The Q&A Archives: Roto-Tilling preparations

Question: Hello,

There are two major questions i'd like to ask:

I am preparing to rototill a plot of land that is about 20'x40' in width/length. The plot is covered in grass, weeds, and some smaller rocks embedded in the soil. I have read online that watering the soil prior to tilling will ease the process of tearing into the ground, is that true?
I plan to remove all unwanted grass, roots, etc. after rototilling so that there will be a nicely plowed field of soil.
Can you suggest using any special tools to round up the grass, etc. rather cheaply after tilling is complete?
How long does it take to kill the grass/weeds if the ground is covered in black visqueen?
Last Major question:

We have a Morning-glory infestation problem here. I have read that using products like roundup and like herbicides can be effective. Do you suggest cutting a vine open and leaving a small cup filled with roundup nearby to let the vine soak in the poison?
My conclusion was that repeated pulling eventually drains the nutrients the roots have to use to rebuild and slowly kills them off when they can't get sunlight.

Thanks for your advice!

Answer: What you've read is true - soil that is bone dry will be difficult to rototill; soil that is moist will be easy to rototill. However, turning on a sprinkler to wet the soil isn't going to wet it very deeply. I'd wait until after a few days of soaking rains to get out the tiller. There's something about natural rainfall that seems to get everything equally moist.... There in Seattle you shouldn't have to wait too long before you get rain.

Although the area is reasonably large, hand raking is the best way to remove the dead plant debris and stones your tiller brings to the surface. Anything mechanical will leave some debris behind so I think it would be just as easy to rake everything into small piles from the onset.

Your idea with the Round-Up won't be nearly as effective as waiting until the fall months to eradicate the bindweed. While it's true that continually cutting the vines down to ground level will eventually starve out the roots, I think that a properly timed application of Round-Up will be just as effective. In the fall plants tend to speed up the process of transporting the sun's energy from the foliage down to the roots for storage over the winter months. This ensures the plant has ample stored energy to begin growing in the spring. Applying Round-Up in the early fall will guarantee that the herbicide will be translocated to the roots of the plant and should kill the roots when they are most vulnerable. Repeat applications may be necessary - read and follow the label directions.

Best wishes with your landscape renovation!

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