The 9 Best Hand Tillers

Updated May 28, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

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We spent 40 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. While large-scale agricultural and landscaping projects may call for powered machines to break up soil and prepare it for planting, if you've only got a small flower or vegetable garden, then one of these hand tillers will be perfect for the job. Our selection includes options for those who prefer to work standing up as well as people who are happy to get their knees in the dirt. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best hand tiller on Amazon.

9. Yard Butler Lewis Terra

With an all-steel construction and a lifetime warranty, the Yard Butler Lewis Terra will be a part of your gardening arsenal for years to come. It's small but mighty, with three sturdy tines to keep your soil well mixed and ready for the next season's bounty.
  • built-in cutting blade
  • soft cushioned grip
  • tips are difficult to sharpen
Brand Yard Butler
Model TT-4T
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

8. V&B Manufacturing Handy Mattock

The V&B Manufacturing Handy Mattock has three prongs on one end to help break up soil and an extremely sharp blade on the other to chop through stubborn roots that may get in your way. It weighs under four pounds, so you can use it for a long time without feeling fatigued.
  • long wooden handle absorbs vibration
  • like two tools for the price of one
  • could use a padded grip
Model 85231
Weight 3.6 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

7. Fiskars 40-Inch

The Fiskars 40-Inch has a 19-gauge steel shaft with welded, hardened tines that stand up to repeated use without bending or warping. It also features a nice wide handle to provide good leverage for working through rocky soil.
  • tines are arrow tipped and dig deep
  • extra-large step plate
  • not great for very compacted dirt
Brand Fiskars
Model 79906935J
Weight 3.9 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

6. Flexrake CLA105 Classic

The Flexrake CLA105 Classic is ideal for working in cramped spaces. It features a hand-turned oak handle with a nonslip grip and a double-sided carbon steel head that adds force to your strokes to provide plenty of digging power for such a little tool.
  • metal is heat-treated for strength
  • great for cutting small roots
  • tines can bend with heavy use
Brand A.M. Leonard
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

5. Treadlite Broadfork

The Treadlite Broadfork is made in the United States and comes in four- or five-tine models. Despite its wide 20-inch size and hardy steel construction, it weighs just 11 pounds, so you won't be too worn out even after using it for a long period of time.
  • can be used to harvest root crops
  • utilizes your body weight
  • smooth ash wood handle
Brand Treadlite
Model TL-BF
Weight 16 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

4. Yard Butler TNT4 Garden Twist

The Yard Butler TNT4 Garden Twist does an excellent job of breaking up dirt without requiring a lot of force on your part. The step plate lets you put all your body weight into the job, then you just twist a few times and its angled prongs do the rest.
  • extra-long handle provides leverage
  • great for aerating lawns too
  • backed by a lifetime warranty
Brand Yard Butler
Model TNT-4
Weight 4.6 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

3. Garden Weasel Claw Pro

The Garden Weasel Claw Pro works to cultivate just about any type of ground, including hard-packed soil that's difficult to break up with other tools. It features adjustable tines that, at their narrowest setting, are also effective for uprooting unwanted weeds.
  • no assembly required
  • long 38-inch shaft
  • doesn't require you to stoop
Brand Garden Weasel
Model 91316
Weight 2.5 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Truper 32739

A few thwacks of the Truper 32739 is a surefire way to manually break up tough clumps of soil. Its two-sided head features three sturdy tines as well as a digging blade, so you can get your beds ready for new plants without having to switch tools.
  • fiberglass handle with rubber grip
  • hefty build adds power to your work
  • durable enough to last for years
Brand Truper
Model 32739
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

1. Garden Growers Supply Broadfork

The Garden Growers Supply Broadfork is ideal for those times you have a large area that needs to be prepared and you want to get the job done quickly. It is made from heavy-duty steel, yet is light enough for just about anyone to use with ease.
  • tines can be removed for narrow beds
  • lets you use your body weight to dig
  • provides very deep penetration
Brand Garden Growers Supply
Model pending
Weight 17.7 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Turning The Soil: The Hand Tiller

In order to produce the most vibrant, verdant lawn, soil must be tilled before it is seeded or overlaid with sod. So too must a garden or field be tilled to ensure a robust yield of flowers, fruits, or vegetables. We shall discuss why tilling is important for landscaping, gardening, and agriculture below. For now, we are going to examine one of the most basic yet important tools a farmer, gardener, or landscaper has at their disposal: the hand tiller.

A hand tiller allows its user to turn, blend, and aerate soil with ease, albeit on a smaller scale than one enjoys when using a mechanized device. The small footprint of a hand tiller is not a drawback, however, but a benefit. These tools allow for unparalleled precision; using a hand tiller, a gardener can work the soil mere inches from the roots of a tender young plant, aerate narrow patches of grass like those between a sidewalk and street, and even prepare material housed in frangible containers such as terra-cotta planters.

In short, while a hand tiller may not be the right tool for a farmer to use in preparing a ten-hectare plot prior to planting peppers, it is the perfect tool for the gardener who wants to breathe new life into a small patch of lawn or reap plentiful returns from a residential herb and vegetable garden.

When choosing the right hand tiller, first consider the amount of land you want to service. Some hand tillers turn only a few square inches of soil at a time, while others can be used to aerate a square foot or so with each exertion.

Next, consider the method of operation that best suits your needs and your physical health. A hand tiller that uses a foot plate requires relatively little physical strength, as gravity and your own body weight conspire to press the tines home into the earth. Others use a large handle (usually designed to be held with both hands at once) and a twisting motion, which requires a bit more effort but which also breaks up soil and loosens weeds with aplomb. Still other tillers operate much like pickaxes -- indeed many have both a pick-style head and tines -- and require a decent amount of physical strength and mobility for proper use, but can also break apart tougher, drier soil, and can hack through old weeds and roots, or even lift stones.

Once you have considered the size and soil condition of the plot you will till and you have assessed your physical abilities, it should be easy to choose the right tiller for the job.

Why Tilling Matters

There are multiple reasons why it is important that you till the soil of your lawn, garden, or planting fields. One of the most obvious improvements tilling offers to land is to break up large, dense dirt clods that might otherwise preclude proper root growth. A thick chunk of dirt might stop a root from growing deeply enough to find sufficient water and/or to anchor its plant; tilling the soil helps break earth into smaller bits plants can use more productively.

Tilling also helps to break up and kill off weeds that compete for water and nutrients and that might otherwise strangle your chosen vegetation. As most weeds grow only shallow root structures, tilling can often eradicate these invaders completely.

When you till the earth, you also disturb or kill many of the harmful insects that can damage or destroy plants. Tilling can destroy insect eggs, larvae, and adults, preventing them from eating the roots, fruits, or leaves of your plants. It is a much safer and more eco-friendly approach than using insecticides, which may have both health and environmental impacts. And if you do use any products, including insecticides, fertilizers, and so forth, tilling helps to mix them into the soil, ensuring they will not be overly-concentrated.

Finally, tilling helps land absorb water more evenly and helps prevent erosion caused by wind or runoff (or by both). When the surface of the soil is properly tilled, it tends to be moist and rough, which helps hold soil in place. Untilled land dries out quickly, and can have its top layers blown away by the breeze or carried downhill by heavy rains or excessive irrigation.

Other Ways To Help The Soil

One of the best things you can do to ensure soil is healthy -- that is to say fertile -- is to leave it alone as much as possible. The age-old system of letting a field lie fallow for at least one growing season out of three was the standard approach to land management for hundreds of years, and it is every bit as effective today as it was for the lands of a feudal lord of the Middle Ages. When land is left to lie fallow as part of a planned crop rotation, it regains the nutrients and balance (nitrogen and carbon levels, e.g.) that allow it to produce plentiful vegetation in the future.

If you are prevented from resting your garden, yard, or fields by the constraints of time, space, or other issues, you can improve the fecundity of the soil in other ways. For the small-scale gardener, the best way to renew soil is to blend in compost. When you mix one part compost to three or four parts soil, even seemingly exhausted ground can prove a viable plot once again. Organic compost (especially that which you make yourself) is generally a better approach to restoring soil than adding fertilizers, as many fertilizers are so concentrated and potent that they can damage tender plants, doing more harm than good. The amateur horticulturalist in particular should turn to compost over chemicals to avoid the risk of burning a plant through excess application of fertilizer.

When planning out a garden or field for cultivation, don't overlook the importance of good drainage. While all plants need water, a glut of H2O can kill a plant just the same as a dearth. Take the time to create furrows, whether they run for acres or mere feet, as these ridges allow excess water to run away from roots that might otherwise become water-logged. A basic planter box is a great choice for small-scale gardening, especially in areas prone to heavy rainfall.

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Last updated on May 28, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.

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