Grit Blogs > The Daily Commute

DR Roto-Hog Tiller: Get Your Garden Going

By Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief


Tags: gardens, tillers, machinery,

GRIT Editor Hank Will at the wheel of his 1964 IH pickup.My Osage County, Kansas ground finally dried out enough last week to make it worthwhile to fire up the DR Roto-Hog pull-type tiller to work some straw and chicken manure into the vegetable garden. My Partner in Culinary Crime brought along a positively modern Husqvarna lawn tractor when she moved to Kansas, so I left the vintage Cub Cadet 884 Diesel in the shed for this garden exercise. The Husqvarna had no trouble towing the DR Roto-Hog garden tiller – in fact I probably used the brakes to slow things down more than anything else. I have to admit, it was a little strange to operate a lawn tractor that pretty much lacks quirks. Sometimes I like working around the quirks of 30 year old machines – however it was cool to operate a machine that started up with no coaxing and didn’t require any tweaks or adjustments halfway through the operation.

Hank Will Gardening with his DR Roto-Hog Tiller and Husqvarna Tractor

The DR Roto-Hog tiller I have is equipped with a culti-packer, which is perfect for preparing a firm seedbed and for pressing broadcast seeds into contact with the soil to facilitate germination, but my mission last week was just to get things stirred up. What I particularly like about the DR Roto-Hog garden tiller is that it utilizes a remote control for electrically raising and lowering the tiller and for turning it on and shutting it down. The 36-inch wide tilling swath is nice too and it makes short the work of tilling a large garden.

I managed to give the garden a second, deeper tilling on Sunday before the first spring thunderstorms hit. My Partner in Culinary Crime and I managed to seed all kinds of greens and some other things before the deluge commenced early this week. When a normally dry waterway is running like a white water creek after work, you know a lot of rain fell pretty quickly during the day. Now I know why ponds have carefully designed spillways.

We planted the potatoes a couple of weeks ago (before the soil was sufficiently fit for seeding) and have plenty of other crops to get in. The rhubarb is up but so far no asparagus. There’s spinach in the cold frame and lush basil in the house. I am supposed to build a garden fence to keep the dogs out during the growing season and a group of chickens in after harvest. I’ll try to keep you updated as the growing season progresses.  

Photos courtesy Karen Keb.


Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .

larry mcvey
1/21/2012 6:30:30 PM

How would that DR Roto-Hog compare with a Troy-Bult Horse Tiller? I like the thing about being pulled behind a small lawn or garden tractor but the 36'' wide tiller concerns me. Seems kinda wide for row spacing with lots of wasted garden and when you add the tractor it might even be wider. How does it compare in price to the Troy-Bult Horse tiller?


nckansas gardener
9/18/2011 9:05:58 PM

Hank, I ran across this posting recently. I am looking to buy a new tiller this fall/winter and the DR Tiller is on the list. Could you give me your opinion of the tiller since you have had it another year. What are the pros and cons with the tiller? Does it have plenty of power and how does it compare with a lawn tractor mounted tiller? I was concerned with it being able to work up fine seedbed. I was surprised to see your location. I am only a couple of hours away. Any guidance would be appreciated. Thanks.


hank will_2
4/13/2010 9:50:43 AM

Hey Dave -- Those spring winds can devastate young plants and definitely keep you on your toes with regard to lightweight objects in the yard. Believe it or not, but I really like Kansas because the wind blows less than in South Dakota. In SD it was never safe to leave an empty trash barrel or 5-gallon bucket out without serious weight in it. My great grandfather and his crews planted millions of trees in shelterbelts in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota -- I still tend to plant trees in rows and have a small grove coming along to the south of the garden and chicken yard. MountainWoman -- I have messed with the DR towable backhoe and pull-type rotary cutter (which I abused by cutting abuot 8 acres of thick brush last summer) and find them to be well built and pretty robust. I visited their plant in Vergennes a few years ago. They are good people and the company is one that would be cool to work for.


nebraska dave
4/12/2010 9:54:32 PM

Hank sorry I missed the first line of the comment. I always write my comments in word so I can keep track of the word count. Hank, with the wind storm you had on Monday and Tuesday it should have dried out anything. I was in Sublette Kansas for the week and I have never encountered wind that would knock down a grown man if not prepared for it. Opening doors was a trip. Turn the handle, crack the door, hold on with both hands and expect to be yanked out of the door. My word how do you endure such things. Anything that wasn’t strapped down or inside blew into the next county. Of course the wind fresh off the feed lot didn’t help matters any. We have wind in Nebraska but we plant trees for wind breaks. No wonder they call it tornado alley there. The wind just naturally swirls even when it’s just blowing. On the other side Thursday and Friday were top ten days with calm winds of only 20 MPH and bright sunshine. Most of my tilling days have been with a flat spade. I still like to spade up a good garden spot. Although now the spots are all beds and the beds have been reduced to three. Once the bed is established it does remain easy to spade. I want to expand to five beds this year so yeah more spading will be involved. I tell you what, I’m starting to feel it more every year when the spading is completed. Maybe I’ll just have get me one of them there new fangled motorized tiller thingies. I hope all your gardening days are all filled passion and joy.


nebraska dave
4/12/2010 9:44:13 PM

Sublette Kansas for the week and I have never encountered wind that would knock down a grown man if not prepared for it. Opening doors was a trip. Turn the handle, crack the door, hold on with both hands and expect to be yanked out of the door. My word how do you endure such things. Anything that wasn’t strapped down or inside blew into the next county. Of course the wind fresh off the feed lot didn’t help matters any. We have wind in Nebraska but we plant trees for wind breaks. No wonder they call it tornado alley there. The wind just naturally swirls even when it’s just blowing. On the other side Thursday and Friday were top ten days with calm winds of only 20 MPH and bright sunshine. Most of my tilling days have been with a flat spade. I still like to spade up a good garden spot. Although now the spots are all beds and the beds have been reduced to three. Once the bed is established it does remain easy to spade. I want to expand to five beds this year so yeah more spading will be involved. I tell you what, I’m starting to feel it more every year when the spading is completed. Maybe I’ll just have get me one of them there new fangled motorized tiller thingies. I hope all your gardening days are all filled passion and joy.


mountain woman
4/10/2010 5:54:53 AM

We're a long way from planting but I have to say we purchased the DR rototiller and the DR brush cutter 2 summers ago and we LOVE them. The amount of work the machines can do is amazing. Best of all, they are made by a Vermont company and it's great when we can support our local businesses. Anyway, enjoyed reading your experience and we too can highly recommend DR products.