Honda F501 tiller sitting in a tilled vegetable garden

Honda F501 Tiller: overview and opinion 1 year later

A year ago I was looking to buy a tiller to help me cultivate a small garden to grow early potatoes in. I have worked with many garden tillers or rotavators as they call them here in the UK over the years so I knew what I was looking for from the start. To cut a long story short, let me explain why I chose to buy the Honda F501 tiller.

Choosing the correct tiller for your garden

Before you go looking at all the glossy images of new tillers, you need to know a few important points:

1. What size of a garden or plot of land will this tiller be working in. There are three sizes of tiller you can buy

  • A cultivator is the smallest and least powerful – these are used for raised beds and more light surface soil mixing or even weeding – not much use for tilling grassland or heavy clay soils. These cultivators are mainly electric although some are powered by small engines.
  • A front/mid-tine tiller – these are the middle-sized tillers, with larger powered tines and nonpowered wheels usually set behind the tines. These can be used for garden work and are usually too big to lift into raised beds.
  • Rear tine tillers are the largest and most expensive tillers. These tillers have a set of powered rubber wheels connected to a gearbox with forward and reverse gears. The tiller tines are normally enclosed inside a guard positioned behind the powered wheels. The driven wheels remove the pulling action found with most front/mid-tine tillers, but rear-tine tillers are much more expensive.

2. How deep do you need the tiller to cultivate

I needed to go at least 6 inches deep to make potato drills so the Honda F501 suited the job perfectly.

3. How often will you use the tiller

The reason you need to ask yourself this question is to determine how much to spend on the tiller. I knew I would use the tiller quite often but not as much as a contractor would. My vegetable garden is not that large- so although my number one preference was for a rear tine tiller – I couldn’t justify the price of one. So that left me with the choice of which front tine tiller to buy. This was a no-brainer for me- I have bought a few no-brand engine-powered products in the past which appeared to be great value but then quickly developed engine troubles such as hard to start or running poorly. I never had these issues with Honda engines however so when the opportunity to buy the F501 came up I jumped at the chance.

Honda F501 Techincal specs

  • 163cc 4 stroke OHV Honda GX160 engine
  • Tilling width of 914mm (37 inches)
  • Tilling depth of 280mm (11 inches)
  • 2 forward gears and 1 reverse
  • 61Kg weight
  • Fuel capacity 2.6 litres (1/2 gallon)
  • Dry paper-type air filter
  • 3-way adjustable handlebar
  • Exhaust heat protection
  • Chain drive transmission
  • Max tine speed 114 RPM
  • 4 years warranty

My opinion of the Honda F501 mid-tine tiller

When I first brought the tiller home I was impressed by how solid and well-made it felt – I didn’t think it would be quite as heavy. I was most impressed by how easy it was to start both when cold and more importantly when hot. Many no-brand engines will start ok when cold but are a nightmare when they have been running for an hour or two.

One of the first jobs I had for the tiller was to till a large empty bed with a tree in the middle of it- I was concerned about the tiller ripping any of the roots of the tree up but because the tiller has two forward speeds I was able to select the low speed and coupled with the great torque from the engine it can till even at ticking over!

So I liked that such a largish tiller can be controlled well – the next job I had for it was to till between long drills of turnips when the tractor hoe didn’t reach.

The conclusion from this work (walking behind the tiller for around 3 to 4 hours non-stop) was that when the ripper shank at the rear of the machine has its depth set correctly- you can use the tiller effortlessly.

Although I have one tip – I made a loop of string with a knot in it which I could slip over the clutch lever to hold it in to save my grip – but this was on long 200meter drills before I would need to let it off -not safety advice by the way.

Another job the tiller has done was to make a vegetable garden ready for planting early potatoes in. In my opinion, the tiller was the borderline size for the small garden – If the garden was any smaller it would have made the tiller too big for it.

It only took a few minutes to use the tiller to make the soil ready for making drills. It did its job perfectly though – and I would never complain about a job being completed quickly and efficiently.

Honda F501 tiller in vegetable garden beside potato drills
Harry inspecting the potato drills!

The fuel consumption of the tiller was actually surprising – I expected it would have used more – but it was actually quite frugal. I have had no maintenance whatsoever with it so far and I expect it should really only have oil and filters changed every couple of hundred hours.

Summary of the Honda F501 mid-tine tiller.

The Honda F501 is a great mid-tine tiller – it is very easy to control, is powerful, easy on fuel, and feels very well made. If you have a large garden bed or a vegetable garden this tiller will be a great buy. If your plot is smaller perhaps a smaller Honda cultivator is a better fit – whichever way you go I would definitely recommend getting a Honda tiller – happy tilling!

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