Tending to a garden is not only relaxing, but it can also provide food for you and your family. Having the right tools to aid in your gardening experience helps maximize your efficiency and even increase your yield. Soil tillers are one such garden tool that can not only save you time, but can also save your back.
Tillers are designed to break up the soil quicker and in a much more effective way. With a tiller, you won’t be stooped over for half a day with a fork or spade in your hand, struggling to break up your garden soil.
But with all the different types of tillers on the market, how do you know which one is best for you, especially if you have a large garden which has many different jobs to complete?
Tillers vs cultivators
It is not uncommon for people to use the words tiller and cultivator interchangeably. While they have similar functions and may even look like one another, these two types of gardening tools are completely different and are even used for different purposes.
Tillers break up the soil, while cultivators are smaller and less powerful – more often- cultivators are used to mix or refresh already broken up soil. Tillers are designed for breaking up soil so that it is ready for you to plant either vegetables, flowers or plants into. These areas could be where the ground hasn’t been broken up yet or for soil which has become compacted and hard.
Cultivators, on the other hand, are for mixing loose soil, as well as working around plants that are already growing in the ground. Cultivators are very useful for weeding around raised beds and vegetable plots. Cultivators are small and easy to maneuver around existing plants without disturbing them.
Different types of tillers and cultivators
Now that you know the difference between tillers and cultivators, let’s discuss the different types of tillers available on the market.
- Cultivators – Cultivators are not designed for breaking up hard soil, but they can quickly aid in mixing fertilizer and other soil amendments to already worked soil.
- Front-Tine Tillers – The tines on the front-tine tiller are located in front of the engine. This type of tiller is considered a light-duty machine.
- Mid-Tine Tillers – Mid-tine tillers have their tines located under the engine. Like the front-tine tillers, mid-tine tillers are medium to light-duty machines.
- Rear-Tine Tillers – The rear-tine tiller’s tines are located, as their name suggests, at the rear of the engine. Rear-tine tillers are really useful heavy-duty machines that can attach many implements other than tiller tines.
Tilled area size should be considered when choosing a tiller
Before you rush out and buy a tiller, you should first consider your garden size or the area you need to till each year, since it is directly connected to which tiller is best for your needs.
Cultivators work best for small areas such as flowerbeds or as a way to mix up or weed already tilled soil. They are generally smaller in size and do not have the power, weight, or durability to break through hard soil. They are the most suitable for small areas which have their soil already broken up.
Tilling small areas that measure less than 1,500 square feet can typically be worked with a front or mid-tine tiller. These tillers have a narrower working width and a smaller engine than a rear tine tiller, but they are perfectly adequate and are actually more suitable than a rear tine tiller for small areas.
For medium-sized areas that are less than 2,500 square feet, smaller front or mid-tine tillers work well, but you can also use a rear tine tiller. Keep in mind, that the rear tillers typically cost more than front or mid-tine tillers, but they have a wider working width and have driven wheels which make them much less physically demanding to use.
Large gardens which need tilling over 2,500 square feet generally need a rear tine tiller. They provide the most operator comfort and will tackle the most difficult soils with ease.
Best tiller for large gardens
Tillers, especially those for large gardens, can be quite an investment. The price tag will often have gardeners considering inferior machines made from lower-quality parts. While it is important to consider your budget when shopping for tillers, make sure you are also taking into consideration the quality of the tool. Purchasing a low-quality tiller usually means buying a tiller twice, since you will need to replace it once it breaks down – often with the better quality version the second time around.
Just because you have a large garden does not mean you need the biggest tiller. You could have a large garden with only flowerbeds, in this case, a cultivator would be best for you. If on the other have you have a large garden with a large vegetable plot to till – you would be better off with a rear tine tiller. The question you should ask yourself is how much light or heavy tilling do I require each year and make your choice of machine accordingly.
Best cultivator for large gardens
If you have a large garden with lots of flowerbeds or other small areas which need light cultivated, steer clear of cultivators which are battery-powered or electric versions powered with cumbersome hazardous leads. The large area travelled and tilled requires the cultivator to be highly mobile and have long run times.
The Mantis 7940 Tiller/Cultivator is a 4-stroke Honda-powered cultivator which is lightweight and compact. It weighs only 20-pounds. This gardening tool plays double duty as not only a soil cultivator for large gardens but as a light-duty tiller as well. To switch from cultivator to tiller, simply turn the tines to the tilling position. This cultivator has a tilling depth of up to 10-inches deep – but the soil would need to be already well broken up before beginning to cultivate to that depth with this machine.
Best front or mid-tine tiller for large gardens
Earthquake is not a new kid on the block, they have been in the metal fabricating industry since 1960 in Cumberland, Wisconsin. They make high-quality gardening machines, including tillers. Earthquake is known for not only its impressive products but also for its legendary customer service.
The Earthquake Front Tine Tiller features a 99cc engine that can break through compacted soil for small to medium-sized areas. The dual rotating tiller tines are made from steel and cut through hard soil with ease. You can adjust the width of this machine from 11-inches to 21-inches. The extra width means fewer passes when tilling your garden.
Best rear tine tiller for large gardens
Troy-Bilt is a well-known and reputable company that first introduced the residential rototiller in 1937. They have a long history of producing reliable and rugged gardening equipment that lasts for years. So it is no surprise that one of their products would make the list.
The Big Red Garden Tiller is a tough rear-tine tiller with a 306cc Briggs & Stratton engine, 12-inch tines a 7-inch tilling depth, and a 20-inch tilling width. This tiller is designed to handle even the heaviest-duty garden jobs with minimum effort. It has driven rubber tractor tires with 4 forward and 2 reverse gears. Large gardens with areas over 2,500 square feet are easy with this tiller. This tiller is a gas-powered machine with an electric start for utmost operator ease. The Big Red is an essential piece of kit for those with deep or demanding tilling requirements.
Large gardens with multiple small areas which require light tilling or soil mixing should consider a gas-powered cultivator. For small to medium-sized areas which need to be tilled, a front or mid-tine tiller will be perfectly acceptable, as a rear-tine tiller may be overkill in size and price. For a large garden with large tilled areas, the only option is a rear tine tiller – their driven rubber tires coupled with multiple forward and reverse gears make large jobs a breeze. Good luck and happy tilling – any questions get in touch!