Creating a deep, finely tilled bed to plant your vegetables, hedge or flowers in can be one of the most labour intensive, back breaking jobs a gardener will face. If the only tool available is a spade or a shovel you are guaranteeing a “sweatathon” from hell. Don’t allow this to happen to you- it is not worth it, invest in a rototiller and enjoy your garden.
I have performed this task many times before discovering the absolute joy at having a rototiller do the hard work for me. There are many different rototillers available nowadays, but some will not be suitable for more demanding jobs- such a tilling soil with rocks or stones in it- These need to be robust machines which i have discovered in my many years of using them.
In this article we will discuss the different features you should look for and keep in mind when deciding on which rototiller suits your needs best.
- 1 Why should you buy a rototiller?
- 2 Hazards when using a rototiller
- 3 Best Rototiller
- 4 Gather large stones before you begin
- 5 1. Mantis 7940- Honda Engine
- 6 Schiller Grounds Care Mantis 4-Cycle Tiller Cultivator 7940
- 7 2. Earthquake 20015 99cc
- 8 Earthquake Versa Front Tine Tiller Cultivator with 99cc 4-Cycle Viper Engine, 5 Year Warranty
- 9 3. Earthquake 6015V
- 10 Earthquake 6015V Rear Tine Tiller Rototiller with 212cc 4-Cycle Viper Engine, 5 Year Warranty
- 11 4. Husqvarna CRT900 14″
- 12 Husqvarna CRT900L, 17 in. 12.51cc Briggs & Stratton Rear-Tine Tiller, CARB
- 13 BONUS ITEM
- 14 Highly Commended: Yardmax YT4565
- 15 YARDMAX YT4565 Dual Rotating Rear Tine Tiller, 208Cc, Briggs & Stratton
- 16 Summary
Why should you buy a rototiller?
Apart from saving you hours of back breaking work, rototilling provides many benefits to your soil, it helps to loosen it up, preventing compaction in the soil as well as allowing air, water and nutrients to get to the roots of the plants. This will enable them to flourish and thrive.
There are lots of jobs which we need to dig the ground over at least 6 to 8 inches deep, such as when planting potatoes, cauliflower, peas, turnips, parsley and many more. Small tillers can also be used to till the soil in flower beds to get them ready for planting, or even to help weed them.
This breaking up of the soil can be done with hand tools, but it then needs to be broken into smaller pieces before you can plant anything into it. The amount of physical labour and time involved doing this manually is immense. It is due to this fact most people never get their soil as well tilled with a spade as they do with a mechanical tiller.
Garden soil types change wherever you are in the country, from sandy silty soils, loams, and hard clays.
But the major issue faced by gardeners when preparing soil is the stone content. Unless you are in a coastal area with sandy soils you will most likely have stones.
Hazards when using a rototiller
This article will discuss the most popular gas powered rototillers / rotovators for stony conditions.
- The majority of electric rototillers are too lightly constructed to deal long term with soil containing many large stones. Even the best rototillers made are going to be no good unless the very large stones are removed.
- The other thing to remember about using a rototiller in stony or rocky soil is that it is very dangerous.
- When the powered tine hits a very large stone or rock (6 inches in diameter plus) it will kick the rototiller out of the ground and this can result in injury to you.
- The types of commonly found injuries include the blade jumping back and hitting your foot or your leg which is very dangerous.
- The other thing which can happen is the tiller can jolt and pull the handles out of your hands or even break your wrist.
- Either way the tiller will be out of control and will be very difficult for you to grab hold of to regain control. Anyone standing nearby needs to be alert to any of these things happening.
I have chosen a list of 4 tillers i feel will be most suited to working in soil with stones in them.
They have certain features which make them better equipped to deal with stones- such as..
- Easily replaceable strong tines
- Strong handles
- Cutouts on engines
- Easy to maneouver and control
They are not for working in soil with massive stones- as no tiller should. These very large stones should be removed before you begin rototilling.
You may find that you will uncover more stones as you till the ground- that is ok, you can remove them before you begin your next run of tilling.
Front tine tillers such as the Mantis 7940 and the larger Earthquake 20015 are more suited to smaller plots. The rear tine tillers such as the Earthquake 6015V and the Husqvarna are better suited to larger plots.
Gather large stones before you begin
My advice to anyone who has a very rocky or stony patch which they want to rototill, is to walk through the plot first with a garden fork and locate the large stones (anything 4 to 6 inches in diameter and larger).
I would put these into your wheelbarrow and tip for use later in drainage or paths etc.
Now you can then rototill your first pass at a shallow depth – this way you can help prevent uncovering a massive stone buried deep underground, and avoid the tiller kicking out of the ground.
You may find more stones after this first pass, you can remove those and set your tiller deeper and so on until the plot is tilled to your required depth.
1. Mantis 7940- Honda Engine
Best Tiller For Raised Beds
Schiller Grounds Care Mantis 4-Cycle Tiller Cultivator 7940
$376.47 in stock
5 used from $ 342.88
- 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.
- The unique, curvy tines can be used to till down 10 inches deep. Or, simply turn the tines around to shallow cultivate the top 2 to 3 inches of soil.
This is the Mantis 7940, it is actually a mini-tiller or also known as a cultivator. It is the baby of the bunch and tills a strip just 9 inches wide. It weighs only 24 pounds so is very easy to maneuver around tight spots.
The hand grips feel good and it even has a finger controlled throttle which means you can adjust the speed effortlessly when your soil conditions change.
Powerful, reliable engine
The Mantis is powered by a Honda 25cc 4 stroke engine. This is a great feature to have as it means you don’t need to mix 2 stroke oil in its fuel and the engine is bulletproof.
This also means it doesn’t have a high pitched engine noise whilst in operation, which makes it much more pleasureable to use.
Most importantly -because its a Honda engine you can be sure the next time you go to start it up- it will start first time– Great!
Easy to use and control
The Mantis is easy to control even for smaller users and would be great for weeding Flower Beds as it is light and easy to maneuver- how great is that!
See a video of the tiller in action below:
2. Earthquake 20015 99cc
Best Tiller For Breaking New Ground
Earthquake Versa Front Tine Tiller Cultivator with 99cc 4-Cycle Viper Engine, 5 Year Warranty
$299.99 in stock
- Versatile - Tool-less removal of outer tines and shields quickly turns Versa from a tiller into a cultivator
- Easy maneuverability - Light enough to turn on a dime with effortless control
- Stability - Lowest center of gravity available in any front tine tiller for ground-hugging stability
- Convenient and quiet - Smooth pull recoil for an easy start
- 5 year warranty on product if it was purchased on or after 3/15/2017
The Earthquake 20015 is the second of the two front tine rototillers i have looked into. This is a heavier machine, weighting in at 86lbs and will be capable of most jobs in your garden and allotment.
Powerful 4 stroke engine
This machine also has a 4 stroke engine like the Mantis except it is a 99cc and is more than capable of taking on deep cultivations even in hard clay soils.
Adjustable working width
It is also adjustable in cultivatable width- from 11 inches to 16 inches out to a maximum of 21 inches.
- Good points I found on this rototiller would be its 4 stroke engine, heavy duty blades and adjustability of width. Bad points are few, in fact only one, that is the exhaust seems quite exposed and you could burn your hand if careless around the engine.
- Although this is a non wheel driven rototiller, it’s large front tines will help to pull the tiller through the soil which is great to ease the labour of pushing. Most smaller tined tillers require the operator to push the tiller forward when cultivating at depths over 6 inches.
- This machine would have no problems operating in soil with stones up to 3 inches long and unless there was a really large stone (4 to 6 inches in diameter) it would not cause the engine to stall.
I would recommend a rototiller like this for medium sized gardens/allotments which has a mixure of medium sized stones throughout.
3. Earthquake 6015V
Best Rototiller For Large Gardens
This is the Earthquake 6015V and it is the first of the two wheel driven rear tillers i will review.
Earthquake 6015V Rear Tine Tiller Rototiller with 212cc 4-Cycle Viper Engine, 5 Year Warranty
- Counter-rotating tines
- Large treaded, fully pneumatic wheels
- Adjustable depth regulator
- Reliable, ball bearing, gear drive transmission
- Convenient six position handlebar adjustment
This model has a 212cc 4 stroke viper engine which will have plenty of power for any conditions. I have used many tiller similar to this and the advantage of the front wheel driven tiller is that it feels much more balanced and maneuoverable, even though it weighs 156lbs.
- The tiller has two large rubber tyres in front of the tines which gives the machine plenty of traction in deep cultivations. A wheel driven rear tine rototiller is a pleasure to use compared to a non wheel driven front tine tiller.
- Like many wheel driven rototillers, this model has a reverse gear to back it up at the end of your run or in tight corners. You don’t have to engage another gear to reverse it, simple pull a lever. This is a major advantage as it is more operator friendly. It is also safe to use as it has a dead mans handle which will stop the tiller if you let go of the handle.
- For stones to be an issue using this tiller, they would need to be quite large (over 3 inches in diameter), which you should be removing from the soil as you find them.
- This tiller will chew through roots of trees, sods and clods.
I really like this tiller, and would happily recommend. See the video below:
4. Husqvarna CRT900 14″
Best Rototiller For Quality of Build
Husqvarna CRT900L, 17 in. 12.51cc Briggs & Stratton Rear-Tine Tiller, CARB
- Briggs & Stratton 900 Series OHV engine
- 17-inch tilling width
- Counter-rotating tines
- Chain/Gear Transmission
- Forward and Reverse Gears
The Husqvarna is the tiller of choice for me -It has the best build quality backed by one of the best brand names associated with quality and durability. This tiller was designed to be used in harsh environments such as stony conditions and features 5 star reviews from the majority of users.
Highly Commended: Yardmax YT4565
I had to include the Yardmax YT4565 in my list as it truly is a great tiller. Yardmax have been making great products in Illinois since 2015 and when it comes down to value for money and quality of construction, you simply cannot beat them.
YARDMAX YT4565 Dual Rotating Rear Tine Tiller, 208Cc, Briggs & Stratton
- Briggs & Stratton engine delivers 9.50 ft-lbs gross torque and 190 rpm rotational speed
- 18" wide rear tine design with 7 depth adjustments and a 6.5" working depth to cover more ground quickly
- Single hand operation allows user to stand and steer from either side of the tiller
- 13" self-sharpening tines easily cultivate any soil type
- Front counterweight on 13" pneumatic wheels.
The last three tillers in this list are truly the best options for stony conditions, so all i can say is whichever of these three you do choose – you will be very pleased with your choice. Front tine tillers in my experience can be a little too jumpy, and that problem is only made worse when you are working in soils with stones you can’t see.
If you would like to let us know which tiller you decided to go for and how it performed for you that would be amazing- thanks, Richard.