The fresh smell of tilled or cultivated soil motivates any gardener to plant for future enjoyment. The simple preparation for a vegetable garden or a new flower bed is rewarded when plants grow and carry fruit or flowers.
Any farmer or gardener will tell you that a successful garden starts with the soil and how you prepare the soil.
If you are into gardening, a garden tiller is one tool you must definitely possess in your arsenal. Whether you are planning to prepare some flower beds or plant a vegetable garden, a cultivator is essential to help turn the soil, mix the compost and most importantly, to loosen the soil. Professionals recommend to till the garden twice a year, before the planting and after the harvest to ensure that the soil stays healthy.
If you want to find the best garden tiller to maintain the quality of your soil, there are a few questions you’ll need to answer to make sure you get the right tiller for your particular situation.
Start by considering the size of your garden and the type of soil you have. While some tillers are suitable for large spaces and breaking new ground, there are others that are useful in tilling hard-packed dirt. Shopping around you will find there are three different types of garden tillers – namely, battery-powered, corded and gasoline-powered tillers. Each type has its own perks and limitations. It is important for you to compare your options and choose wisely.
Battery Powered Garden Cultivators
Cordless garden cultivators enable you to till your garden with complete freedom since they are lightweight, quiet and easy to operate. While some people refer to these tools as battery-powered tillers, they really aren’t. Battery powered cultivators just don’t have the power you need to chop apart hard, encrusted dirt. While these machines are not as powerful as gasoline-powered tillers, they are usually much more convenient and maneuverable than a large gas-powered tiller .
Best Battery Powered Garden Tiller
- Powerful transmission with dual tines break up soil to allow water and nutrients to reach plant roots
- Powered by 20-volt MAX lithium-ion battery, with longer lifespan and charge retention than NiCad batteries
- Cultivates up to 325 square feet per charge
- Counter-oscillating tines prevent weeds from tangling
Freedom, power and convenience are three words that aptly describe the performance of the LGC120B. If you are looking for a cultivator to mix your already-prepared soil in a flower garden for example, then this tool is a great choice.
Battery Power For The Job At Hand
If you’ve read any of my other battery-powered powertool reviews, you’d know that I generally recommend only buying 40V and above cordless equipment. This particular category is an exception to the rule.
Look, you don’t need a ton of power transfer for a cultivator. This tool does an awesome job of replacing the hand cultivator – but it won’t handle soil that you couldn’t tackle with that hand tool. It’s meant to save your back and knees while still getting the job done – but it’s not a tiller. Here’s what a hand-cultivator looks like in case you forgot:
If your soil could be mixed with this hand tool, the LGC120 will do the job even better.
The LGC120B includes a 20V lithium-ion battery system that is both long-lasting and interchangeable. Your run time will depend on how compact the soil is (remember, this IS NOT a tiller) – but expect to be able to pound through a 12 foot by 30 foot garden before needing a charge.
Corded Electric Garden Tillers
Garden tillers that are powered by an extension cord are known to be quiet, maneuverable and more powerful than a battery-power unit. They in general are less powerful than gas tillers. In fact, only the highest-amperage tools can really be called rototillers – most are cultivators.
As long as you are within 100 feet of an outlet, you will be able to utilize an electric tiller just as you would a gas one. Just make sure that you have a large enough wire gague for your extension cord – and that you keep your eye out to make sure you don’t accidentally “till” your own live AC power cord.
Our Corded Electric Garden Cultivator and Tiller Recommendations
- 11" cutting width / 8" cutting depth
- Powerful 8.5 Amp
- Four strong steel four-blade tines
- Transports easily with flip up & down wheels
The TC70001 is an electric garden tiller that is ideal for soil renewal. This machine is suitable for small-duty gardening tasks such as making flower beds. The decent motor enables you to till the garden with ease. If you are looking for a tiller to create or maintain your personal garden, this is a smart and cost-effective choice.
Easy to Start
To start the machine, all you need to do is hold down the lever. This automatic start button enables you to use the machine easily. Once the tines start to rotate, it is possible for you to till the dirt up to 11 inches wide and 8 inches deep.
The TC70001 comes with a good warranty. As long as you use it for the right tasks in the right way, the machine will survive for a longer period. If you keep the machine properly cleaned, maintained and stored, you will be able to use it for much longer.
The machine is not exactly lightweight since it weighs 30 pounds. The 8.5 amp motor and the rear wheels enable the machine to function just like a lawn mower. Despite its weight, the machine is reported to be surprisingly maneuverable.
- Powerful 12-amp motor cultivates up to 16 in. (40.6 cm) wide x 8 in. (20.3 cm) deep
- 6 durable steel angled tines for maximum durability and performance
- Handle folds for convenient storage and easy transport ; Voltage (V):120
- 3-position wheel adjustment. Maximum Extension Cord Length (ft.): 100
The TJ603E is the cleanest and greenest way to till your garden. The powerful 12 amp motor enables you to cultivate an area and get rid of weeds in a matter of minutes. Although the machine is not powered by gasoline, it is just as powerful. It is possible for you to tame your yard with more comfort and less strain. Moreover, the machine also includes a collapsible handle which makes the tiller easy to store.
The high-powered 12 amp motor that generates 340 RPM makes it possible for you to pulverize the dirt quickly and easily. This impressive power capacity of the motor will also enable you to slice through the soil with ease and without effort.
You can start up your tiller with a push of a button. The absence of gas, fumes and tune-ups will enable you to start and maintain the machine without much effort. This will make gardening a less time-consuming task.
The TJ603E includes 6 steel angled tines that are highly durable. The high amount of durability gives assurance that the product will be useful on the long-term. These durable tines will allow you to dig through the ground up to 8-inches deep and 16-inches wide. This means that you will be able to cultivate your soil in no time.
Gasoline Powered Garden Tillers
The easiest way to till your garden is to utilize a gasoline-powered garden tiller. These machines are available in various sizes and shapes to fit your unique needs. The internal combustion engines of these machines have the capacity to handle heavy-duty tasks without any issue. Unfortunately, this high efficiency comes with a price. They are louder, heavier and give off more pollution than their electric counterparts.
All of the following products are good choices – pick the one that has enough power to handle the project you will use it for. If it’s labeled as a cultivator by us, it probably doesn’t have the power or construction to handle a real tilling job. We’ve listed our choices from least to most powerful.
Our Top 4 Gas Garden Tiller Choices
- This powerful and versatile cultivator is designed to cultivate flower beds and vegetable gardens;Integrated grab bar
- Equipped with a 29cc 4-cycle engine does not require mixing oil and gas and has a 6-12 inch adjustable tilling width
- 6 premium steel tines are ideal for culivating up to 5 inches deep
- The SpringAssist JumpStart technology allows the engine to be started without pulling a cord (engine starter sold separately)
Power and versatility are the strong suits of this particular gas-powered tiller. This cultivator is specifically designed to create flower beds and vegetable gardens. The machine includes a 29cc 4-cycle engine, 6 eight-inch blades and well as a die-cast gearbox. If you are looking for a high-tech garden tiller, then this should be your pick.
The machine is ideal for small plots of land since it can be easily maneuvered within restricted space. Since the machine is lightweight and compact, you will be able to maneuver the machine in tight spaces. The transport wheels make it much easier for you to move around with the machine.
Easy to Start
Most people assume that gasoline-powered machines need to be started by pulling the cord. Thanks to technology, you do not have to deal with this problem anymore. The TB146 can be easily started with the push of a button. This JumpStart technology enables you to get on with your tilling without any delay.
One of the biggest inconveniences associated with gas-powered machines is the mixing of gasoline and oil in 2 cycle engines. This won’t be a problem with the TB146 because it’s a 4-cycle design. This machine has a high torque level which allows it to handle most any job you throw at it.
- Versatile - Weeding, mixing and aerating.
- Convenient - On-board wheels adjust for transport and depth control.
- Control - Overhand control reduces bouncing and jumping allowing you to remove your weeds, not your plants.
- Powerful - Largest, most powerful engine in its class.
This little cultivating monster is a powerful cultivator that all garden enthusiasts should definitely appreciate. Not only can this machine till the soil in your garden, but it is also capable of getting rid of the weeds. Despite its compact size, the machine has the capacity to break up hard soil. If you use it properly, it is strong enough to dig up hardened clay as well.
The compact and lightweight design is the main attraction of this machine – especially since it is a gasoline-powered tiller. Although the machine is not ultra-light, it is easy to carry and operate when compared to the alternatives in the market. The 35 pounds are concentrated on the front area of the machine. This enables users to transport it without any hassle.
The MC43 combines a triple mechanism to loosen up the soil. The versatility of this machine enables you to aerate, weed and mix your garden space. So, whether you are planning to get rid of the weeds or mix up some fertilizers, this machine will definitely be useful.
The high maneuverability and the adjustable on-board wheels of this machine enables you to move it around with ease. If you are planning to work on your vegetable plot the whole day, you can go ahead and do so without experiencing arm strain.
- 208cc Briggs & Stratton Engine
- Adjustable Tilling Width - 12, 24 and 26-Inch
- Front Tines
- Includes drag bar and counterweight
The 205cc engine makes the FT900 one of the most powerful gas tillers in the market. The front-facing, forward-rotating tines enable you to dig through the soil without any hassle. The .075-gallon fuel tank is yet another asset of the machine since it enables you to till mass areas continuously by eliminating the need for frequent refueling. The only disadvantage of using this machine is that is you will have to use a recoil start since it does not include an easy electric start.
Adjustable Tilling Widths
The FT900 includes three different tilling widths of 12, 24 and 26 inches. This versatility enables you to use the machine for any type of gardening requirement. Whether it is general maintenance or digging a vegetable plot, you will definitely find this machine to be useful.
The vertically adjustable handlebar of this machine allows you to raise or lower it according to your own level of convenience. It is possible for you to achieve a comfortable tilling position to eliminate the strain on your back.
The transport wheels of the machine are 8-inches. Although the absence of agricultural wheels means that there will be no traction or balance, the presence of the drag bar makes up for it. The inclusion of this gadget gives you extra balance and stability.
- Powerful Honda 4-cycle (gas only, no fuel mix required) 25cc engine spins the tines twice as fast as other tillers
- Weighs just 24 pounds. Tine speed up to 240 rpm
- Finger controlled throttle for infinite speed control and ease of operation
- The compact 9 inch width allows the tiller to get into tight spaces around your yard that larger tillers cannot get to.
If you are looking for a compact, powerful, lightweight tiller that offers fast and easy tilling, then the Mantis 7940 is the answer to your prayers. Not only is the machine easy to start, but it also offers quiet performance despite being powered by gasoline. This means that it is possible for you to till the garden without waking up your prickly neighbors. The machine is also considered to be one of the most reliable tillers in the field.
This 4-cycle tiller weighs no more than 24 pounds. Not only is this one of the lightest tillers in the market, but it is also easy to carry, start and use. Despite the compact design, the machine is capable of digging up to 10-inches deep.
Sure Grip Handle
The soft, sure-grip handle is ergonomically designed to facilitate a fatigue-free operation. If you are planning to use this tiller for a heavy-duty task, you can be assured that you will not experience any arm strain at all. The comfortable grip will definitely go easy on your hands and wrists.
Features In A Garden Tiller
Is There A Difference Between A Cultivator And A Tiller?
Although both a garden tiller and a cultivator turn over soil, their functions differ. In short, a tiller is for the heavy-duty of breaking apart and loosening hard soil. A cultivator is better suited for mixing together soil and nutrients, rather than chopping apart hard, compacted soil.
One rule of thumb is if you can walk on the site of your new garden when it’s dry and not get your shoes full of dirt, you need a tiller. Picture grass or sodded land, or hard sunbaked-soil. Otherwise, you can use a cultivator.
To prepare a new garden bed, you use a garden tiller to break up the compacted, grass or weeded-over soil. You need loosened soil to plant or mix compost, organic fertilizers and other food for the soil. A garden tiller transforms the compact soil into loose workable soil.
The tiller can also used when your soil is poor, and you want to mix nutrients with the soil. Tilling aerates the soil causing air pockets to form that improves absorption of air and water for plants. Plants spread roots easier in loose soil, especially in clay soil. Sometimes the power of the tiller is too much for this job, and actually hurts the soil. Look for a variable-control tiller if you plan on using it primarily as a mixer.
A cultivator doesn’t work as deep as the garden tiller. The cultivator mixes soil already loosened by the garden tiller with the fertilizer. The cultivator is also used when you want to sow seeds in a flower bed. By cultivating the tilled soil, the soil becomes loser and finer.
For a raised bed or garden boxes, a cultivator works better than a garden tiller because the soil is already looser and the cultivator is easy to manage. A cultivator can break the crust that forms on top of the soil before the more soil becomes hard and compact. Once the hard crust has formed, you really should use a garden tiller for the deeper work.
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What’s The Difference Between A Rear Tine Tiller And Other Tillers?
The major difference between garden tillers is where the engine is placed.
In a front tine tiller, the blades are in front of the engine. In rear tine tillers, the blades are at the back, behind the engine. The engine pulls the blades allowing you to till deeper with a rear tine tiller.
To move the front tine tiller to the right spot, push on the handles to lift the tines. The wheels and motor transport the tiller to the right spot. When lowered, the tines dig into the soil and move the motor forward when tilling. The tines in a rear tine tiller don’t spin until you pull the lever.
With blades in front, the front tine tiller is easier to maneuver between narrow flower beds. To use a rear tine tiller in a garden bed, the rows must be at least 16 inches apart for manuevering.
A vertical tine tiller till the ground in vertical rotating motion. This is supposed to damage the soil less than other kinds of tillers.
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When Would You Use A Rear Tine Tiller
Hard and compact soil needs the power to till. Deep tilling is required to loosen enough soil for planting purposes. The extra power of the rear tine tiller breaks the soil deeper than other tillers.
Rear tine tillers are used for heavy duty work like tilling a large piece of lawn to make room for a flower bed or vegetable patch. From a safety perspective, when the rear tine tiller hits an object like a rock, the rear tine tiller jumps away from you.
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What Type Of Engine Is Best
You need a powerful engine when tilling the ground. Gas engines are more powerful than the electric garden tillers.
The 2-cycle engine is lighter in weight than the 4-cycle engine. By firing once every revolution, the 2-cycle has a stronger power boost than the 4-cycle engine.
The 4-cycle engine causes less pollution, is more durable and efficient than the 2-cycle engine. It also costs more.
The OHV (overhead valve) engines are fuel efficient, cause the least pollution, and are lighter in weight. Many rear tine tillers have OHV engines.
For small gardens and soft soil corded electric and battery powered garden tillers should be sufficient. The extension cord may limit the distance you can travel from the socket.
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How Deep Can A Garden Tiller Dig?
The garden tiller tills as deep as 8-10 inches which are great for a new garden bed. When mixing nutrients in your soil in preparation for the next season, you don’t have to till too deep. Four to 6 inches should be enough.
Factors that influence how deep you should till:
- Till new gardens as deep as 8-10 inches. If you work in the fertilizer and other nutrients in the tilled soil, the workable soil is then 8-12 inches deep.
- To avoid harming or destroying the ecosystem in an established garden don’t till as deep as you would with a new garden.
- To spread the compost and fertilizer evenly, till deep. Add half of the compost and then you till the second time but shallower. Another method is to add the compost and fertilizer on top of the soil. Till deeply the first time and the shallower the second time.
- The root systems of the plants require different tilling depths. A deep-rooted system needs deep tilling. Till as deep as you can. Roots that spread more to the sides need shallower tilled soil.
How Important Is A Counterweight?
A counterweight stabilizes and balances the garden tiller, and thereby keeps the wheels on the ground. When breaking up rocky soil, the tiller can jump around and jerk suddenly, especially a front tine tiller.
By pushing down on the handlebars, you weigh down the depth bar of the tines. This counterweight effect is a safer way to use the front tine tiller. You have more control over the garden tiller when the tines are weighted down.
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What Type Of Tires Are There? What’s Best?
In front tine tillers the tines move the garden tiller forward. Instead of carrying the garden tiller, the wheels guide the garden tiller to the spot you want to till. Pivot the wheels up before you start tilling.
In rear tine tillers, the front wheels and engine move the tiller forward. The tiller is self-propelled and automatically moves forward when tiling the soil. Large wheels move easier across different types of terrain.
Roots and sharp rocks puncture and can cut tires while tilling. To minimize accidental punctures and slashes, choose a tire with large traction bars like a tractor with extra plies under the tread for additional protection.
Don’t skimp on the tires. The quality tires influence the control and maneuverability of the garden tiller. Pneumatic tires of at least 13-inches with excellent traction will cover any soil and terrain.
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Are There Different Types Of Tines, And What Are The Best?
There are three types of tines.
- Bolo tines are standard tines that come with the garden tiller. Designed to avoid clogging, bolo tines till deep.
- Slasher tines chop roots and thick vegetation. These tines are short with sharp points that must be kept sharpened to slash the roots.
- Pick and chisel tines break up hard rocky soil. These slightly curved tines are of medium length and can clog if used to slash vegetation.
The movement direction of the tines is also important.
- Standard rotating tine (SRT) rotate forward.
- Counter rotating tines (CRT) rotate backward and is used to till hard ground and clay. The CRT works in the opposite direction as the tiller wheels.
- Dual rotating tines can rotate forward and backward. When tilling the soft soil, you use the forward rotating tines and for hard compact soil the reverse tilling motion.
Do You Need One That Can Go In Reverse?
Although the rear tine tiller is heavier than a front tine tiller, the motor and wheels help with forwarding motion. When in a tight spot, a reverse gear on a rear tine tiller can come in very handy. In a small garden, it’s difficult to turn a rear tine tiller. Therefore, it is easier to till forward one row and to till backward the next row.
Although the front tine tiller is created to move forward, some gardeners want a deeper till than it provides. Then they pull the front tine tiller backwards; this creates deeper tilling. When walking backwards, you’re not walking in the already tilled soil.
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Best Type of Garden Tiller for Your Yard
Best For A Small Garden
- A small garden rototiller with 4-6 inches of width should be sufficient for a small garden less than 1,500 square feet.
- A lightweight tiller maneuvers comfortably in smaller garden beds.
- Electric tillers/cultivators have enough power for small gardens if the soil isn’t rocky and is relatively weed free.
- If you have a small rocky garden and you need the power of a rear tine tiller, choose one that has a reverse gear for areas where you can’t turn the tiller.
- Either the Black+Decker LGC120 or the Earthwise 11 inch are good choices for electric;
Best for Rocky vs. Sandy Soil?
- A lightweight tiller or a front tine tiller will skip over the rocky soil. A counterweight will steady the tiller.
- Rocky soil needs heavier powerful garden tillers whereas sandy soil will suffice with an electric garden tiller.
- The Husqvarna is a good choice.
- A rear tine tiller with CRT will break and loosen compact hard ground.
- The short teeth of slasher tines till sandy soil easier whereas the pick and chisel tines will break up rocky soil.
- This Honda-made Mantis is a good choice.
Best For A Large Garden
- Gardens larger than 5,000 square feet need gas-powered garden tillers with at least 6 horsepower or more to comfortably till the ground.
- For large gardens, you really can’t use electric power. Stick with a gasoline-powered model.
Despite their compact size, garden cultivators and tiller are not low-cost investments. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you are investing your money on the right tiller.