Should You Use Garden Rotavator on Your Allotment and Soil?

Last Updated on April 5, 2024 by Real Men Sow

So, you got the call and an allotment is all yours. You head down to be shown the plot and your heart sinks. It’s a complete mess, but unfortunately, there is nothing else on offer.

What next? How are you going to clear the overgrown plants, nettles, brambles, weeds, and grass and get yourself some lovely, crumbly soil? What if you’d been given the plot above, which happened to an RMS read Rob (thanks for the email Rob)?

What is an allotment rotavator?

An allotment rotavator is a small, lightweight tiller used to cultivate the soil on allotments and smallholdings. It is a versatile tool that can be used for a variety of tasks, including preparing seed beds, digging trenches, and aerating compacted soil. In how to rotavate your garden article, we digged into deeper how to use this machine as a beginner.

How does the rotavator work?

The rotavator has a small engine that powers a set of blades or tines that rotate rapidly. Not anyone can use this machine since it is quite a dangerous gardening tool. A fairly straightforward answer to this question is to rip out the big stuff from the garden and then rotavate.

Should you hire an allotment rotavator?

It is recommended to hire an allotment rotavator if your garden or planting area is small. Garden rotavators are huge machines that dig at a reasonable depth in your garden.

Price & Money Comparison

Plus, rotavators do not come cheap – prices for allotment rotavators start at around £100, but can range up to £400 for more premium models. Therefore, you should not own one if your garden area is small. Rotavators can be hired for a day, and before a weekend is out there is every chance you’ll have soil to sow into.

Value benefit of hiring rotavators

The price of hiring a garden rotavator could bring better value for your money and solve your serious weeding problem two times faster than learning how to use these tools on your own.

Pros and Cons of Allotment Rotavators


The trouble is, a rotavator has several downsides. For a start, the machine won’t kill off all the weeds. The soil is clean for a while, but rotavators cut up roots and multiply perennial weeds such as couch grass and bindweed.

Damaging the soil

Rotovating can damage soil structure too, especially heavy soils such as clay. A water-resistant barrier is often formed, causing poor drainage and preventing roots from growing deep enough. This is very important for

Making a mess in the garden

You might not be popular with neighbors if you rotovate on a windy day if the roots from weeds blow all over the place.


The traditional approach to removing weeds and getting a plot back on track is a good old-fashioned hard graft. The obvious advantages of this are a weed-free plot, masses of satisfaction, and a retained soil structure, but digging out all those weeds and bushes is very, very time-consuming. Some of my local plots are almost non-returnable, and this approach could mean no growth for the first year of rent.

More space in the garden

Rotavating your garden will clear up space so you can finally invest in new seeds and grow new vegetables with deep roots, such as onion, pea, bean, beet, leek, marrow, Brussels sprout, carrot, broccoli & cauliflower, cucumber, cabbage, celeriac, spinach, chard, beetroot, radish, turnip, and courgette! You could even try late-growers like pumpkin, squash or parsnip.

Helps to remove difficult weeds

And this is where I have sympathies with a rotavator. I hate seeing newcomers giving up veg growing as their plots were covered in weeds for the first season, and they just couldn’t see when they were actually going to be able to sow seeds. A rotavator, however much of a shortcut, means beginners can get going virtually from day one and begin their journey towards the amazing buzz of harvesting homegrown produce.

Rotavate Your Allotment in The First Year

Of course, weeds come back but clearing a plot by hand can take more than two seasons, and any decision should rest on how quickly you want a productive plot. But that first year is so important for a new grower as it defines whether they’ll continue or not. Spending months toiling with no light at the end of the tunnel can kill enthusiasm, yet a good first summer’s harvest and a grower is hooked forever.

The romantic in me loves the idea of taking time to return a plot to production, free of weeds and with a lovely, fertile soil structure. However, I also take great pleasure from seeing people growing fruit and vegetables and if it means newbies get some decent, usable ground then I’d absolutely consider a rotavator.

Rotavator Alternatives

Blimey, that’s as close to an opinion piece as I reckon I’ve come on Real Men Sow. Of course, I am into balanced advice, so later this week I’ll publish some non-rotovating methods I’ve used or witnessed to clear overgrown plots.

Real Men Sow
Real Men Sow

Hello, I’m Pete and I’m currently based in the west of Scotland, in a small place called Rosneath, where I’m exploring my garden adventures. I personally started gardening around 6 years ago and initially, I started out by growing my favorite fruits and berries, such as strawberries, Raspberries & Gooseberries. Since then I’ve added a lot of vegetables and working closely with my neighbor, it’s been a lot of fun.

4 thoughts on “Should You Use Garden Rotavator on Your Allotment and Soil?”

  1. DON’T DO IT! All you are doing is making more weeds.

    Cover the plot with some kind of weed suppressant membrane and dig it over a bit at a time. Leave the rest and grow in pots if needs be until you are able to dig it over – when you can manage it.

    At our allotments a guy two years running just rotivated his plot. It looked amasing when he did it. All planted up with perfect looking soil. A month later you couldn’t see the veg for the weeds.

  2. After a year with my new plot, I have given in and rotovated it. I had to – it was simply not diggable by hand, even with a mattock to start things off. The soil is heavy clay, compacted after years of neglect and full of couch grass. Now it is broken up I have carpeted it and will return to each patch in turn to dig out the roots and manure it ready for planting. So while I agree 99% with the “don’t do it” argument, there is some value to it if it can get you moving.

  3. I’d love to be able to dig over my garden properly, but sadly I have ms and can’t do it. However, I have roses and various other plants I’d like to keep, but they are planted haphazardly and they are all mature so I’ve no idea how far the roots have grown.

    If I use a rotovator – the only way I’ll be able to ‘dig’ this garden, I think I’ll certainly end up chopping roots significantly.

    The garden was very neglected when we bought this house and horribly overgrown. We did get a gardening firm in who did the bulk of the clearing, but we can’t afford any more professional help.

    Any ideas as to what I can do?

  4. By all means rotate! We are on our third allotment in 20 years and i could not face digging the new plot back to usefulness over two years again.
    Rotovate and then put carpet or a light fast membrane down on the areas you are not planting that month, Leave the membrane down over as many areas as you can that are not in use and lift then rotovate regularly, Punching through the bottom of the rotovated depth with a fork helps a lot.
    We also had quite a successful use of green manure in areas not under cultivation. it out grew the weeds and rotovated into the soil nicely.

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