Pick A Tiller For The Task woman yard lead

Today’s outdoor products’ companies offer some of the best walk behind roto-tillers ever made. The quality of the tillers and options available are much improved over those made in the past. The majority of garden tillers made 30-plus years ago were of the style with the tines forward of the engine. While this style is still made today, it accounts for fewer sales than in the past and rear tine tillers have gained in popularity and sales at a ratio of about 10 to 1 in favor of rear tine sales.

The question for most potential buyers is, “Which tiller is right for me and my garden?” First, the size of your garden and cost should be considered. Those with smaller gardens might opt for a less expensive front-tine tiller.

Electric start is a viable option for those with physical limitations. Not all models offer this feature but many do; check the various brands for this option and then choose the model that best fits your needs.

With a large number of different brands of tillers on the market it can be confusing as to which choice is best. You have Husqvarna, Troy-Bilt, Cub Cadet, McCulloch, and Mantis, just to name a few. Choose a well-known brand name from an established local dealer who has a good reputation for service and repair.


• Engine choice is a consideration in today’s “green culture.” Four-cycle engines on outdoor products are becoming more popular as opposed to the two-cycle engine, which has the oil mixed with the gas and creates more smoke and odor. Four-cycle Briggs and Stratton and Honda engines are good quality engines, with the Honda models costing about $50 more.

• Rear-tine tillers are becoming more the standard as opposed to front-tine models. They provide more stability for the operator. When using a front-tine tiller, the operator has to fight the tiller’s handles during the actual tilling. All rear-tine tillers are counter rotating, meaning that the tines revolve in the opposite direction from the drive tires. Some models have dual rotating tines as an option.

• Dual rotation has the ability to till deeper when the selector is in the counter rotation position during the first tillage pass. When the selector is in the forward rotation position, the tiller is going in the same direction as the drive tires. This selection is normally used to weed between planted rows that can usually be tilled shallower and faster.

• Rear tine tillers have one of two internal drives: either chain drive or gear drive. A professional tiller repairman and friend of mine favors the internal gear drive over the internal chain drive. Find out which drive is on the tiller you are considering and learn more about it before making a final decision.
Asking which rear-tine tiller is the best can set off as divisive an argument as that about whether Ford, Dodge or Chevy is best. I personally favor the Husqvarna dual rotation tiller with the Honda engine.


Mini-tillers have a large market share with serious gardeners. Some people, due to their physical size, strength or age, find them easier to handle. The well-known Mantis tiller and other similar brands are light and agile and perfect for using after the vegetable plants have grown and branched out.

Tillage width of only nine inches allows gardeners to till easily around individual plants or close to rows of young plants without snagging plants or disturbing young roots, a task not easily done with a more cumbersome rear tine tiller. For deeper soil tillage the operator should pull the mini-tiller backwards. Forward tillage is used for less depth. Once again, both two and four cycle motors are available in the Mantis brand. Mantis also has a wider sixteen-inch tine model with a larger engine. The 9-inch Mantis weighs about 25 pounds; the 16-inch Mantis weighs 34 pounds.

In a future article I will describe heavier duty tillage implements for larger gardens and truck farms that have 1- to 15-acre fields, and larger hobby farms. We will be looking at rear tractor mounted tillers and used tractors with mounted field cultivators, or diggers, as we call them.

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