What's the best way to "clean" dirt?


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I have about 100 sq ft of dirt that I dug up with a shovel to til the soil. What's the easiest way to remove all the roots so I can use for new plants? Would a tiller help to bring up the roots and make it easy to rake up and separate? These are what I had in mind:



There's a lot of roots. Will the tiller be strong enough or get gunked up and stop? Will the tiller slice through the roots and make it harder to remove?
 
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A tiller will work but may not be necessary. If you are able to break up the soil then run a rake through it. It might take a few swipes but the roots will come out. You may have to hit the roots with the tip of the shovel to cut the stubborn ones out. It's such a small area that it is hard to justify the cost of a rental. If you do decide on the tiller go with a bigger one and not a small Mantis.
 
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It will be much better to remove these roots by hand. If you have weeds that grow on rhizome type roots and use a tiller, it will just chop up the roots and leave little bits that will all regrow - then you`ll have even more work to do.
The slow way is usually the best way :sorry:
 
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The 3 gardening tools needed that all gardeners should have are:
1) a leaf rake
2) a 16 tine garden rake
3) a 4 tine pitch fork ( long handle hay fork )

Begin with the pitch fork by pushing it into the soil and lifting to bring debris to the surface then switch to the garden rake and possibly the leaf rake at some point. Once over the area do it again at 90° to the 1st. pass.

The shovel has already raised some to the surface so don't drive those back down with a tiller.

This is only 100 sq. ft. and you could have that accomplished before ya could get a aggravating engine started on a tiller.
 
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I have dealt with Virginia creeper, wild grapes, and bamboo. In all instances, I have dug the ground with a tiller and raked the area clean. I own a tiller which is why I used it. If I didn't own one I would have dug and raked. I have never had a problem with regrowing but I'm sure it could happen. I had a really bad spot of bamboo that I just kept mowing down and after a few years, it gave up and went away.
 
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Where to begin?

• A tiller will till the soil; it will not remove roots.
• There should be no need or want to remove roots from soil. Old roots are additional organic matter and will decompose on their own.
• If the soil is infested with a perennial weed (though the OP makes no mention of this) you are likely dealing with rhizomes, bulblets, and the like, not roots. You could remove what you see by hand, but you will doubtlessly not get all of it.
• ... and none of this has anything to do with 'cleaning dirt'.

If a perennial weed, such as Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) is an issue you can do the following. Depending on the severity, season, and time frame of the project you could either solarize the soil with (preferably) clear or black plastic, mulch the whole area with several layers of cardboard plus wood chips and wait, or just plant and mulch with cardboard, wood chips, and bark where feasible. There are also remedies involving herbicides and plastic weed cloths, which have their own pros and cons. I do not recommend them, in most situations.

In any case, you will never pull your last weed. Ongoing observation and maintenance is part of gardening. There is no need to overreact to the inevitable presence of unwanted plants (weeds). Just deal with them correctly on an ongoing basis and the problem will not get out of hand.
 
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If a perennial weed, such as Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) is an issue
... then using a tiller will chop the root up and every little bit left in the soil will grow a new plant. you need to loosen the soil then pull them out as complete as you can get.
If they are not that sort of regenerating root I am with Marck, why not just leave them to rot and compost where they are? And if they are he is right too, heavy mulching will suppress them, though personally I hoe, chopping the tops off regularly returns the tops to the soil and does for them in the end.
 
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My old neighbor will slice and shovel a root deep trench around the garden, cutting through all roots in the fall. It controls heavy rains also. He lets them rot and compost inside of the trenched area with the winter precip. This makes spring digging somewhat easier evidently and gives our flash flooding frog strangler rain events somewhere to run off to unless it floods completely. We can get 2-3 inches of rain in a storm regularly in spring.

Also my cultivator has seeding blades that basically look like circular saw blades. Maybe there is something of a tool, perhaps even a sawsall blade style that can help. The construction blades cut through nail and hold up suprisingly well in dirt when I cut stumps out.
 

Meadowlark

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My old neighbor will slice and shovel a root deep trench around the garden, cutting through all roots in the fall. ...
That's a smart neighbor. I do something similar only I use my backhoe attachment on my tractor. Years ago, I unwisely planted a bald cypress in the vicinity of the garden, and it has very aggressive roots...the backhoe really helps keep those roots in check. Vert effective and very easy.
 
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Learned something recently ----"cover crop" its what veggie gardeners plant for the winter on their veggie soil plat area by just casting seeds out, then the crop's grow through the winter and in the spring are tilled in.
This year's cover is all the fall leaves and charcoals from the yard debris I burned last year.
 
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Meadowlark

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Learned something recently ----"cover crop" its what veggie gardeners plant for the winter on their veggie soil plat area by just casting seeds out, then the crop's grow through the winter and in the spring are tilled in.
Here is my next spring's garden area...thickly covered in over 12-inch deep alfalfa.

I've been using cover crops for decades...and its not just for winters. I use them all seasons.

alalfa christmas 2021.JPG
 

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