Rotavator Proper Use FAQ


Rotavators are incredible devices. They make gardening and landscaping drastically easier, but there’s quite a bit of misinformation out there about them. Today, we’re fighting that misinformation. If you’re wondering if you can use a rotavator on grass, if a rotavator will go through clay, or something else, I’ve got you covered.

Today’s Topics Include:

Now with that said, let’s dive right in, yeah?

Will a Rotavator Go Through Clay?

using rotavator to break up clay

This is another “well yes, but actually no” situation. Sure, you could use a rotavator to get through clay, but it’s really not the best way to do so.

Your thought process is likely something along the lines of, “well, it breaks up dirt…” right? And you wouldn’t be wrong here – in fact, that’s a rotavator’s whole thing. The issue lies in proper use. You wouldn’t use a nice chef knife to break up clay, so why would you use a rotavator? Neither is targeted at that purpose – you know what is, though? A spade!

And the best thing about this process is that clay is actually quite nutrient-rich. By using a spade to break up the clay and then till the soil, you’ll spread those tasty nutrients all throughout the soil. This results in a happier garden bed, though it also is likely to end up with a sore back.

At the end of the day, yes – you can use a rotavator to go through clay. However, it’ll result in wearing down the tines of the rotavator and is really just not the best solution. Opting for a spade and then tilling the soil serves you twice as well, with only a little bit more work.

In short, use a spade to break up clay and then till it into your soil. You’ll end up with a healthier garden bed and a longer-lasting rotavator – and maybe a sore back if you’re like me.

Can You Use a Rotavator on Grass?

using rotavator on grass

This is one of those frustrating questions where the answer boils down to yes, but actually no.

Sure, you could use a rotavator on grass. It would tear up your lawn quite well, and turn over the existing grass. If you’re looking to spread grass seed and don’t care about your garden’s aesthetic qualities, go for it! However, the reality of the situation is that rotavators aren’t designed to remove something from soil – they’re made to turn over the soil.

As such, you’ll find that using a rotavator on grass will simply tear up your lawn and spread grass seed everywhere. This is a major problem if you’re trying to prepare garden beds for flowers, herbs, and veg, but great if you want an endless lawn! Remember what I said above about removing weeds before using the rotavator? Yeah – this is why.

In short, yes, you can use a rotavator on grass. However, the result will be a ruined lawn and grass seed everywhere, so do what you will with that knowledge.

What Should I Use a Rotavator For?


Rotavators are designed to do one thing, and one thing only – they break up soil to make it more welcoming to new bulbs or seeds. It isn’t designed to work as a spade to break up tough (or clay-filled) soil, and it’s really not meant to be used on lawns.

Generally, you’ll want to ask yourself a couple of questions to determine whether or not a rotavator is the right tool for your job:

  1. Do I plan on replanting the area I’m rotavating?
    1. If you’re not trying to replant, use a gardening spade to aerate soil without damaging what’s already planted.
  2. Would a different tool do this job?
    1. Spades and tillers can do a number of things that rotavators technically can do, but do it better. You know the phrase “use the right tool for the job?” That’s my advice here.
  3. Am I concerned about the aesthetics of the area I’m rotavating?
    1. If the answer is yes, don’t use a rotavator. They will tear up everything and make your garden look terrible. So unless you’re renovating, consider using a smaller, less destructive tool. Look at the strip of land in this video that’s been rotavated, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.


There’s quite a bit that we’ve discussed today. We learned that clay is great for soil (less so for rotavators), how to use a rotavator properly, and if you can use a rotavator on grass (spoiler, you can). Now with your newfound knowledge, go get that garden blooming!

And if you’re still looking for answers, check out our rotavator basics article, or our rotavator troubleshooting FAQ.