The 10 Best Tillers

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This wiki has been updated 23 times since it was first published in March of 2015. When it's time to prepare your garden for planting, you'll find the right tool for the job on our list of rototillers and cultivators. They'll let you break up hard, compacted soil and aerate the ground with ease, leaving behind a smooth, loose seed bed that's ready for new growth. We've included both gas and electric tillers to suit a wide range of needs. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best tiller on Amazon.

10. Earthquake Versa

9. YardMax YT5328

8. Southland SRTT212

7. Earthwise 7.5-Inch

6. Sun Joe TJ603E

5. Mantis 7940

4. EarthWise TC70016

3. YardMax YT4565

2. Champion 100379

1. Craftsman 12-Inch

Editor's Notes

April 20, 2019:

There are 3 kinds of tillers: front tine, rear tine, and cultivators. Cultivators are built for light-duty use such as turning over soil in raised beds or ripping up stubborn weeds. The EarthWise 7.5-inch is just about most compact and lightest, and while it's not meant to eliminate large rocks, it does well at what it's intended for. The SunJoe is another good electric cultivator, while the larger Earthwise is on the border between cultivators and front-tine tillers. The Mantis is a decent gas-powered model, while the Craftsman is one of the more reliable and powerful light-duty units.

Concerning front-tine models, the Earthquake Versa is actually a convertible and can serve as a light-or medium-duty unit. The smaller YardMax is a fantastic front-tine model as well, as it's both powerful and maneuverable. But the Champion is one of the best-made models on the market, and if it isn't sufficient for your needs, you'll have to move up to a rear-tine model.

The Southland is a very strong unit and worth a look if you need to break through exceptionally dense ground. The bigger YardMax can power through just about anything, though, so if you're dealing with rocky land and thick roots, it's a great choice. Considering its strength and ease of use, it's actually a fantastic deal.

Why Gardeners Use Tillers

Not only will it prepare your soil for planting, it will make the act of digging when planting much easier.

A tiller is a garden tool that is used to loosen up soil before initial plantings and in between seasonal plantings. It can also be used to rip up weeds in between rows of raised garden beds and aerate soil for better drainage. Tillers are also a great way to prepare a new, previously unused area for gardening.

One of the main reasons many gardeners use tillers is to make what would normally be a laborious and time consuming job–ripping up weeds and turning soil–quick and easy. By using a tiller, one can eliminate the need for hoeing and manual soil turning. This is doubly true if you have a large garden area to prepare. Tillers can easily rip through weed roots and large clumps of dirt, ensuring that the weeds are completely destroyed, reducing the need for chemical weed killers.

Tilling weeds is better than ripping them out as it leaves the organic plant matter in the soil, allowing it to decompose and fertilize your garden. For those living in areas with hard-packed soil, a tiller is a must-have tool. Not only will it prepare your soil for planting, it will make the act of digging when planting much easier. This is because, after using a tiller on hard-packed soil, it will be light and fluffy.

A tiller can also be a great way to evenly distribute fertilizers or compost throughout the soil before planting. This will help ensure your garden soil has a high amount of nutrients, without any areas containing too much fertilizer and affecting blooms and vegetable growth.

How To Use A Tiller

Before starting to till, you must clear the area of any large debris, like rocks or branches, which could potentially damage the tiller tines or cause injury if they fly into the air. If you plan on tilling an area that has a thick growth of weeds, you should use a garden trimmer to hack them down to just a couple of inches or less above the ground. It is best to till dry dirt, as wet dirt has a tendency to clump after tilling.

As with the first time, you should make one complete pass in a parallel orientation followed by a perpendicular pass.

If the soil is hard and compact, you should start with the tiller on a shallow setting. If you are dealing with softer soil, you can start with the tiller at a medium depth. Once you have the tiller set to the correct depth, engage the tines and slowly make parallel passes across your yard until you have covered the entire area at least one time.

After tilling the garden area once, set the tiller to a deeper setting and retill the area in the same pattern as the first time. Once finished, you can make a few perpendicular passes. Make sure you are walking slowly as you till the area and let the tiller do the work. Never try and force one forward.

Once you are able to easily till the garden bed at a depth of seven or eight inches, you are finished with the first tilling session. Wait a few days for the organic matter in the soil to break down and give any remaining weed seeds or live weeds a chance to sprout, then start the tilling process again. The second tilling session should go quicker as you can start immediately at a deep depth. As with the first time, you should make one complete pass in a parallel orientation followed by a perpendicular pass.

How To Choose The Right Tiller For Your Needs

The majority of tillers are relatively heavy and take a strong hand to control. As you might expect, smaller tillers, sometimes called cultivators, are easier to control than full-sized tillers. They are also better for smaller gardens. Even if you have a large garden and feel that it warrants a full-sized tiller, but you are too small to control one, then you would be better off with a mini tiller or a cultivator.

Any garden over 5,000 square feet calls for a large, almost industrial sized tiller with an engine from 7 horsepower and up.

As a general rule of thumb, tillers and cultivators are recommended for gardens 300 square feet or greater. For any yards or gardens smaller than, a hand tiller should be used. Gardens under 1,500 square feet can be tilled easily with a mini-tiller or cultivator. Those with gardens in the 2,000 to 5,000 square foot range will need a larger tiller with a 4 to 6 horsepower engine. Any garden over 5,000 square feet calls for a large, almost industrial sized tiller with an engine from 7 horsepower and up.

If you live in an area with very hard or rock soil, you may need a slightly stronger tiller, so even if you only have a 1,000 square foot garden or yard, it may be better to choose a medium-sized tiller with more power.

For smaller yards and gardens, consumers may be presented with both gas and electric models that seem suitable. Gas models will be noisier and may be more difficult to start, especially on cold days, but they are generally more powerful. Electric models are quiet and easily start at the push of a button.

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Christopher Thomas
Last updated on April 23, 2019 by Christopher Thomas

Building PCs, remodeling, and cooking since he was young, quasi-renowned trumpeter Christopher Thomas traveled the USA performing at and organizing shows from an early age. His work experiences led him to open a catering company, eventually becoming a sous chef in several fine LA restaurants. He enjoys all sorts of barely necessary gadgets, specialty computing, cutting-edge video games, and modern social policy. He has given talks on debunking pseudoscience, the Dunning-Kruger effect, culinary technique, and traveling. After two decades of product and market research, Chris has a keen sense of what people want to know and how to explain it clearly. He delights in parsing complex subjects for anyone who will listen -- because teaching is the best way to ensure that you understand things yourself.

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