enough to do a large garden, and a corded electric one may not reach. Large areas better suit petrol rotavators unless the soil is already crumbly and full of lovely worms that do the hard work.
Here are some aspects to look out for.
- Good handles are important, especially if you’re digging over a big space or have a heavy machine. Duel handles help you to steer, and padded ergonomic handles take the strain from your wrists.
- Blades should be sharp, have plenty of teeth and free from rust, kinks, and bends.
- Fuel tank size. If you’ve got a big garden or heavy soil you might choose a petrol rotavator. If so, consider the tank size. Constantly re-filling is a pain and makes the job last all day.
- If you choose an electric rotavator look for a long cord, its saves your temper in the long run.
- Safety cut out switch. Rotavators range in prices from bargains to investments – look for a overheat cut out switch on all of them. Roots, weeds, and stones will get tangled in the blades, that’s par for the course, but if you continue to rev that motor it’ll just burn out.
Chosen your rotavator? Great, but hold on. There are some other bits you might need to keep safe.
Always respect the rotavator, never put your fingers, hair or toes near moving parts. It sounds obvious but this is a golden rule when it comes to tools. Be especially careful with your feet if blades are positioned at the rear.
Stay out of A&E by purchasing some steel toe capped boots. These are not expensive and a great buy if you are using garden tools on a regular basis. They can stop a stab injury to your feet from a rotavator, spade, fork or upturned rake, and prevent slips, twists and falls too.
Ear defenders are a must if you have a powerful rotavator and need to use it for some time. Your ears will be ringing for days if you don’t keep them protected. The same goes for your eyes. Rotavators and strimmers in particular throw up dust and debris that may be sharp and travelling at speed. Some safety goggles can save you from a nasty injury.
A good strong pair of gloves is an essential purchase for a gardener whether you’re rotavating or not. Protect your hands against stingers, stones, and blisters. Gloves with grip also help you hold onto the rotavator which may be bouncing around and trying to get away from you.
How Does A Rotavator Work?
Rotavators have spinning blades that break up, churn and aerate the soil.
In petrol, electric and battery powered machines blades are attached to an axle or disc which is turned by the motor.
They often have wheels, but this is not to wheel it along the soil as it’s churning because a rotavator will more often than not pull you forward as it digs its teeth in the earth. Wheels help you move the rotavator into place before starting it.
What Does A Rotavator Do?
It takes most of the hard work out of digging soil. Instead of digging with a spade, a rotavator gets stuck into the earth, turning it for you. Some effort it required to keep the rotavator in line, but it’s significantly less than hand digging.
Digging your soil by hand or with a rotavator will improve it. Digging is particularly good for clay and compacted soils which are heavy and soggy in winter and bake dry during summer. Digging improves the drainage and you can add manure as you go.
Basically rotavators are an engine powered garden fork, or maybe a plough depending on the size.
How Do I Use A Rotavator?
Rotavators are sold with instructions, so take the time to read them carefully. Petrol rotavators will have detailed instructions on the type of fuel they need, and this should always be mixed in a separate container.
Before starting your machine ensure it’s away from cables, loose clothing, body part, pets, and children. Start slowly, hold onto the handles and direct it with evenly distributed weight.
They do bounce and its best not to fight the bounce, instead let it move around but bring it back into line when needed.
To lessen depth you can push down on the handles to raise the blades up. Its trial and error for sure, but you’ll get the hang of it. The thought of getting out your spade will keep you on track.
Checking soil conditions can make rotavating a simple job or a tedious headache that leads to patio and decking instead.
If it’s a wet day, soil is likely to clump in the blades and cause overheating or continual cut outs. If it’s baking hot and the soil is rock solid even the most powerful machine will struggle. Choose wisely!
Walk up and down the area much like you were mowing the lawn. Let the new strip overlap the previous to ensure the soil is properly turned. Once you’ve done the whole area do it again from a right angle. This makes sure the soil is properly aerated instead of simply turned over.
If you want crumblier soil go over the area again. Clods of soil will become smaller and more friable the more they are chopped.
Should I Remove Weeds Before Rotavating?
In all honesty, yes you probably should if they are the type of weeds that will grow back from a chopped stem. Creeping buttercup and bindweed are particularly troublesome in the vegetable patch as they can grow an entirely new root system from a small cutting of stem.
This means you’ll have weeds again soon. That said, if you are regularly using a smaller rotavator to keep the weeds down between rows, then you don’t have to get all the weeds out first.
Why Does My Petrol Rotavator Cut Out?
There are a few reasons this can happen and they are usually connected to the petrol supply.
If you are sure your petrol mix is correct for the machine, either two stroke or four stroke, then check for a blockage in the fuel line such as debris or a kink. If this is not the case its worth clearing out the tank and filter if it has one to make sure everything is running smoothly.
Other reason could be a block in the priming bulb – look for fresh clean fuel entering the bulb as you start it. If there’s none there, look for a blockage.
It could be overheating and cutting out as a safety precaution. Check the blades for tangles and stones that could be stopping the motor.
If you can’t find the reason take your rotavator for a service – this is usually cheaper than buying a replacement and ensures an expert has taken a good look at all the potential issues.
Should I Buy Or Hire A Rotavator?
Many DIY stores offer rotavator hire for a day or a weekend, sometimes longer. This is a good idea if you have a one-off job, but the problem is once you know how much of the hard work a rotavator does, you’ll want to use one again and the costs can mount up.
If you are clearing an area to lay a lawn go for the hiring option. If you’re using it at an allotment or in your garden to dig, clear or refresh the beds then buying one outright is better value.
You could share the cost with a friend if you don’t plan to use it every weekend.
Rotavators are one of those tools you think about buying for years, but always put off because you can manage without, and you need the digging exercise anyway, but when you own one you’ll need prising away. The amount of time and effort they save make them worth every penny.
Spend more time admiring your veggies and cooking on the BBQ this year by getting that rotavator you’ve always wanted. You won’t look back