My relationship with tillers is a complicated one.
There was the top of the line, hefty powerhouse that my father-in-law gave us. It worked beautifully - except when it didn't. When it misbehaved, I would expend every ounce of energy I had reserved for tilling my vast garden just yanking the pull-string over and over to no avail.
Then there was the lightweight tiller that promised to be the end of all my garden woes - the best garden tiller ever. It, too, was love at first swipe - until it got temperamental and gleefully watched me repeat my pull-string calisthenics again with no chugging turnover to show for it.
As any gardener knows, attempting to garden without a good tiller is akin to ditching the automobile and using only bicycle power for all your traveling needs. Not only is it impractical given the modern technology we've been blessed with, it's also downright frustrating watching your tiny plot struggle to grow compared to the gardens of your friends, which are exploding with vigor thanks to all that loose, well-turned soil. Ask me how I know.
In case you want to get your tiller purchase right the first time, let's look at exactly what you can expect with the top tillers on the market today. After all, it's much easier to rule out a tiller for chronic carburetor flaws than to sit in the baking sun and try once again to clean out your carburetor. Ask me how I know.
- 1 My relationship with tillers is a complicated one.
- 2 Top Rated Best Garden Tiller For The Money Review — Our Top Picks
- 3 Reasons to Buy the Best Garden Tiller - And When You Shouldn't
- 4 Which is the best small garden tiller in our opinion?
- 5 Why you should listen to me
- 6 What is a garden tiller?
- 7 How to use a garden tiller?
- 8 Types of garden tillers
- 9 Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Garden Tiller for Your Needs
- 10 How we picked
- 11 Tips on How to maintain your garden tiller
- 12 Best garden tiller brands
- 13 Garden tiller FAQ
Top Rated Best Garden Tiller For The Money Review — Our Top Picks
Reasons to Buy the Best Garden Tiller - And When You Shouldn't
Taking the time to scope out the best garden tiller on the market is a no-brainer if you want to avoid hours of misery and frustration. When you're purchasing a machine as heavy-duty as a tiller, something that can make providing food for your family light-years easier, you don't want to settle for a flimsy excuse for a soil cultivator. By exercising due diligence on the pre-purchasing end of things and scoping out garden tiller reviews, you can ensure that all your sweaty diligence will be efficiently spent as you push your new tiller out to the garden and get it revving.
Although many expert gardeners will tell you that having a good tiller is an absolute necessity, there are a few times when it can be overkill. Before you spend your hard-earned cash on a machine that you'll decide to try to resell in a season, ask yourself the following questions:
- 1. Do I already have a clean, weed-free garden plot?
- 2. Do I have edged raised beds with close rows?
- 3. Is my garden so big that a tractor would be more efficient than a walk-behind tiller?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you might want to rethink your decision to purchase a tiller. Although it's true that most gardeners do need a tiller, there are times when a tiller is too big or too small for the job. It's true that over-tilling your garden can actually bring weed seeds to the surface and diminish the quality of your soil. It is very important to research on that subject beforehand. For that reason, if you already have an established garden plot that's pretty weed-free, you might want to consider using grass clippings or straw mulch to keep weeds down and add to your organic matter. If you think a tiller is what you need, we've put together some helpful garden tiller reviews to show you exactly what you can expect from some of the top tillers out there.
Which is the best small garden tiller in our opinion?
Based on all the garden tiller reviews we've collected, we're choosing the Black & Decker electric tiller as the top compact garden tiller because it offers the best array of features, versatility, and of course, the ease of electric start-up. After all, carburetor problems and rebellious pull cords will jade even the most enthusiastic gardener on gas engines.
Why you should listen to me
I have been gardening since I was a whiny, sunburned, sweaty child kneeling in the garden, filling my recycled grocery sack with Blue Lake green beans and silently promising myself I would never grow a garden when I grew up. Unfortunately - or rather, thankfully - the gardening bug bit me at some point, and by the time I was a "grown up" I was drawn to the soil as if it was chocolate.
I have experimented with half-acre gardens, square foot gardens, lasagna gardens, container gardens, and tidy, conventional small gardens. One thing I have learned is that although a garden can be grown without a tiller, it's infinitely more pleasant with one - unless that tiller argues with you and remains silent when you've done all you can to make it start.
I'm as interested as you are in finding the perfect tiller, since I have made the wrong choice enough times to see the error of my ways and turn to the right answer. I hope these garden tiller reviews help you decide which direction to head for your particular needs.
What is a garden tiller?
In case you are new to gardening, let me explain to you exactly what a tiller is. When you plant those tiny seeds in the ground, the miracle of life slowly occurs and those seeds transform into the growing things that have addicted so many of us to the fun of playing in the dirt. Unfortunately, as those beneficial plants grow, weeds also germinate and grow even faster.
Keeping weeds out of the garden has been the goal of mankind since after the Garden of Eden. Either you must hand-pull those weeds or find a machine that can do it. Enter the tiller. A garden tiller uses an engine to turn several metal tines into the soil, uprooting weeds and loosening the soil so the nearby garden plants have every chance to grow without competition.
Unless you have a very small garden or a huge love of hoeing, a tiller can save you time and frustration, allowing you to grow much more with much less labor.
You might also want to invest some of your time into reading this publication by University of California, Santa Cruz. Everything you have to learn about tillage and cultivation is there. Next step would be using that knowledge on the field and this page is going to help you find the best tiller for you and your garden!
How to use a garden tiller?
Here's a video to show you exactly how tilling is done.
Types of garden tillers
Depending on your garden, your needs will vary regarding which type tiller you'd be best off purchasing.
Electric garden tillers are much more handy for folks who struggle with pull string starters. Of course, they require that you have available electricity, and the cord can get in the way.
Gas garden tillers are powerful, but after a few seasons they can become quite temperamental, especially if you don't winterize them.
Cultivators or mini-tillers can be surprisingly powerful, but it isn't fair to expect them to do the job of a full-size rototiller. Front tine tillers are powerful, but they can be a bit less steady. Rear-tine tillers are more stable, but they can be more difficult to maneuver. Of course, all the larger tillers can all be hard to move around, so keep that in mind if you aren't in shape to be wrestling heavy equipment.
Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Garden Tiller for Your Needs
• Garden size: The larger your garden, the larger tiller you'll be thankful you have.
• Price/budget: There's no point going into debt to make a garden - a venture that is meant to save money. If all you can afford is a mini-tiller, see if you can barter with a friend to get your garden tilled with a rototiller to get your land ready so the smaller cultivator can handle it.
• Manufacturer: In general, well-known brands are best. Even more important is the brand of engine - Briggs & Stratton is hard to beat.
• Guarantee: Always check to see if a tiller is guaranteed, and, if so, what is covered in the guarantee. Not only can a guarantee save you money down the road; it's evidence that the company honestly believes in their product.
How we picked
Although it's true that each gardener may require a different type of tiller, we still felt that certain characteristics were vital in choosing the best garden tiller.
First and foremost, we looked for great performance. After all, all the bells and whistles aren't worth diddley if they don't result in a well-turned garden with a minimum of frustration.
Next, we looked for durability. There's nothing like telling the world you've found the world's best tiller, only to discover that after three months it no longer wants to work.
After that, we looked for a tiller with versatility - one that works just as well in a small raised bed as it does in the big garden. We looked to see which tillers were easiest to use, since a tiller isn't much help if it's too heavy to wrangle into the garden.
Finally, we considered how much value each tiller was for the money. After all, just because a tiller is cheap doesn't mean it's a good deal, and just because it's expensive doesn't mean it's quality. Using these criteria, we decided that the garden tiller reviews we featured provided a glimpse of some great products that might bring just the answer you've been seeking.
Also, in case you have a larger garden you might want to read this report on science behind fertilizing and ways of applying it.
Tips on How to maintain your garden tiller
Although all tillers require maintenance, there's no question that all tillers are not created equally.
The most high maintenance tillers are those with 2-cycle gas-powered engines. Not only do these require winterizing, they also require a gas/oil mix.
Next, 4-cycle gasoline tillers also require careful attention. Thanks to the addition of ethanol to most gasoline these days, these small engines face overheating and mechanical failures down the road if you don't baby them with a low-ethanol - or no ethanol - fuel. Aside from that, all gas-engined tillers require that you keep them out of the elements, or at least keep them covered, as well as that you drain all the fuel out at the end of the season. Leaving gasoline in the engine over the winter will make your tiller next to impossible to start in those chilly days of spring when the ground is finally begging to be worked.
Electric tillers are extremely attractive because they don't require babying to get them to start. Of course, they do need heavy extension cords to supply them with enough power to prevent straining the engine. Like all tillers, electric tillers also need kept cleaned of debris around the tines. Usually, their small size makes this an easy task. Heavy-duty rototillers sometimes come with pneumatic tires that must be kept aired. Also, these tillers can sometimes vibrate so violently that hitch pins and cotter pins can fly off, so it's a good idea to have some spares on hand. You'll also want to make sure to keep an eye on your oil and change it when it becomes dirty or low.
Best garden tiller brands
• Black & Decker: With a vast array of products, Black & Decker has ventured into the tiller sector with well-designed compact tillers that are versatile and strong.
• Earthwise: Although Earthwise tillers aren't nearly as pricey as some other brands, their high quality has given them a reputation that has drawn plenty of business.
• Troy-Bilt garden tillers: These tillers are now made by MTD, a company that supplies many brand-name lawn and garden machines. They have a great reputation for quality and dependability.
• Mantis: As raised bed gardening has grown in popularity, so has the appeal of the Mantis garden tillers. These lightweight tillers come with a generous guarantee, making the statement that Mantis products can be trusted.
Garden tiller FAQ
Q: Can I turn my backyard into a garden using only a tiller?
A: That depends. If your soil is loamy and soft, your grass is thin, and your tiller is a large one, then absolutely. It'll take some time, but you can do it. If your soil and roots are compacted and your tiller is compact, you might want to consider having it turned with a plow first. It's always a good idea to get a new garden spot plowed before you till it, but you can get it done with nothing but a tiller - and a lot of patience. Of course, you can also get it done with a shovel; it'll just take a long time.
Q: Which is better, a gas tiller or an electric one?
A: Again, that depends. Are you the meticulous type that always changes your oil in your car on time, or are you a "let it slide" type? If you enjoy maintenance, or at least are careful about it, you might appreciate the extra power available with a gas-powered tiller. On the other hand, if you think there's any chance that you might forget to drain the gas out of your tiller in the fall or you might leave it out in the rain a few times, you'd be better to stick with a small electric tiller that you can keep indoors. Only after you've yanked the pull cord on an unresponsive tiller for half an hour in the baking sun can you truly appreciate the ease of a simple electric start-up.
Q: Where can I buy the best garden tiller?
A: It seems the best tiller is the old one your dad has used for three decades and always starts without a hitch. Of course, those tried and true classics usually couldn't be sold for any price you'd be willing to pay. If you can find one at a yard sale, be careful: someone might be trying to unload their poor maintenance onto you. Still, it's sometimes a great way to find an amazing deal, so go for it if you find a good one. Lowe's and Tractor Supply carry great selections of new tillers, and small engine repair shops may have just the tiller you're needing for a price you can afford. Finally, online is a convenient way to go as long as you won't have any issues that require replacement. Amazon has great selection with free shipping, and Ebay also has some great deals.
There's no doubt about it: Investing in a quality tiller can reward you greatly for years to come. We hope these garden tiller reviews have given you greater insight into what you can expect from a cultivator or rototiller.
Whatever tiller you buy, resist the urge to push it to its limits. Yes, your tiller will probably do more than you could have imagined, but some things are best left to the imagination. Many a new tiller owner has angrily kicked their dead tiller down after pushing it relentlessly as though it were a tractor.
Especially if your tiller is a small one, give it a rest after accomplishing great feats. Not only will you enjoy the break, but you will also enjoy a tiller that lives longer than the first day. By taking care of your tiller, you can enjoy a garden that seems effortless, and almost is - thanks to the blessing of modern innovation.
- Rebekah Dorris