What Is A Garden Tiller?

By on August 7, 2020 in Backyard Gear with 0 Comments

If you ask anyone that doesn’t garden, what is a garden tiller?  Most likely you will get some vague description of a horse pulling a massive plough out in a field with a farmer in overalls behind it.

what is a garden tiller

Well, they would have the right idea, but a garden tiller is a scaled-down version, about the size of a lawn mower with an engine fitted to it.  In this article, we want to take a look at what is a garden tiller and do you really need one in your backyard?

What is tilling?

Tilling is actually a form of deep cultivation.  This process is used when preparing a new garden bed or when you are adding large amounts of organic material to a garden bed.

How deep do I need to till the soil?

Depth of tilling comes down to what garden bed you are preparing.  Generally, tilling depth in a garden bed is somewhere between 4 – 10 inches.  You can certainly go deeper if you are creating a new garden bed or if the soil you are working with is poor quality.

When is the best time to use a garden tiller?

Garden bed tilling is best done at the end of a growing season.  So as to best prepare for the new growing season. Its always advisable to till the garden bed with organic material to add nutrients back into the soil.

Why do I need to till the soil?

Over time soil can become hardened and compacted due to rain, foot traffic, lack of attention.  When tilling the soil, the idea is to create air pockets by the loosening of the soil. So, to allow air and water penetration for plants to use.

Loosened soils allow for micro-organisms to perform all kinds of important tasks as well making it easier for roots to spread.

Cultivator or garden tiller?

Cultivators can work really well in small areas like flower beds.  If you are going to do a larger garden area, then a tiller or rototillers is the right garden tool to use.

What is a garden tiller?

A garden tiller is a set of tiller blades with an engine fitted to it.  They are also referred to as a rototiller.  You are able to buy both gasoline and battery garden tillers.

The machine powered blades will shear through the soil. Giving you all the benefits, we described above, of freshly tilled soil.

The two different types of tillers

There are two different types of garden tillers designs available.

Front-Tine Tillers

front line tillerA front-line tiller is designed with its blades ahead of its wheels, which all turn in the same forward direction.

All you need to do it push down on the handle, which will lift the blades of the tiller from the soil.  Then you are able to direct the tiller on its wheels where you want it to go.

Rear-tine tillers

rear tine tillerA rear-tine tiller is designed with the blades behind the wheels.  With this design, the read -tine tillers are able to dig deeper then front-tine tillers.

The pressure is caused by the weight of your hands pushing down on its times.  Usually, rear-tined rototillers turn the times in the opposite direction of travel.

If you are in a residential garden a front-tine tiller would be the recommended choice.  As they are more suited to lawns and flower beds with moderate soil compaction.

If you have larger areas and harder compacted soil then a rear-tine garden tiller is the best bet.

What to look for in a garden tiller

There are lots of different features when it comes to garden tillers.  You need to match the feature of your garden tiller to the size of your lawn.

Here are the things to look for in a garden tiller:

Power source

Take the time to work out the best power source for your garden tiller. There are three options

Gas-powered tillers

These will be the most powerful to use in a back yard.  Keep in mind that they are noisy, will create some fumes and tend to be overkill for the average lawn or garden.

Electric-powered tillers

There are two choices with electric tillers


Corded options are lightweight and user friendly.  Some people complain that the cord gets in the way when tilling.


Obviously, with battery-powered tiller models, there is no cord to get in the way.  The battery pack will need recharging. So, they are the best suit for smaller yard work.


Yes, good old, hard sweat and tears power manual tillers.  These types of tillers best work in smaller yard and gardens.

Adjustable cutting depth

Garden tillers will come with both fixed and adjustable tines which allow for variable cutting depths.  An adjustable model will allow you to choose the cutting depth you need.

Dual Rotating tines

Garden tillers with dual-rotating tines are the best choice for larger lawns and gardens.  Dual tine machines will give the machine additional cutting power. Make sure you check the tiller you want to buy, as not all units will have this feature.

Counter-rotating tines

This feature will help the machine dig deeper.  It provides for the more powerful cutting action.  Again, not all garden tillers will come standard with this feature so make sure you read through the product specifications first.

The above cover most of the features in what is a garden tiller?  Now we want to look at what you need to consider when you are buying the best garden tiller for you.

What to know when buying the best garden tiller for your backyard

Before you take off to your local hardware store to buy a garden tiller.  There are a few things you need to consider before you buy one.  Every garden tool you use needs to be used in the right way and for the right job.  So not every garden tiller will be suited for you.

Size of your lawn

The biggest critical factor when buying a garden tiller is the size of your garden and lawn.  If you only have a small lawn or flowerbed, you might only require a cultivator or just a front-line tiller.  You might only need a manual tiller if you have a very small plot.

If you are working with a large area, then you need a rear-tine tiller with a decent power unit.

The budget you want to spend

A well-maintained backyard can be an expensive thing.  When it comes to gardening tools make sure you have a budget worked out to stick to.

Whilst it’s nice to have a garden shed full of gardening tools. It is silly to spend money on a tool for one job when you can go to your local rental business and rent a garden tiller that will do the job.

You can but a cheap garden tiller but remember sometimes you get what you pay for.  Some cheaper units will have inferior components and be poorly made, which will reduce the service life.

Work out what you are prepared to spend and stick to your budget.  Remember you can rent a unit for one of a job if needed.

Type of soil

Along with the size of your lawn the type of soil if want to till is a big consideration.

A manual tiller best suits a rocky or sandy soil in a yard. Typical soil quality in a lawn and flower best is best suited to a standard front-line tiller.

Garden Tiller useability

Weight of the unit is something that you need to consider.  A heavy tiller can cause fatigue in your arms pretty quickly.  A lightweight tiller allows for smooth movement and is easier to manoeuvre.

Storage of the garden tiller is also a consideration.  The bigger and heavier the harder it is to fit into a standard garden shed.

What warranty do you get?

Most manufacturers warranties will cover a 12-month period.  Although some tillers on the market can have extended warranties of up to five years.  Make sure you know what you get in a warranty as well.  Generally, they will only cover defect parts, and not operator damage or misuse.

The wash-up

A garden tiller will help aerate a lawn and also help with drainage.   Choose your garden tiller based on your lawn and garden requirements. What is a garden tiller is best described as a garden tool that should help you keep your lawn looking luscious all year round?

Just remember that a well-maintained backyard lawn and garden will bring you hours of pleasure out sitting out there on your patio.

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About the Author

About the Author: Michael Wuze is a regular content contributor to Living Out The Back, which was started as a way to share the best of what life has to offer outside your home. The backyard is the one area so many people don't enjoy that we want to help you with. Everyone should enjoy their backyard. .


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