Gardening Guide - Tillers Versus Cultivators

Preparing and maintaining garden soil is vital in producing healthy plants. As you prepare your soil for spring, using a tiller and a cultivator will help achieve the best results. While these machines may seem similar, they are used for different purposes. So what is the difference between a tiller and a cultivator?


Tillers are used to prepare a garden for spring by turning and loosening the soil before the season starts. They are also useful in the fall for adding nutrients back into the soil when the growing season is over. Tillers are usually larger than cultivators and can dig deeper into the ground, thanks to their large, durable tines. There are two basic types of tillers - front-tine and rear-tine.

Front-tine tillers are slightly smaller and lighter than rear-tine tillers. The tines are located in front, and the tines digging into the soil is what propels the machine forward. Troy-Bilt offers the ColtTMFront-Tine Garden Tiller, great for premium garden soil preparation. Its patented Bolo® tines cut through soil with ease, resulting in finely tilled, well-aerated soil.

Rear-tine tillers have tines that are mounted behind the large drive wheels. On these tillers, the engine is mounted toward the front of the machine, over the wheels, for better traction and balance. Rear-tine tillers are easier to handle and operate more smoothly than front-tine tillers, even in small areas. These tillers are great for installing new beds or maintaining large gardens. Troy-Bilt offers the Super BroncoTM CRT Garden Tiller, designed to handle your tough garden jobs.


Cultivators are lighter weight, easier to use and best for already-tilled soil. They are good for flower beds, raised beds and smaller landscaping jobs. Cultivators help break up the top level of soil to allow moisture and nutrients to get to plants' roots. They can be used to turn and prepare small areas of soil, but tillers are recommended for large areas or tightly-packed soil. New for 2013, Troy-Bilt offers the TB225 Cultivator, with a dependable 2-cycle engine and forward-rotating tines, it's perfect for light landscaping chores. The TB146 EC 4-cycle Garden Cultivator is also great for loosening and cultivating soil. It features adjustable tilling widths from 6" to 12", as well as a tilling depth of up to 5", and it's compatible with the JumpStartTM engine starter.