large rear tine tiller being used by a man in a hat walking behind in hard dry soil

Best Tiller For Breaking New Ground: how to choose

Ok, so the title of this article is, “Best tiller for breaking new ground”. Let me answer this now in the first paragraph and list the machines to choose from for those in a hurry. I will explain in detail my choices if you would like to read the rest of this article. The best tiller for breaking new ground is a rear tine tiller– pick whichever one from the list which suits your budget – The manufacturer you choose is not as important as the type of tiller you pick.

Best tiller for breaking new ground

I have listed the top 2 rear tine tillers suitable for the task of breaking new ground. One is for those with a fixed budget and the other costs a little bit more.

What does breaking new ground mean?

Breaking new ground means that the soil has not been dug over or worked for quite a long time.

This means the soil will be very hard to dig into and it may also have a covering of vegetation such as weeds, grass or both.

New ground can also have old roots growing through it which will stall small tillers or even worse, break their blades. New ground may have stones or rubble mixed through it also, which you may not be aware of.

Best tiller for hard soil

The point is that it will most likely involve quite a bit of labour to turn new ground into a well cultivated soil bed for you to plant or sow things into. This means the tiller you choose to do the work will need to be very powerful, tough and safe to use.

Why are there different names for tillers

So there are different types of tillers you can buy and they go by many different names – but they all more or less do the same kind of job – they dig and break up soil into small pieces. Some of the different names you will find are tiller, rototiller, rotovator, cultivator, tiller/cultivator and mini tiller. They are all designed to break up the soil.

What are the different types of tillers

There are three main different types of tillers – no more, no less. They are:


Cultivators are the smallest tillers- they can also be called mini tillers, they have small star shaped digging wheels followed by a small pair of non powered wheels at the back. These have a working width of around 10 to 12 inches.

They come powered by electric cord, battery (cordless) or gas engine.

These are very useful in their own right but they are best suited to already tilled soil and used for smaller areas like raised beds for vegetables or flower beds.

They are not for breaking new ground – you will either break the cultivator or it will take a lifetime to do the job.

Front tine tillers

Front tine tillers also known as tiller/cultivators in electric versions are the next step up in terms of size and power – although some of them can be as big as rear tine tillers. These have a working width from 14 to 18 inches.

These look more like a standard garden rototiller. Their layout is similar to the cultivator. As the name suggests the tiller tines are set in front, with a pair of non powered wheels behind.

The front tine tiller looks like a large version of the cultivator, but it is much more suited to deeper cultivations.

Front tine tillers can be powered by electric cord or gas engine. You will find electric front tine tillers will be smaller and less powerful than gas powered front tine tillers.

You could use a front tine tiller for breaking new ground but there are two major reasons why i advise against this.

  1. Because they use their tines to pull the machine forward they are a nightmare to hold back in hard ground. If the tines are not well embedded into the soil – which is difficult in hard ground – unless you use an enormous amount of energy to hold the machine back, they end up pulling you around the plot like a ragdoll.
  2. Front tine tillers are prone to being very jumpy in more difficult conditions unlike rear tine tillers which are much smoother to use.

Rear tine tillers

Rear tine tillers are the largest and heaviest tillers which are hand operated. They have a powerful engine mounted in front with a pair of gearbox driven wheels underneath and a covered in tiller section at the rear. These have a working width from 16 to 18 inches.

Rear tine tillers are the best type of large garden tiller you can use.

They are the best machine because they are so good at what they do and they are the nicest for the operator to use.

When you use a rear tine tiller you start the engine, then the tiller blades and then when you engage the drive wheels, the tiller smoothly drives itself up and down the plot tilling as it goes- all you have to do it steer and watch your depth.

The other thing which is so good about a rear tine tiller is that the rear rotor tines are well guarded with a full length steel safety cover.

This feature is most noticable when rototilling rocky soil or new ground when you are not sure about what you will uncover. The guard stops objects being thrown into your legs body or face!


From all the tillers and cultivators available today, the only machines capable of breaking new ground are front tine tillers and rear tine tillers.

But when you really look at it, front tine tillers are only just capable of breaking new soil and for the little extra money it would cost you to buy a rear tine tiller -there is no reason why you would choose to buy a front tine tiller ever.

From my experience i have found that when it comes to cultivating and breaking up soil i want two sizes of machines – A cultivator – battery or gas for small jobs where convenience is key and a rear tine tiller, when i want to use a full size tiller which is a pleasure to use and will complete the job well.

The only time i would use a front tine tiller is if i had a pre dug vegetable plot which had to be tilled again for the next year – and if i had the choice i would rather use a rear tine tiller as it is a dream to use compared to a front tine tiller.

Which rear tine tiller would i choose from the list?

For me i would either choose the Yardmax YT4565 or the Husqvarna CRT900.

I would choose the Yardmax because it is of the same style of rear tine tiller as the Husqvarna- with the front balance weight below the engine, strong single control handle and has many great reviews but at a lower price. I would choose the Husqvarna for the same great design and even better build reasons but the extra you pay is clear to see in the superior handling and finish of the machine.

If you prefer one of the others do not let my personal preference put you off. Any one of the two will be a great tiller– and both of them are ten times better than a front tine tiller.

Pick a tiller you really like and you will enjoy using it, these machines last a very long time when cared for properly. Let me know which you chose and how you feel about it… thanks! – Richard

Extra reading:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *