If creating flower beds or a garden is in your future, a cultivator or tiller is a great tool for the job. Knowing more about cultivators and tillers and understanding their capabilities can help you pick the right piece of equipment for your planting chores.
Both cultivators and tillers use metal blades to dig into the ground. Choosing between a cultivator and a tiller can come down to the size of the job you plan to tackle.
A cultivator is good for loosening the soil in an existing planting area, weeding the area during the growing season and mixing compost into the soil. Cultivators are smaller and easier to maneuver than tillers. You can find cultivators in gasoline-powered and cordless or corded electric-powered models. Some gasoline-powered cultivators will crank with an optional, powered device that you purchase separately, eliminating the need for using the pull-cord. A corded cultivator requires a suitable extension cord. Follow the device manufacturer's recommendations for compatible extension cords and see Power Cord Safety Tips.
A tiller is an option for heavier jobs. A tiller is a gasoline-powered machine with a greater working width than that of a cultivator. Tillers are more powerful than cultivators and have larger, heavy-duty tines that work the soil.
Front-tine tillers can perform general garden maintenance such as weeding, soil preparation and composting in small-to-medium-sized gardens. These tillers have tines that help move the machine while digging into the soil. Some have the option to engage the tines in forward or reverse.
Rear-tine tillers have engine-driven wheels. These machines are best for larger planting areas. They can have forward-rotating tines that perform well in existing beds for cultivating, weeding and working in compost or, at the end of the season, old vegetation. Rear-tine tillers can also have counter-rotating tines that turn in the opposite direction of the wheels. Counter-rotating tines have more torque for breaking up new ground and can dig deeper into the soil. Some rear-tine tillers offer dual-rotating tines so you can select forward- or counter-rotation to match the work you need to do.
In addition to determining the type of work you need to do, look at the available capabilities and features of the machines to help you decide which cultivator or tiller is right for you.
2-cycle engines, typically available on cultivators, operate on a gasoline / oil mixture.
4-cycle engines eliminate the need for mixing oil and gas.
An electric starter gives you push-button convenience, eliminating the need for pull-starting.
Maximum tilling depth and width help you match the capabilities of the machine to your planting needs.
Reverse drive on wheel-driven tillers gives you increased mobility.
Pneumatic tires give excellent maneuverability and traction.
Power take off (PTO), available on select rear-tine tillers, lets you use the tiller engine to power optional ground-engaging attachments.
Always follow the cultivator or tiller manufacturer's operating, maintenance and safety instructions, including instructions on safety gear.