How to Choose The Right Tiller For Your Vegetable Garden

One of the best tools to cultivate the soil in your garden fast is a tiller, which makes a rather labour-intensive task much more manageable. Now, when it comes to choosing the right piece of tilting equipment for your home garden or lawn, you will need to consider the size of the area that needs to be tilted, the type of soil, and, of course, how much money you are willing to pay to get one. Then, you will be able to determine what size of a tiller will cover your needs.

Below is a breakdown of the types of garden tillers, alongside their specifications. Some equipment is gasoline-driven while others require electric to power the motor. In this case you will also need to consider the types of generators for sale that can help to tackle larger lawns where you need cabled power. Take a look to help you make the most informed decision possible.

Types of Garden Tillers

Mini Tiller

Recommended for: Gardens for small-to-midsized gardens (< 1000 sq. ft.) and narrow spaces.

Width: Between 6-9 inches

Also called a cultivator, a mini tiller is an excellent option for clean (rock-free) gardens with loose soils, as well as light weeding (provided you have garden beds already established). Its smaller size makes it easy to control, manage, and store. You may use a mini tiller to cultivate small beds or between planted rows (shallow cultivation).

Cultivators are also great machines for people that lack the required strength on their upper body to control larger tillers. To maximise results, break the ground (especially if you are now starting your vegetable garden) to make it soft (i.e. soak the area heavily or use the tiller after lots of rainfall).

Front-Tine Tillers

Recommended for: Tougher jobs due to their excellent power. Also, moderately rock-free and loosely packed soil.

Ideal for: Midsized gardens (between 1000 sq. ft. and 5000 sq. ft.)

Width: Up to 24 inches

Tines are the rotating metal blades that help dig up soil, and as the name suggests, these tines are in the front of a front-tine tiller. The majority of models require that you pull the tiller to achieve optimal results. However, you may also find machines that you call you to push if that is more convenient to you.

Tillers come with either an:

  • OHV (Over Head Valve) engine – A type of piston engine also called pushrod engine where the rods are used to operate/run rocker arms,

or an

  • OHC (Over Head Camshaft) engine – Its layout is designed to hold a low total mass of the valve train, which makes it stronger and lighter than an OHV.

In comparison, OHV engines are a more compact design with a higher power output than their OHC counterparts while the OHC configurations are more powerful and efficient than the OHV ones.

Features: Front-tine tillers like the Garden Tiller 6.5HP 4 Stroke model come equipped with several features, including an adjustable wheelbase, adjustable tilling widths (up to 24 inches), and handle-mounted tine engagement (at least, most brands). Finally, many front-tine tillers have self-sharpening tines, and don’t require any maintenance due to their enclosed chain case (depending on the model).

Rear-Tine Tillers

Recommended for: Tough soils (i.e. untilled or rocky or compacted ground) and cases when cultivating into greater depths is required.

Ideal for: Larger gardens (> 5000 sq. ft.)

You will find the tines of a rear-tine tiller in the back. This type of tiller is specifically designed to provide the power larger gardens need, which is why you will see them carrying larger engines (usually larger than 8 hp, 4-cycle gasoline-powered engines). Plus, the fact that their chain case is also sealed (like front-tine tillers) calls for little to no maintenance.

Features: Many models will allow you to counter rotate the tines till to a depth of 8-10 inches, which will make breaking up tough soil a much more relaxed task while the adjustable side panels help keep the ground you have already tilled in a defined area. Also, you can set a rear-tine tiller to a preferred depth (tines are adjustable to various depths). Now, if you can stretch your budget to buy a machine with more advanced features, you will be able to find tillers that also smooth out the tilling path, as well as models with large 14-inch agricultural tires.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a Garden Tiller:

  • How often will you prepare the garden soil? If you don’t need a tiller more than once a year, then you probably should consider renting a machine instead of purchasing one.
  • Will you garden on a large or small scale? If you need a machine for a small home garden, then a cultivator will cover your needs sufficiently.
  • What are the soil’s requirements? Are there any rocks? Tough ground? A rear-tine tiller is your best option for difficult soils.
  • What is your budget?

Tip: For those just starting out with a new home vegetable garden, there is plenty of information and several publications on pest control and gardening at the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.

Whether it is time to prepare your vegetable garden for planting or break new ground, you only need to figure out the type of machine that will best suit your specific garden or lawn needs and then browse through websites that have generators for sale (narrow your search using the search term “tiller” or “cultivator”) to find the right tiller based on your criteria.



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