How to Choose Between a Garden Tiller and a Cultivator

A successful garden starts with the task of prepping soil to ensure plants receive the nutrients they need for the growing season. But before the soil is turned or any ground is broken, it's important to understand the different uses and benefits of tillers and cultivators, so you can give your garden the care that it needs.

Doing so will not only help you determine which gardening tool is right for your garden, but it will also allow you to properly improve and maintain the overall health and quality of your soil and plants.


As you begin to prepare your garden for the new spring season, consider these questions to help you choose between a garden tiller and cultivator.

1. What is the size of my garden?

2. Will I be breaking new ground or working on an existing garden?

3. Which gardening projects do I plan to accomplish?

Garden Tillers

  • Tillers are larger, more powerful and can be up to 16" wide.
  • Garden tillers are used to turn and loosen tightly packed soil, and can also add nutrients back into the soil when the growing season is over.
  • There are also two types of tillers: front-tine and rear-tine.
    • Front-tine tillers consist of forward-rotating tines and are best for small and medium projects like garden maintenance, prepping garden beds and turning under vegetation in the fall.
    • Rear-tine tillers have counter-rotating tines, and dig faster and deeper into the ground due to their tines moving in the opposite direction of their wheels. These types of tillers are best for breaking new ground.

Garden Cultivators

  • Garden cultivators are generally smaller, lighter in weight and can be up to 12" wide. They also help break up the top level of soil, allowing the roots of plants to receive needed moisture and nutrients.
  • They are most appropriate for already-tilled soil, and are great for prepping established planting beds in the spring.
  • Garden cultivators like the TB154E Electric Cultivator are good to use for flower beds, raised beds, between rows for maintenance and for other smaller landscaping tasks. You can also use cultivators to weed around plants during the growing season and work compost into the soil during the fall.


The Dirt from Troy-Bilt®, March/April 2014