Do I Need a Tiller or 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 it needs.

Doing so will not only help you determine which gardening tool is right for your garden, but it will also enable 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 offer a variety of tilling widths up to 20 inches.
  • There are two types of tillers design you can choose from: front-tine and rear-tine.
    • Front-tine tillers are best for small- to medium-size projects in existing beds. They are great for garden maintenance, prepping garden beds and turning under vegetation in the fall.
    • Rear-tine tillers are best for breaking new ground and using in hard-packed or challenging soil. They are well suited to use in medium- to large-size gardens and projects.  The Bolo® tine design on Troy-Bilt® rear-tine tillers features three uniquely shaped tines, each designed to do a separate task; yet work together to slice, chop and turn the soil, creating finely tilled soil, ready for planting.
  • There are also two different tine rotations to consider:
    • Garden tillers with counter-rotating tines, like the Super Bronco CRT Garden Tiller are ideal for large areas and breaking new ground. The counter-rotating tines move in the opposite direction of the wheels, allowing the tines to break up hard or clay soils more easily than forward-rotating tines.
    • Tillers like the Pony®, with forward-rotating tines, are best suited for use in established beds to create well aerated soil, ready for planting.
    • Both types of tillers do an excellent job of thoroughly and deeply mixing crop residue and soil amendments into garden beds for improved plant performance.

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 TB146 EC 4-Cycle Garden Cultivator are good to use for flower beds, raised beds, between rows for maintenance and other smaller landscaping tasks. You can also use cultivators to weed around plants during the growing season and to work compost into the soil during the fall.