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Buying a tiller

What to Look for When Buying a Tiller

A garden tiller is an essential tool to cultivate soil and prepare it for planting seeds. Using a tiller in your garden prevents the backbreaking work of digging the ground, weeding, working in compost, or breaking up compacted soil. For example, suppose you need to prepare a vegetable patch or dig up a lawn. In that case, the best garden tillers will save time and labor making the ground ready. We help you with what to looking for when buying a tiller.

Front tine tillers are usually the ideal choice for residential yards and small homesteads. However, the best tiller for your gardening needs should be powerful enough to deal with the type of soil in your garden. For example, some cheaper models don’t deal with rocky soil or very compact soil.

Rear tine tiller what to look for

Additionally, you must decide on buying an electric tiller or a gas-powered tiller. Some cordless tillers are available. However, a battery-powered tiller usually has limited runtime and is only suitable for small gardens.

Also, it’s vital to consider the planting depth you require. Some of the best types of garden tillers have powered wheels to make soil preparation even more manageable.

This article is a comprehensive guide to buying the best type of tiller for your garden.

What is a Garden Tiller?

A garden tiller is a powerful tool used for turning soil and preparing the ground for planting. The main part of a tiller is the tines. The tines are angled blades that rotate to loosen dirt and turn it over. There are usually four sets of tines on garden tillers. Some garden tillers come equipped with wheels, while others do not.

What Are Garden Tillers Used For?

A garden tiller is used for digging up soil, loosening compacted soil, digging holes, breaking up clods, and weeding gardens. Most gardeners use a tiller to turn the ground into loose soil, ready for planting crops or vegetables. A tiller also loosens and aerates ground under topsoil, allowing plant roots to grow better and healthier.

Another reason to use a garden tiller is to remove weeds and grass. The best types of tillers should quickly turn turf grass into loose soil, ready for adding compost and plants for starting a healthy vegetable patch. Powerful tillers are also helpful for preparing rocky ground without damaging the equipment.

What are Some Beneficial Features of the Best Garden Tillers?

Here is a brief overview of the features of most garden tillers.

  • Tilling Depth—A front-tine tiller allows you to adjust the depth. The machine may have a depth gauge to prevent tilling deeper than necessary. Adjustable tines also help to till at various depths.
  • Garden tiller power source—Most garden tillers are corded models that use an extension cord for power. Typically, these tillers are cheaper and allow continuous runtime. However, gas-powered machines can be noisy, and they emit fumes. A cordless tiller is better for the environment and is not restricted by a power cord. However, they only last between 15 and 30 minutes.
  • Wheels—Heavy-duty plastic wheels can make it easier to operate and transport a garden tiller.
  • Self-propelled wheels—A gas tiller with rear tines may have self-propelled tires. This feature is excellent for working large areas of compacted soil. Usually, electric front-tined tilers require effort to push them forward.
  • Handle—A tiller with a collapsible handle is perfect for storing in a shed, garage, or outbuilding.

The Primary Types of Tillers

The three main types of tilers are front-tine tillers, mid-tine tillers, and rear-tine tillers. Mid-tine and rear-tine tillers are usually for large farms and professional use. However, front tine tillers are usually the garden tool of choice for most residential yards.

Front Tine Tiller

A front-tined tiller has a set of between two and six tines located at the front of the machine. With the tines at the front, the tiller is designed to be pushed through the soil rather than pulled. This feature allows you to work around plants without damaging them.

What are front-tine tillers used for?

  • Weeding soft ground
  • Preparing an annual vegetable patch for planting seeds
  • Breaking relatively firm ground
  • Digging in small or medium-sized gardens
  • Tilling depth of 6 to 8 inches and width of 12 to 24 inches.

Rear Tine Tiller

As the name suggests, a rear-tined tiller has wheels at the front and tines at the rear. Because the tines are at the back of the tiller, it is easier to propel to machine forward. However, a rear-tine tiller is heavier and more challenging to manage than a front-tine model.

What are Rear-tine tillers used for?

  • Breaking up hard ground
  • Digging extensive gardens and small homesteads
  • Loosening rocky ground
  • Working in forward and reverse directions

Mid-Tine Cultivators

A mid-tine cultivator has a set of wheels at the rear and one or two wheels at the front. The tines are located in the middle of the machine. Mid-tine cultivators are not popular for working the ground of residential yards.

Tiller vs. Cultivator

A tiller is a larger machine than a cultivator, which is more of a general-use gardening tool.

Typically, you only need to use a tiller once or twice during the year to turn over the soil. A cultivator is better for light weeding and working in compost. Compared to a cultivar, a tiller is a heavy-duty, powerful machine, ideal for breaking up hard ground.

How to Decide — Front Tine Garden Tiller vs. Rear Tiller?

Buying a Tiller-This is a Rear Tiller

The decision to buy a front-tine tiller or a rear one comes down to a few factors. The first is garden size. For most backyard gardens with a vegetable patch, a front-tine tiller is ideal. They are easier to maneuver, perfect for working in tight spaces, and don’t take too much storage space.

The second factor to consider is the type of garden soil you have. A rear-tine tiller is ideal if you need to prepare virgin ground or soil that is particularly compacted. However, unless you regularly cultivate a large patch of land, it is more cost-effective to rent a rear-tine tiller.

Vital Factors to Consider When Purchasing the Best Tiller

Garden tillers are available in many different sizes and shapes. Some are designed to work with electric power, others with gasoline, and some with battery power. In addition, some tillers are very small and compact, and others are about the size of a small lawnmower. Therefore, before you purchase a new tiller, it’s vital to consider a few factors.

Here are some helpful guidelines on what to look for when buying a tiller:

Soil Type

The type of tiller to buy depends significantly on your garden soil conditions. For example, heavy clay soil can be too challenging for a cheaper, electric front-tine tiller. So, for tough soil conditions, you will need a heavy-duty tiller with a powerful engine. However, for turning over loose soil in small residential yards, a lightweight tiller is ideal.

Size of ground for tilling

Typically, a front-tine garden tiller is suitable for most residential gardens. A compact tiller with standard rotating tines is ideal if you need to weed flower beds, work between rows of plants, cultivate soft soil, prepare vegetable patches, or slice through plant roots. So, there is no need to buy a heavy, large rear-tine tiller for most residential backyard gardens.

Electric and Cordless Tillers

Electric tillers are easier to use than gas ones, but they’re also less powerful. Additionally, corded garden tillers don’t give off potentially harmful emissions. They are also easier to maneuver and require less maintenance. However, the trailing extension cord can get in the way.

Cordless battery-powered tillers are lighter than gas ones and are not restricted by the cord length. However, they need recharging every few hours. And if you are working in a more extensive garden, cordless batteries can run out quickly.


For most home gardeners, storage space is a vital consideration. Before buying a tiller, make sure you have enough room to store it safely. Many front-tine tillers have folding handles for reducing the storage footprint.

Types of tines on the tiller

Depending on the type of tiller you buy, you may have a choice of tines to choose from. Most electric front-tine tillers have standard rotating tines that rotate in a forward motion. However, rear-tine tillers typically come with a few options such as:

  • Counter-rotating tines—The blades rotate against the direction of the wheels. This action makes these models more powerful machines than standard tillers.
  • Dual-rotating tines—The blade can rotate forward or against the wheel direction.

There is also the shape of tines to consider. Here is an overview of the type of tines on standard tillers:

  • Bolo tines—The cutting blades are angled at the end in an ‘L’ shape. These ties are standard and are ideal for deep tilling in soft soil or moderately compact soil.
  • Slasher tines—The tines have a curved angle, making them ideal for cutting through plant roots, vegetation, and weeds without tangling.
  • Pick and chisel tines—The star-shaped disc blades have teeth with straight and curved angles. This design makes the tines perfect for loosening hardened ground or chopping up weeds.

Ease of use of tiller

Although tillers make digging the garden more manageable, operating the garden power tool still takes effort. An electric front-tine model is lighter than a gas-powered garden tiller. However, they require effort to push through hard soil. If you are dealing with compacted soil or removing a lawn, it may take several passes to loosen the dirt.

Garden tillers cultivator for tillage

A rear-tine tiller with a gas engine is heavier, making them harder to handle. However, they usually have self-propelling wheels, making them easier to use over a prolonged time period.

Other features Tillers

More expensive tillers may have other handy features to make working in the garden. Here are a few features to look for:

  • Flip-down wheels
  • Folding handle
  • Electric starter on gas-powered tillers
  • Forward and reverse gears to give you more control

Guide for Buying a Tiller — In Conclusion

To make soil preparation and cultivation easier, you need a tiller that fits the kind of work you do. The two things to consider are the type of soil in your garden and how you plan to use it. For most backyard gardens, a front-tine tiller provides the ease of use and practicality you are looking for. The right tiller can help you save time and effort while keeping your garden healthy and productive.