Choosing a Tiller for Your Garden

by blackspanielgallery

Tillers come in a multitude of varieties, and choosing a tiller depends on your gardening needs. But they do make the work easier. So, break ground with ease and enjoy a garden.

I have often planted a small garden, and found the expense of a tiller something I preferred to avoid. The problem has always been digging out a plot. No matter how small a garden the task of breaking through grass roots is daunting. And, I have had too many years in which I planted too late, after waiting for rain to soften the ground enough to even attempt to dig.

This year I am taking the position that a tiller may be worth the price, especially if it is to be used twice a year, once for the spring garden and again for the fall garden.

Fortunately, tillers are now available at lower prices than they once were.

Things to Consider

Choose Your Tiller Wisely

There are several things to consider.  First, the size in important.  In front of my house I have a small flower garden, and too wide of a tiller would simply not fit.  But, the vegetable garden I am hoping to make will be about twenty-four feet by sixteen feet.  My weed eater can be used as a tiller, with a cutting path of about two inches in width.  It tills too narrow of a swath to be considered.  Another consideration is the depth a tiller will go.  My weed eater goes about an inch or so deep, not enough to loosen soil.  And, ease of handling has to also be a consideration.  Finally, there is the issue of price.

Hand Tillers

A hand tiller is basically an axle with spikes about two inches long at the end of a single pole.  I bought one thinking it might help.  It is effective in removing sparse vegetation like spaced out weeds, and in aeration of the soil. 


The problem is with grass removal for grass that sends out runners, as most grass in this area does.  The spikes catch the runners, and they wrap around the axle, overlaying each other randomly.  This happens after just a short distance, so I have lost time and effort removing twisted grass runners from between the spikes.

Hand Tiller at K-Mart

Fiskars 7990 Extended Reach Tiller

Electric Tillers

Electric tillers are available in a wide price range.  The heavier use gardens might benefit from a better tiller, designed for longer use.  But, for a small garden electric tillers can be found at reasonable prices. 


Remember, the wider the cut the less walking for the gardener.  That having been said, a wider cut requires a motor built for a greater load.  For my purposes a foot wide cut is fine.  And a six to eight inch depth is enough, since I plan to add garden soil to the tilled area, thus building it up.  So, even a long carrot would thrive with an eight inch tilled bed and four inches of added soil building things up.


Less than six inches might in insufficient for removal of some deep rooted grasses.  The depth need be sufficient to clear anything that might have a tendency to grow other than what you have planted. 


One thing you must decide is whether you want two handles that are disconnected, or a bar connecting the side handles.  Think about a wheelbarrow, and how you grasp the handles.  The hands are at right angles to how they would be orientated pushing a crossbar.  Which is more comfortable?  Also to be considered is that the separated handles do not have to be at the same height when making a turn, which might make turning easier.  So think about how often you will make a turn.


Another consideration is the availability of electricity.  Think whether a long extension cord will reach from the nearest outlet.  If not, or if you are careless and might run over the cord, cordless models are available, albeit with fewer choices. 

Find tillers at K-mart.

Craftsman 120V Electric Mini Tiller


 Sun Joe Tiller Joe Max 9 AMP Electric Garden Tiller/Cultivator - TJ601E

Gasoline Engine Tillers

Gasoline engines are another possibility, especially for heavy duty tilling.  Expect to pay more, but not have the cord to watch out for. 


The problem here is with storage.  Gasoline is rarely used completely, there is often a little left.  Storing a device with combustible fuel should not be done near a flame, since fumes can collect and ignite.  In my case my garage holds a hot water heater and a dryer, so it would be the wrong place for storing a gasoline tiller. 


If you do get a gasoline tiller do not start it without motor oil, if it requires oil.  And you will have the problem of changing the oil. 


Storage of a gasoline tiller cannot be on its side, since both the fuel and oil are subject to spilling out.

Find gas tillers at K-Mart.

Craftsman 25cc* 2-Cycle Mini TillerCraftsman 4-Cycle Mini Tiller

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Updated: 04/01/2016, blackspanielgallery
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frankbeswick on 03/08/2016

You are right to use a mixture of techniques to cultivate your garden.A tiller plus weed mats seems a good idea.

blackspanielgallery on 03/08/2016

Thanks. Frank, your input is welcomed. I plan to use a garden mat to assist in blocking weeds.

frankbeswick on 03/08/2016

This is an interesting article on an aspect of gardening that has not been covered before on this site. A word of advice. Certain weeds that spread by rhizomes, such as couch grass, are made worse by being chopped up, as a new plant can spring from each bit. So before you use the tiller, try to get rid of as many perennial weeds as you can. You will not regret doing so.Get them up by the roots, it is the only way.

Marie on 03/08/2016

I might consider getting one of these as we need to make some raised beds this year. An electric one sounds good.

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