Choosing the Right Tiller or Cultivator for Your Garden

Are you tired of renting tillers? Do you want some motorized help when you’re turning soil and weeding your garden beds? Maybe it’s time to get a cultivator or a tiller. What’s the difference, and how do you pick the right features for the work you need to do?

Do I Need a Tiller or a Cultivator?

A cultivator mixes soil. Its tines are short, so it only digs through the top layer of dirt. This is great for seeding, adding fertilizers and weeding. It can’t cut through compacted soil, or soil with thick root systems.
A tiller breaks up soil. These machines have long, sharp tines that cut and lift as they spin. This is great for creating a new garden bed, but it moves too much soil for mixing and weeding.
Some machines can act as both tillers and cultivators. The difference comes down to the tines. Some models can use multiple tine sets, while others have reversible tines. By swapping the position of the tine wheels, either the long or short blades face out, changing the cutting depth.

How Does Tine Position Affect Performance?

Tillers are available with front, mid and rear tine designs. Each position works best at a specific job.
Front tine: With the tines in front of the machine, it’s easy to see where they’re cutting. These tillers are great for turning soil around trees, fences and other obstacles.
Mid tine: By placing the tines directly below the engine, the added weight helps push the tines into the soil. This delivers more cutting power with less engine power Most small cultivators use a mid-tine design, so they can be lighter while still getting the job done.
Rear tine: The tines on these machines are big, and they cut backwards. This helps the tines dig as you push the tiller over the ground. These are the strongest, deepest-digging machines. They’re ideal for clearing large plots of land and turning soil full of roots and rocks.

Which Power Source Should I Use?

Electric motors make maximum torque as soon as they start turning, but their total output is limited in this application. That’s why you’ll only see them used in small cultivators. Corded cultivators have to be plugged in. They’re cheap, and the cord isn’t an issue when you’re working on seed beds close to your house. Rechargeable cultivators use a battery pack, just like an electric drill. Power is comparable to a corded cultivator.
Two-stroke engines make more power than four strokes with the same displacement, but their power band is narrow. If the engine slows down too much, it can stall. Some small cultivators use these engines to save weight.
Four stroke engines have a wide power band, making them suited for heavy work. They’re also available in a range of sizes, from 35cc single cylinders to large V-Twins. Most tillers use these engines.

Where Can I Get a Quality Tiller?

Shank’s Lawn Equipment carries tillers from top brands, including BCS, Troy-Bilt and Honda. Need to do major work? We also carry tiller tractor attachments from Woods Equipment. If you’re looking for new power garden tools, or you need help with your current equipment, visit us at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA. You can also get parts and accessories for your equipment by visiting our website, We ship across the United States and Canada.

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