Soil conditioner Vs. Rototiller

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500K_773

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Mar 5, 2004
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342
I encounter some jobs that require an existing turf area to be regraded. The turf is difficult to work with and I usually have to remove the sod and dispose of it somewhere before attempting to scupt the terrain. I was considering using either the soil conditioner or the rototiller to pulverize or cut up the turf so that it can be regraded easily. If you have any experience with either attachment I would appreciate you comments or would like to hear how you deal with this situation.
 

Team Fountain

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Mar 16, 2004
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61
Me too. I hope someone chimes in here. Of course, if I cut off the sod I can charge to haul it off. I put it in my compost pile in the woods. In a couple years, I can sell it back to them as top soil. But, it would be nice to have an excuse to buy another attachment. I do see a local landscaper use his tiller quite often. He goes into the job a week early and sprays with a short lived weed killer. When everything dies, he tills it in and finishes the job with plantings, grass, etc.
 

StuZ

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Nov 22, 2003
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133
Me too. I hope someone chimes in here. Of course, if I cut off the sod I can charge to haul it off. I put it in my compost pile in the woods. In a couple years, I can sell it back to them as top soil. But, it would be nice to have an excuse to buy another attachment. I do see a local landscaper use his tiller quite often. He goes into the job a week early and sprays with a short lived weed killer. When everything dies, he tills it in and finishes the job with plantings, grass, etc.
I know of a couple ppl that have power rakes that work great for this http://
www.woodsonline.com/turf_grounds/commercial/landscape_equipment/landscape_rakes/power_rakes.asp
 

500K_773

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Mar 5, 2004
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342
I know of a couple ppl that have power rakes that work great for this http://
www.woodsonline.com/turf_grounds/commercial/landscape_equipment/landscape_rakes/power_rakes.asp
I finally tried a rototiller attachment last week. I rented a 52” tiller to till a old hayfield and a dead section of lawn. The tiller worked well in the old lawn section, but did leave some larger 6” x 6” chunks of sod. I ran over the section again, but was not able to chew them up any smaller. The remaining soil looked like good topsoil (with some sod chunks) that would have been wasted if I removed it with my bucket. It might have also been a good idea to spread some fertilizer prior to rototilling. Speed while rototilling was slow, but I was still able to rototill a 1000 square foot area in about an hour.
The old hayfield was a little more difficult since it had not been mowed or raked in quite a few years. The sod/root bed was pretty thick and more difficult to till. I actually stalled the tiller quite a few times, but could quickly clear the jam by lifting the loader arms and reversing the tiller direction. There were some areas that had roots remaining from brush I had cut with a BrushCat last year. These roots would wrap around the tiller shaft and tines, but wouldn't cause a stall. I could clear the roots by raising the tiller and quickly cycling the direction of the tiller until everything fell out. The only material I had to manually remove was a section of barbed wire that wrapped around the tiller shaft.
The price of a new tiller is about $4,300, but I was able to rent it for $100 a day. I was able to till everything I needed in one day, so I don't think I can justify buying one at this time. I am hoping to get the dealer to let me demo the soil conditioner. I think it would be able to pulverize the remaining sod clumps and level the area for seeding without having to bring in any topsoil. The soil conditioner may have very well been able to work this area without rototilling, but the hayfield would have been too much, in my opinion.
 

500K_773

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Joined
Mar 5, 2004
Messages
342
I finally tried a rototiller attachment last week. I rented a 52” tiller to till a old hayfield and a dead section of lawn. The tiller worked well in the old lawn section, but did leave some larger 6” x 6” chunks of sod. I ran over the section again, but was not able to chew them up any smaller. The remaining soil looked like good topsoil (with some sod chunks) that would have been wasted if I removed it with my bucket. It might have also been a good idea to spread some fertilizer prior to rototilling. Speed while rototilling was slow, but I was still able to rototill a 1000 square foot area in about an hour.
The old hayfield was a little more difficult since it had not been mowed or raked in quite a few years. The sod/root bed was pretty thick and more difficult to till. I actually stalled the tiller quite a few times, but could quickly clear the jam by lifting the loader arms and reversing the tiller direction. There were some areas that had roots remaining from brush I had cut with a BrushCat last year. These roots would wrap around the tiller shaft and tines, but wouldn't cause a stall. I could clear the roots by raising the tiller and quickly cycling the direction of the tiller until everything fell out. The only material I had to manually remove was a section of barbed wire that wrapped around the tiller shaft.
The price of a new tiller is about $4,300, but I was able to rent it for $100 a day. I was able to till everything I needed in one day, so I don't think I can justify buying one at this time. I am hoping to get the dealer to let me demo the soil conditioner. I think it would be able to pulverize the remaining sod clumps and level the area for seeding without having to bring in any topsoil. The soil conditioner may have very well been able to work this area without rototilling, but the hayfield would have been too much, in my opinion.
StuZ,
I think the soil conditioner is almost identical to the power rake you posted. Looks like it could be a very useful tool. Sounds as if you can angle it and windrow debris and other odd sized material as you level / condition the area. The new summer WorkSaver magazine tells of a contractor that utilized the soil conditioner on a football field with great results and much labor/time savings.
 

500K_773

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Mar 5, 2004
Messages
342
StuZ,
I think the soil conditioner is almost identical to the power rake you posted. Looks like it could be a very useful tool. Sounds as if you can angle it and windrow debris and other odd sized material as you level / condition the area. The new summer WorkSaver magazine tells of a contractor that utilized the soil conditioner on a football field with great results and much labor/time savings.
I rented the soil conditioner (power rake) last weekend for some yard work before winter. I was both dissapointed and happy with the results. Initially I wanted to level an area which was uneven. The soil conditioner basically follows the terrain and does not do too well of a job cutting out high spots. I was hoping to cut the high spots and push/carry the excess in front of the soil conditioner to fill the low spots. A made a few passes over the area (about 15-20 minutes) and was dissapointed with the results and moved to another area to see about ripping up sod.
The soil conditioner does chew up the sod fairly well, but would sometimes carry a large chunk up over the drum. I did stall the drum a few times also, but just back up a little or lift the drum and you are back in business. Overall, the sod pieces were somewhat smaller than what the rototiller left, but would require multiple passes to totally pulverize. In the end, I just ended up scraping the sod away with my bucket and leaving it in a pile to dispose of later. Utimately for total renewal of an area, I would recommend rototilling, then using the soil conditioner. Kind of overkill, but would have awesome results, especially if you rototilled in some fertilizer.
I also used the soil conditioner on an area in which I scraped the top overburden (moss, roots, dead leaves, etc...) and tried to leave as much good topsoil as possible for use for a new pasture. There were smaller roots remaining in this good soil which I wanted to remove. The soil conditioner did a good job carrying the roots ahead of the machine to a debris pile. A couple of passes (criss-crossed) over the area and everything looked great. 2 hours for about a 9,000 ft2 area.
After I leveled another area down to bare soil, I had some rocks remaining. The soil conditioner did a good job of raking the rocks out of the area. I made three passes (criss-crossed again) and removed 80%-90% of the rocks, not bad at all. If I had more time, I would have made another pass to get the remaining rocks. I did find that even with the drum fully angled, rocks could be throw forward and bounce back into an area which you had already made a pass. I suppose with a little more practice and adjustment of the drum depth I may have achieved better results.
It's been about 15 years since I have used the Bobcat Landscape Rake, but I think that it may do a little better job removing rocks (larger than 3/4”) but at a slower rate. Overall, for my purposes, I would think I would need both the rototiller and soil conditioner, but have a hard time justifiying about $11,000 to purchase both of these items right now. I'll stick to renting them as needed.
 

lawnsrusinc.

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Mar 20, 2005
Messages
5
I rented the soil conditioner (power rake) last weekend for some yard work before winter. I was both dissapointed and happy with the results. Initially I wanted to level an area which was uneven. The soil conditioner basically follows the terrain and does not do too well of a job cutting out high spots. I was hoping to cut the high spots and push/carry the excess in front of the soil conditioner to fill the low spots. A made a few passes over the area (about 15-20 minutes) and was dissapointed with the results and moved to another area to see about ripping up sod.
The soil conditioner does chew up the sod fairly well, but would sometimes carry a large chunk up over the drum. I did stall the drum a few times also, but just back up a little or lift the drum and you are back in business. Overall, the sod pieces were somewhat smaller than what the rototiller left, but would require multiple passes to totally pulverize. In the end, I just ended up scraping the sod away with my bucket and leaving it in a pile to dispose of later. Utimately for total renewal of an area, I would recommend rototilling, then using the soil conditioner. Kind of overkill, but would have awesome results, especially if you rototilled in some fertilizer.
I also used the soil conditioner on an area in which I scraped the top overburden (moss, roots, dead leaves, etc...) and tried to leave as much good topsoil as possible for use for a new pasture. There were smaller roots remaining in this good soil which I wanted to remove. The soil conditioner did a good job carrying the roots ahead of the machine to a debris pile. A couple of passes (criss-crossed) over the area and everything looked great. 2 hours for about a 9,000 ft2 area.
After I leveled another area down to bare soil, I had some rocks remaining. The soil conditioner did a good job of raking the rocks out of the area. I made three passes (criss-crossed again) and removed 80%-90% of the rocks, not bad at all. If I had more time, I would have made another pass to get the remaining rocks. I did find that even with the drum fully angled, rocks could be throw forward and bounce back into an area which you had already made a pass. I suppose with a little more practice and adjustment of the drum depth I may have achieved better results.
It's been about 15 years since I have used the Bobcat Landscape Rake, but I think that it may do a little better job removing rocks (larger than 3/4”) but at a slower rate. Overall, for my purposes, I would think I would need both the rototiller and soil conditioner, but have a hard time justifiying about $11,000 to purchase both of these items right now. I'll stick to renting them as needed.
What was the model that you used and what machine? I have heard more good things than bad about the harley rake with the side plates on. Jason
 

500K_773

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Mar 5, 2004
Messages
342
What was the model that you used and what machine? I have heard more good things than bad about the harley rake with the side plates on. Jason
I used the 84" hydraulic angle Soil Conditioner from Bobcat. The minimum flow requirement for the attachment is 18 GPM which is more than the 16.7 GPM which my machine maxs out at. This is most likely why I stalled the drum occasionally. The system really bogged down when I utilized the hydraulic angle function. In another post, you mentioned you had a 743. A 743B model only has a 11 GPM auxiliary flow, so you most likely could only utilize the 48" manual angle model.
 

lawnsrusinc.

Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2005
Messages
5
I used the 84" hydraulic angle Soil Conditioner from Bobcat. The minimum flow requirement for the attachment is 18 GPM which is more than the 16.7 GPM which my machine maxs out at. This is most likely why I stalled the drum occasionally. The system really bogged down when I utilized the hydraulic angle function. In another post, you mentioned you had a 743. A 743B model only has a 11 GPM auxiliary flow, so you most likely could only utilize the 48" manual angle model.
Yes i have a 743 with a 11 gpm flow its all i could afford at the time and i got it for a great deal. Would i be able to use a larger harley rake? I can use a larger one for free but have to pay for a smaller one to rent. Would it still work? Jason
 

500K_773

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Mar 5, 2004
Messages
342
Yes i have a 743 with a 11 gpm flow its all i could afford at the time and i got it for a great deal. Would i be able to use a larger harley rake? I can use a larger one for free but have to pay for a smaller one to rent. Would it still work? Jason
Give the larger one a try. It's flow requirements may not give you results that reflect well of the product's full capability. The weight of the larger models (1,100# - 1,300#) may also affect the performance with your machine (1,300 ROC).
Also be sure to rent the smaller on to give it a try. The rental price could easily be recouped on even a small job. $125 or so for rental is cheap compared purchasing the wrong sized attachment.
 

lawnsrusinc.

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Joined
Mar 20, 2005
Messages
5
I know of a couple ppl that have power rakes that work great for this http://
www.woodsonline.com/turf_grounds/commercial/landscape_equipment/landscape_rakes/power_rakes.asp
I hear you i just can use a 72" for free when ever i want for free if i want i can use it for a year strait. Thats why i was wondering if you had any ideas with situations that you have had. with running larger rakes with smaller flow hyd.
 

siduramaxde

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Nov 15, 2005
Messages
362
I hear you i just can use a 72" for free when ever i want for free if i want i can use it for a year strait. Thats why i was wondering if you had any ideas with situations that you have had. with running larger rakes with smaller flow hyd.
For tearing out old turf I like to use the wolf disk first and then the soil conditioner. The disk up roots old grass and weeds much faster than the soil conditioner would alone. After disking I runn the soil conditioner over the area, then seed/fertilize, 2 weeks later...presto changeo... beautiful new grass.
 

frank123

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Nov 17, 2006
Messages
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For tearing out old turf I like to use the wolf disk first and then the soil conditioner. The disk up roots old grass and weeds much faster than the soil conditioner would alone. After disking I runn the soil conditioner over the area, then seed/fertilize, 2 weeks later...presto changeo... beautiful new grass.
I've been using a Harley rake for seed prep and renovation since 01. Have learned a lot since then. For renovations, we've had the best results by doing a Roundup application and letting it get good and brown. The power rake can then easily dig in for leveling and prepare a nice seedbed with minimal debris to remove and haul out. If you don't kill it off first, or if you roto till, you can spend a whole lot of time making repeated passes and driving the dump truck to get rid of all of the sod chunks. Being the perfectionist I am, it has also eliminated countless hours of hand raking. Frank
 
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