When you’re working on a brand-new garden, you need the best tiller you can get. Here’s a guide on how to find the best tiller for breaking new ground and getting it ready for planting.
Every gardener knows how vital it is to procure the proper tools when working in a garden. This is especially true if your garden or flower bed is practically brand-new. With the right tillers, you can properly prepare the soil so that your garden becomes as productive as you expected.
The tiller offers several key benefits to any gardener. With it, you can transform dense and compact ground into the loose soil you need so that planting becomes a lot easier. A tiller also allows you to mix in your organic compost into the soil more efficiently. You can even take out weeds with your tiller.
Of course, you can’t just get any random tiller and expect it to suit your needs. Tillers come in different types, and different brands offer different features. Here’s a quick look at your better tiller options, as well as information that you’ll need to make a correct choice.
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My Top Picks of Best Tiller for Breaking New Ground
If you don’t need a powerful tiller, you can go with this bestselling electric tiller hat works well enough for a small garden. This will prepare your garden soil for planting. It’s very slim, and it weighs only 23 pounds. You have dual 4-blade steel tines that you can use to loosen the soil without too much of a fuss, along with an 8.5-amp motor.
You only have to push a button to start, and then you need to squeeze a lever to get going. When you let go of the lever, the tiller automatically powers off.
This is another electric tiller, but you still get a powerful 12-amp motor rather than just merely 8.5 amps. This generates your tines to rotate up to 340 rpm, which can make short work of your soil. The 6 tines are quite tough and set at an angle to cut a 16-inch swath and 8 inches deep. Maintenance won’t be much of a problem, and you won’t need to worry about refueling either.
It’s not true that you have to settle for a less powerful electrical model when you have a small garden. The Schiller Grounds Care Mantis 7940 comes with a Honda 4-cycle engine that’s able to offer up to 240 rpm. But it is compact enough to get into the nooks and crannies the bigger models can’t fit in. At the same time, it can dig deeper than electrical models.
This is a rear tine tiller with a 208 cc Briggs & Stratton Engine. That gives you 190 rpm along with 9.5 foot-pounds of torque. The cutting depth isn’t much though you do get 7 depth adjustments, this works great for larger sizes due to the 18-inch tilling width.
This is easy enough to use that you can do it with one hand. The 13-inch tines can do the job for a long while, as they’re also self-sharpening.
This comes with a powerful 4-cycle engine, so it should work better at the tougher ground than your usual electric models or even 2-stroke tillers. But you don’t have to be afraid that this is going to be a lumbering behemoth that’s hard to handle. It’s very easy to use.
It helps that it is quite compact, and the balance is terrific. This is easy enough to maneuver with the airless wheels. You also can expect this to last a while, as it features cast iron construction with bronze gear drive transmission.
This is compact enough to act as a cultivator, but you also have an engine that lets you use this as a tiller. The engine is placed right over the tines so that the weight can cut through the soil. At the same time, this is lightweight enough for easy portability.
If you have a large garden with tough soil, just get this rear tine model. You’ll finish the job quickly enough with the wide tilling width, while you can deal with the compact ground with no trouble. After all, you have a powerful engine and tough tines. Maneuvering isn’t a problem as well, even if you have uneven terrain.
Buying Guide: Factors to Consider
Here are the factors you first need to consider before you make your final choice:
The Size of the Garden
The tiller you need should have suitable features for how big your garden is. If you have a large garden, then you can maneuver larger tillers more easily. You should get one with enough tilling width to help you finish the job more quickly.
You may not be able to comfortably use a corded tiller on a large garden, however, unless you can work with long extension cords. Just make sure that the tiller is rated for mid to heavy-duty.
With smaller gardens, you don’t need a large tiller with amply tilling width. A smaller tiller will do, which saves you money. It also saves you a lot of effort as a smaller tiller is more maneuverable within such tight spaces.
In general, you can go with smaller cultivators when you have an area of less than 1,000 sq. ft. to cover. For gardens ranging from a thousand up to 5,000 sq. ft., you may have to go with a front tine tiller. A rear tine tiller may be your best choice if your area exceeds 5,000 sq. ft.
The Depth of the Dig
You need certain types of tillers such as front tine tillers if you wish to dig deeper into the soil. You may also want to check if the tiller is equipped with a powerful enough engine (such as a 4-stroke engine) so that your tiller actually can dig that deep.
Front tine tillers have a working tilling depth of about 10 inches, while rear tine tillers generally have an adjustable tilling depth which you can also set to 10 inches. Mini tillers can suffice if you have a small plot and loose soil to work through, as these machines can only go down to 8 inches.
Type of Soil
Obviously, you don’t really need a lot of power from your tiller if you’re working on loose soil already. It's a different story when you’re working on the dense, compact ground filled with rocks. Here’s a quick guide on what type of tiller you need depending on the soil conditions:
Rear Tine Tiller
Best for dense, compact, or rocky ground
Front Tine Tiller
Suits moderately packed soil
Enough for loose or pre-tilled ground
You may look for various features that can help determine the suitability of a particular tiller. Size is, of course, a factor, and so is the power. But you may want to look over various features that can make your job (and basically your life) a lot easier.
Here are some design features that you may want to look for:
These make storage and transport a lot more convenient.
Adjustable Control Handle
This feature lets move the tines up and down to adjust the tilling depth, as well as from side to side to let you set the tilling width.
These may be found on some rear tine tillers. This lets you use the tiller engine to provide power for the attachments you may use.
Tank Capacity and Fuel Efficiency
If you have a very small tank for your fuel, you run the risk of having to refuel before you finish tilling your garden. However, if you have a fuel-efficient tiller then you’re not using up as much fuel as other machines.
With this, you’re able to start the engine a lot easier even when the weather turns very cold.
Heavier rear tine tillers can jerk around during use, and this provides some balance to safely prevent these sudden movements.
When you can go on the reverse, you’re much more maneuverable.
These give you better traction for increased maneuverability
You can find this metal bar behind the tiller, and it’s for keeping the tilling depth consistent. You really want this feature if you’re using the tiller for cultivation.
One crucial design component is tine design. The tines are those metal prongs that loosen the soil. How long these tines are, and the way they’re positioned, can influence how the tiller operates the depth of the dig and the best type of soil to use the tiller for. Your tines can be short if you don’t need to dig deep, but you’ll need longer tines for greater depth.
The positioning will also matter:
Some machines have the tines at the back, and this configuration is often the best to break up ground that has never been tilled before. This design allows you to cut deeper into thickly packed dense soil. Some of these tillers also offer counter-rotating tines, so you get even more control for the densest ground.
Tines can also be in the middle. The main advantage of this placement is that when the machine is operating, the tine configuration makes the machine a lot easier to control and move. However, they’re not able to provide as much power as the rear-tine models, which is why this is best for just light maintenance duties.
You can also have front tines, which means they’re in front of the wheels. Front tine tillers are generally more affordable, but you settle for lower tilling depth and reduced effectiveness in breaking up clumpy ground. Still, they’re more maneuverable when you’re working over already loose dirt.
When you need power for that tough dirt, you generally go for a tiller with an engine. But that still leaves you a choice between a 2-stroke or a 4-stroke engine. The alternative is to go with electrical power, and this time you can go with either corded or cordless.
These are for heavy-duty jobs, using either propane or gasoline. The fuel consumption is quite good, and of course, you have ample power. On the other hand, these are heavier and bigger, and these tillers tend to require more maintenance.
This mixes gas and oil, and with no separate oil tank, the design is more basic. That makes these tillers generally more affordable and easier to maintain. But the power isn’t as great as the 4-stroke, so these are relegated to light and mid-duty assignments.
These don’t have a lot of power to spare, but they’re generally much more affordable and portable.
Different Types of Tillers
Basically, you have 2 general types of tillers to choose from.
When people in the industry use the term “tillers”, they usually refer to the bigger and more powerful machines with large engines. These are designed to break up compact ground while digging deep into the earth. They can cut away at grass and weeds, along with other existing roots and plants.
This is the term used for less powerful tillers. The basic design may be similar, but often these are powered by electricity instead. The comparative lack of power limits this type to mixing in compost into already loose soil. These are also best for weeding between your garden rows.
It can get a bit confusing when too many different terms are used for various tillers. So, you may encounter several names that mean the same thing:
How much do these things cost?
In general, the cost of these machines can range from $100 to $800. The less powerful cultivators may not even go past $100, and they’re good enough for small gardens. A large space or really dense ground may require more power and features, so be prepared to spend at least $350.
How do you properly maintain your tiller?
This starts with regular cleaning since you have debris and rocks to deal with. Hose of the tines thoroughly, and then check them over to see that you’ve removed all the debris after every time you use the tiller.
Do you need to sharpen the tines?
Yes, when they’ve dulled enough that they’re no longer as efficient in slicing through the ground. To start sharpening, you first have to clean the tines more thoroughly by scrubbing with mild detergent. If you neglect this step, the debris and grime can scratch up your tines during the sharpening process.
After the cleaning, sharpen each tine using a mill file. You can just turn over your tiller to get to the tines if your tiller is small enough. But if you have a bigger machine, you first have to remove the tines from the tiller, and then fasten the tines to a vice so you can sharpen them.
When is the best time to change the oil and air filter?
You have to change the oil and air filter at least once each year. It’s best if you do this right before the gardening season, so you can make sure you have clean fuel right at the start. Your owner’s manual should have the info regarding the right grade and amount of oil to use.
At the end of the season, you should either use up the gas or else you need to add some fuel stabilizer to the remaining gas in the tank.
Where’s the best place to store the tiller?
Just make sure it’s away from the elements. You can keep it in a shed or your garage.
The right tiller can get you started properly when you have a new garden to deal with. However, if the soil isn’t all that tough and it’s already loose, you only need a smaller cultivator to save money. Either way, just make sure the features on your tiller matches your garden and your own personal preferences, and you’re all set to go!
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