A tiller, sometimes called a rototiller or cultivator, is a gardening tool that upends earth and prepares your soil for planting vegetables, flowers and plants. Tillers help break up weed-infested, hardened earth, giving you rich, crumbly soil that's ideal for your seeds to grow and thrive in.
A garden tiller operates somewhat like a lawn mower – you walk behind it as you push it through the dirt. It's especially important to till a new garden, and it helps to till it every year before you plant your seeds.
Most Powerful Tiller
One of the more powerful tillers on our lineup, this machine can mulch dirt up to 8 inches deep. It also has adjustable settings – you're able to manipulate settings such as speed, throttle and clutch control.
The Earthquake Mini Cultivator is a valuable tool for ensuring your soil is in prime condition for planting season. It’s a gas-powered tiller, which means you don't have to rely on an extension cord to reach your garden. It cuts into soil 6 inches deep and 10 inches wide. While this isn't as deep or wide as other tillers featured in our lineup, it should still meet the needs of those with a small garden.
Most Space Saving Tiller
A mini tiller, this is a gas-powered model that's easy to start and push. It's very light and cuts dirt in 6 to 10-inch rows. The adjustable wheels lend more versatility to this tiller and make it a good choice for both raised and in-ground beds.
The Craftsman Mini Tiller is a small cultivator that allows you to create, maintain and improve your garden. It's lightweight and gas-powered, which allows you to take it anywhere you want to cultivate your garden without being restricted by an electrical cord. It's easy to assemble, use, clean and store – anyone should be able to use this machine with very few problems.
Most Compact Tiller
Another electric tiller that requires an extension cord to operate. But the trade-off is worth it for the 12-amp motor and deep cutting tines. Its folding handles make it very easy to store in a shed or garage, and the machine requires virtually no maintenance.
Sun Joe makes a wide variety of yard and garden tools. Among them is the Tiller Joe Electric Garden Tiller/Cultivator (TJ603E). This machine allows you to prepare the soil in your garden before you plant your seeds. It cuts wide and deep so you don't need to pass over the same ground multiple times to get the soil consistency you want. It's easy to assemble, requires no maintenance and comes with a two-year warranty. It's a great choice for the flower or vegetable garden in your backyard.
Why Buy a Tiller?
A tiller offers several advantages over cultivating your garden with shovels, picks, hoes and rakes. First, it eliminates the backbreaking work and danger of swinging heavy hand tools. Second, a tiller makes it easier to mix in compost, fertilizer and other additives that enrich your soil. Third, it provides easier access for water to reach your plants' roots to help ensure a higher yield come harvest time.
What Should You Look for in a Tiller?
Tine Position & Length
The most important feature of any garden tiller is its tines. Tines are the metal prongs that loosen the soil in your garden. The position and length of the tines make a big difference in how the tiller operates and how deeply they cut into the soil.
Tines positioned in the rear are better for breaking new ground and cutting deep into your soil. Front-positioned tines don't cut as deep but are easier to push through already loosened dirt.
Electric, Gas or Hand-Powered Models
You should also consider how a tiller is powered before you begin searching for the right model for you. An electric-powered tiller is a good idea for small gardens, and you'll never have to worry about running out of juice. The downside, though, is that you'll need to be near a power outlet to use it – or invest in a long extension cable if your garden is more than a few feet from your house.
Gas-powered tillers are generally more powerful and cut deeper into the ground than their electric counterparts. If you're creating a new garden, the power of a gas tiller is a huge advantage. They handle compacted soil, rocks and roots very well. However, you should keep in mind that these tillers are a bit harder to push, so expect to get a good forearm workout. Additionally, many gas-powered models require you to mix oil and gas, drain the fuel when it's not in use and involve other complex maintenance tasks.
A third option is a hand-powered tiller, which works exactly the way you would expect it to. The big difference is that tines on a hand tiller are positioned vertically at the end of a metal shaft. This type of cultivator is often referred to as a "stand-up tiller." Needless to say, hand-powered versions are far more physically taxing than gas or electric tillers. However, they are quite useful for removing weeds, loosening compacted soil and can save you cash if you have a smaller garden.
How Often Should You Till Your Garden?
If you're starting a new garden, you'll definitely want to till the soil. However, if you plan to convert a grassy patch into a garden bed, you should remove the turf first. This will save you time when it comes to clearing your soil of debris like grass and rocks. Once you've turned up the dirt in your gardening area, consider adding soil-enriching additives like compost and fertilizer. This will enhance your soil with the nutrients that plants thrive on and help you realize your garden's full potential.
Once your garden is established, it's up to you to decide how often to till it. The gardening community is split on whether or not additional tilling is necessary. Some argue that tilling damages the soil over time. They also raise concerns that excessive tilling disrupts the soil's natural ecosystem, which could deprive your plants of the nutrients they need to flourish.
Others counter that the soil damage caused by tilling is minimal if you only do it once or twice a year. In fact, many veteran gardeners are able to fit in two growing seasons out of a single garden – spring and autumn. After you harvest your spring plants, you may want to till and replant your garden with autumn-friendly seeds. This is a great idea if you're looking to get the most of your garden during the warm months of the year.
Which Tiller Should You Buy?
We've selected several tillers for your consideration – both electric and gas powered – here are a few of them to help you narrow down which one is right for you:
Earthwise TC70001: This electric tiller has front-positioned tines and is quite affordable. But it has a very short power cord so you'll have to buy an extension cord, even if your garden is only a few feet from an electrical outlet.
Greenworks 27072: This tiller has an 8-amp engine, four tines and a maximum cutting depth of 5 inches. It's one of the most affordable electric tillers out there and may suit the needs of the casual gardener well.
Southland SCV43: A gas-powered model, this tiller features rear-placed tires for improved maneuverability. However, for a gas-powered model, it has a relatively shallow cutting depth of only 5 inches. This model does come with a manual recoil, which means you can start and stop it with ease.
Powerhorse Mini Cultivator 10-Inch: The tines on this gas-powered tiller also rotate at 250 rpm and have a maximum cutting depth of 7 inches. It has collapsible handles that make it easier to store when you're not using it.
Remington RM4625 Homestead: This gas tiller offers special QuickStart technology that eliminates the need to pull a cord to start the machine. It has a maximum cutting depth of 5 inches.
There are many things to consider when choosing the garden tiller that's right for you: Do you prefer an electric or gas-powered model? What is the position and length of the tines? How often you plan to till your soil? Have a look at each product on our lineup to see which one best suits your needs.