Buying Guide for Tillers

Spring is just around the corner — time to think about which kind of tiller you need for your garden. A tiller is the perfect tool for pre-planting ground preparation, as well as many other tasks during the gardening season, such as cultivating between garden rows.

Tiller Types

Tillers are made in three main types — front tine, rear tine, and mini-cultivators. (A tine is the projecting metal blade that does the actual digging). Both front and rear tine tillers have depth stakes to adjust the level of earth you want to work.

Front tine tillers have forward-rotating tines located in the front of the machine under the motor. The rear-mounted wheels make it easy to push the machine from one place to another. However, in the actual tilling process, the tines pull the machine forward. Untilled ground or hard soil is more difficult to till with a front tine model. (The tines tend to skip over the ground, rather than penetrate).

Rear tine tillers have tines located at the rear of the machine. The motor powers the wheels in front which pulls the tiller forward. The tines are either:

o Standard Rotating Tines (known as SRT or forward-rotating) — Tines rotate in the same direction as the wheels.

o Counter Rotating Tines (CRT — rotate towards the rear). The counter rotation combined with the forward pulling of the wheels will allow easier tilling of tough soil. These tillers are best for breaking new ground.

o Some tiller models are available with reversible tine direction (from SRT to CRT) to provide the best of both functions.

  • Mini-Cultivators are smaller versions of front tine tillers. Lightweight and portable, they are best suited for working in smaller areas.

How to Decide

Before choosing, determine:

  • What is the size of the area to be worked?
  • What is the soil type?

Tilling widths range from about 8" on a cultivator up to 24" on a full-size tiller. Choose one that fits your garden’s dimensions.

Use horsepower ratings for comparison. The higher the HP, the more power you’ll have in your hands.

Any tiller can be used to work any type of soil. But the right tiller, matched with the size of the area to be worked and the soil type, will make your gardening much easier.

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