How to Choose a Tiller

There was a time when gardeners used hoes, spades, and shovels to break up the ground, before planting seeds for the year’s bounty of fresh vegetables. The backbreaking job of loosening soil prompted tool manufacturers to devise a power tool that performed the same job as a shovel, without the blood, sweat, and tears.

Say hello to the power tiller.

A power tiller has become a must have tool for homeowners that want to plant multiple rows of flower beds or cultivate large vegetable gardens. If you want to reseed your lawn before the onset of summer or bring back your vegetable garden from the depths of winter, a tiller is a powerful asset, quickly performing a job that would otherwise take hours to accomplish by hand.

Manufacturers design power tillers in a large number of different shapes and sizes. Therefore, choosing the best power tiller for your needs requires some considerable research.

Behind the Mechanics of a Tiller

A power tiller operates under the same mechanical principle as your body during the hand-held operation of a hoe, spade, or shovel. With a hand tool, you dig into the ground and perform a rotational move that loosens the soil. A power tiller contains a set of rotating blades called tines that mount within a strong enclosure and effectively perform the same task at a faster rate.

Powered by either an electric or a gasoline motor, the tiller tines rotate four blades that curve in opposite directions to produce a churning motion. Tine blades number one and three move toward the tiller, while blades two and four curve away from the tool. The tines that move away from the power tiller cut into the soil and the blades that move towards the tiller prevent soil from collecting on the blades. Manufacturers that design and construct the best tillers ensure the movement of the tines unfolds flawlessly.

Types of Power Tillers

Power tillers fall into three categories based on size and the type of tilling you need to accomplish. Most tiller manufacturers design at least two types of tiller.


Cultivators work best on small, raised garden beds that contain relatively loose soil. You should only use these easy to operate mini tillers on soil that is rock and stone free. The small size of cultivators makes it difficult to pass through rocky soil. Lightweight cultivators are a great help if you possess limited strength to navigate the mini tillers into tight spaces, such as the narrow gaps between vegetable rows. If your garden spans less than six square metres and is rock-free, consider going with a cultivator to till soil.

Front Tine Tiller

Front tine tillers sit within the midrange of the power tiller family. Manufacturers propel mid sized tillers forward by spinning the tines into the soil. More powerful than cultivators, front tine tillers work much better cutting through compact and rocky areas of a garden. This type of tiller requires handling experience, due to the strong forward motion of the tines. However, front tine tillers represent the best power tiller option for loosening the soil in most home gardens.

Rear Tine Tiller

As the heavy hitter of the power tiller niche, rear tine tillers work best for loosening the soil over large areas of your lawn. The large size of rear tine tillers requires you to have plenty of room to run the tool. As the name suggests, the design of a rear tine tiller is such that the tines are positioned behind the wheels, which makes the tool easier to control than a front tine tiller. The best rear tine tillers include a reverse gear that move backwards in a straight line. If you have a large shed for storing a tiller, then a rear tine tiller is the best option for tilling your large lawn and/or garden. Rear tine tillers also dig deeper into the ground, which ensures the removal of deed plant and grass roots.

Type of Motor

As with most garden tools, you have two motor choices, when it comes to choosing a power tiller: petrol or electric. A petrol engine does an excellent job of delivering consistent power, but they do of course require more maintenance, as you have to clean the engine and make oil changes to enhance efficiency. Electric motors typically represent the better, cleaner option. However, remember if you buy a corded electric power tiller, you must be aware of potential snagging issues with outdoor debris, such as tree limbs and lawn furniture, especially when working on uneven and unpredicatable ground.


Buying a tiller can put a huge dent in your home improvement budget. Not only do most tillers cost a lot of money to purchase, you also have to factor in the cost of maintaining them. Many people opt to rent tillers for the one or two times per year that they require them, rather than owning them outright. On the other hand, renting a power tiller might seem like a viable financial option, until you add up the charges over several years. Many retailers offer discounts on power tillers or bundle the power tool in a package that decreases the cost of owning them.

Test Run

You’ve probably test driven a few automobiles. Automotive dealers know that by giving you an opportunity to get behind the wheel, the chance of you making a buying decision increases. Although not as high a price item as a car, a power tiller still requires you to plunk down a lot of money. To receive the peace of mind you need to make a buying decision, search for vendors that allow you to test run a power tiller. All you need to do is run the power tiller back and forth a few times over an area of your lawn.

Perhaps the best way to choose a tiller involves consulting with people you trust. If a friend or neighbour owns a power tiller that receives glowing praise, then you should consider making the tiller a part of your power tool inventory. Word of mouth advertising still has relevance in the era of online research.


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