The Top 10 Best Garden Tillers of 2016

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Garden Tillers: Questions & Answers

What is a garden tiller used for?

Garden tillers are motorized lawn tools used to prepare soil for planting. Tilling is an important step that ensures the soil is mixed properly and free of excessive roots and rocks, so your plants can grow and be healthy. Garden tillers make the process of working through compact or rocky soil easier. They differ from garden cultivators in that tillers are for harder jobs and are heavier.

Should I get a tiller / cultivator combo?

Many tillers come in a combo tool with a cultivator. It can save you money and storage space to get a combo tiller / cultivator. This allows you to prepare the soil initially, and also use the cultivator once your garden is on its way. Cultivators are good for weeding and mixing compost. One of the downsides to getting a combo tiller / cultivator is that it will be much heavier than getting just a cultivator, but you do save space on storage.

How much power should a tiller have?

Different gardening plots call different degrees of power. Hard, rockier ground will require a tiller with a powerful engine. Bigger yards need powerful engines, too. Tillers are generally measured by amps (if the motor is electric), with 8-12 amps being a good range for really compact soil. Horsepower is used for gas-powered engines; though including the horsepower is less common now. Both electric and gas-powered engines are measured in torque.

What is torque and why does it matter?

Torque measures the amount of force it takes to twist an object. It appears as pound-foot, so torque is the force necessary to move one pound a length of one foot. With a tiller, it’s the amount of force necessary to turn the tiller’s blades. The higher the amount of torque, the more powerful the machine is. As an example, an electric engine with 8 amps will have a torque rating of about 90 lb/ft. Having good torque is especially crucial if the soil has never been broken before. It will be very compact and might hide rocks and weeds, so you want a tiller that’s aggressive enough to mix the soil.

What are advantages and disadvantages of a gas-powered tiller?

Gas-powered tillers have the benefit of being cordless. This is very convenient when you’re working in a garden and don’t want to worry about slicing through a cord. Gas-powered engines also tend to be more powerful and durable; the technology on electric motors hasn’t quite caught up yet. Some downsides of gas-powered tillers include more maintenance and a high volume. You have to buy fuel, and deal with the gas and oil. Gas engines are also a lot louder than electric ones, and it’s recommended that you weigh ear protection with most gas-powered tillers.

What are pros and cons of an electric garden tiller?

The first advantage with electric tillers is that electric engines are eco-friendly. There are no emissions, and very little maintenance since you don’t have to deal with gas or oil. They’re also a lot quieter, so you can work early in the morning without disturbing anyone. The main disadvantage with electric machines is that the cord is a bit awkward to work with, and it limits your tilling radius. You have to experiment with extension cords to get a really good range, and you could accidentally trip over the cord or slice through it.

How much do the blades and tines matter?

The blades and tines on a tiller are very important and determine both width and depth. They also need to be strong since they are coming into direct contact with the soil and doing all the work. Having adjustable tines allows you to dig at different depths, so you get more versatility about types of garden plots you can create. The blade/tine combo basically looks like a throwing star, with the “tines” being the points on the star.

Different tillers boast different kinds and numbers of tines. Some are even customizable, so you get five blades with four tines each, and you can arrange them in any way you want and have them go either forward or backward. Others have a variety of speeds to choose from, so you can have your blades rotate up to 200-300 RPM. Some good tine construction materials include serpentine and hardened steel.

How deep and wide do garden tillers go?

Different garden plots require different widths and depths. Generally, the deeper you can go, the better, though most tillers don’t go deeper than 10 inches. 5-8 inches are some more shallow depths. For width, it really depends on how much space you want for each garden bed. 9-10 inches is an example of a smallish bed, while 16+ inches are great for medium-sized beds. Many tillers have adjustable widths and depths, which is great if you don’t want totally uniform beds.

How much do they weigh?

Garden tillers can be pretty heavy; 25-30 pounds is considered pretty light for them. In general, a bigger motor means a heavier machine. Features like lift handles and good tires help keep a heavy tiller stable, and make it easier for you to carry it back and forth from your garage or shed to your yard. Good wheels will be large and durable enough to handle rocky ground.

What should I look for if my garden has never been broken?

If you are just breaking ground for a new garden, you don’t really know what to expect. The ground could be full of rocks, concrete, roots, and clay. Having a garden tiller that’s ready to tackle all kinds of difficult terrain is ideal. The first thing to look at is the motor. Many would choose a gas-powered motor since they have the reputation of being stronger, and you don’t have to bother with a cord. While these benefits are good, there are still lots of electric-powered tillers that have been proven to be very effective in harsh conditions. You really want to look at torque for both types of tillers.

The next thing to look for is tines. You want really durable tines that won’t bend or break when they come across rocks. Blades with lots of tines are also more effective. The last thing to think about is how much control you have over the tiller. When you’re working in rocky ground, the tiller could jump around a lot, so you want to be able to keep the tiller balanced. Ballasts, which are basically tanks that you fill with sand, help keep tillers grounded. Good wheels are also crucial.

How much do garden tillers cost?

Garden tillers have a wide range of prices. They can be as affordable as $100 and as much as $500. The cheaper ones are meant for smaller gardens that have been tilled before, and are also referred to as garden cultivators. They often include smaller engines with fewer tines. The more expensive ones are for harder tilling jobs, like gardens that have never been tilled or have particularly compact soil. They’ll have the bigger, gas-powered engines with 4-cycles, more tines, and more torque. They also might include accessories like border edgers. For the real heavy duty jobs you can better look at our article about rear tine tillers.

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