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Will A Tiller Cut Through Tree Roots: What You Need to Know

will a tiller cut through tree roots

Will A Tiller Cut Through Tree Roots of some small trees. However, a garden tiller will struggle to chop up larger roots of tall, well-established trees. Despite that, using a rotary tiller to prepare the soil, remove weeds, and cut through grass is a great way to reduce your workload in the garden.

Using a high-quality tiller in the garden is helpful to improve garden soil to make it ready for planting shrubs or vegetables. Tilling the ground creates loose soil, aerates the soil, helps to work in organic matter, and cuts through many types of small roots. The tiller depth, blade size, and root type determine what kind of roots tilling can tackle.

If you have several trees in your garden, you may want to use a tiller to cut through tree roots if you plan to remove them. Or maybe you want to till the ground around trees but want to avoid damaging tree roots. In that case, you need an answer to the vital question: “will a tiller cut through tree roots?”

What is a Tiller?

A motorized tiller is a type of power equipment that uses tines or blades to break up the soil. A front-tine tiller is the most common for working in residential gardens. The rotary tiller has blades at the front, is easy to maneuver, and is relatively lightweight.

A rear-tine tiller is a more powerful machine. However, they are relatively bulky, hard to operate, and more suited to working on larger plots of land.

Can Tillers Cut Through Tree Roots?

Normal range tilling machines will struggle to cut through tree roots. The tiller’s blade size, depth, and power determine the size of roots they can cut through. Large, strong roots of trees can easily damage a tiller’s tines and even break a powerful tiller. Therefore, you should exercise care tilling around trees.

tiller cutting grass

To use a tiller to cut through tree roots, you will need to buy a robust, motorized tiller that tills to a higher depth. You will also need to make sure it is heavy-duty and has enough horsepower to cut through the roots of trees.

The issue with trying to till tree roots is that trees develop extensive root networks. Therefore, roots nearer the tree trunk will be exceptionally strong and difficult to cut through. Likewise, a tiller can struggle to cut through thinner tree roots because these tend to be flexible and challenging to break up.

What Size Roots Can a Tiller Cut Through?

While a powerful tiller may have difficulty cutting tree roots, a tiller can cut through many other types of roots. Like slicing through tree roots, a tiller’s ability to deal with small to medium roots depends on the model.

Let’s look in more detail at the types of roots you can use a walk-behind tiller on.

Tillers cut through weed roots

Most tillers, even cheap compact tilling machines, can cut through the roots of weeds. Typically, weed roots tend to be soft and thin, and the rotating tines will make light work of chopping them.

There are a few things to keep in mind when using a tiller to remove weeds. First, some weeds have extensive lateral roots. Second, perennial weeds like Canada thistle and quack grass may propagate quickly after the roots are severed and spread throughout the soil.

Using a tiller to cut through roots of small plants

If you want to use a tiller to break up small plant roots, you will need to consider the size of the roots and the type of tiller. Typically, a garden tiller has no issue cutting through crop roots such as cucumbers, tomatoes, and other vines.

Using a tiller to break up shrub roots

Depending on the type of shrub and age, you may be able to cut through the roots of small bushes that are not yet established. However, some bushes and shrubs can develop strong roots like a small tree. Running into these thick roots could damage the tiller.

Will a Tiller Cut Through Grass?

A tiller is an excellent power tool to remove grass and even get rid of an entire lawn. Tilling grass keeps the organic matter in the soil. However, you will need a heavy-duty tiller for the machine to deal with an established lawn successfully. In addition, you may have to make more than one pass to remove the grass.

After tilling the turf grass, you can remove clumps of grass and fibrous roots by hand.

Top tip when using a tiller to chop up grass: Always moisten the lawn before tilling to make it easier to cut through the grass.

Will Cutting Through Roots Damage My Tiller?

tilling grass

To answer the question, “will cutting through roots damage my tiller,” you need to consider the type of roots and tiller’s power. Most garden tillers can handle weed roots and thin, soft roots without damage. However, a heavy-duty rear-tine model will be necessary if you need to cut through tree roots.

A typical front-tine tiller chops thin roots, loosens the soil, or removes grass to a depth of two to eight inches deep.

How Can I Safely Use a Tiller Around Bushes and Trees Without Damaging Their Roots?

It can be challenging to use a tiller around mature plants and trees without damaging the roots. The key to avoiding root damage while tilling is to determine where the roots are. Unfortunately, working out the root area is tricky for some bushes and trees because some plants have lots of roots or massive root networks.

Here are some handy tips on using a tiller but avoiding damaging the roots of nearby, healthy plants.

Remove earth from around the tree’s trunk or the shrub’s main stem. Continue until the roots are at least three inches below the surface. Next, measure the distance and mark a circle around the plant. This should give you an idea of the root area where the plant’s roots are close to the surface. Outside of that area should be safe to till without causing root damage.

The next step is to set the tilling depth to its highest setting. You can then start tilling up to the borderline of the root area that you marked out. When tilling around trees or bushes, don’t go too deep at the start. Typically, the further you are from the plants, the deeper you can go.

Will A Tiller Cut Through Tree Roots — In Conclusion

It is possible to cut through roots using a garden tiller. The type of roots you can cut depends on their size, power of tiller, and blade size. For cutting robust and thick tree roots, it is necessary to use a heavy-duty tiller. However, you will have to remove some types of roots by hand using a root cutter.