Choosing the Right Tiller for your Home Vegetable Garden

comments (12) March 8th, 2012

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MikeTheGardener MikeTheGardener, member
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My dad’s tool of choice for his garden was his trusty pitchfork, which he has since passed on to me. While I love using the pitchfork and digging in the dirt, nothing speeds up cultivating the soil faster than using a tiller. A good tiller will turn any large cultivating job into a quick one. However, there are features and benefits you should be on the lookout for so that you do not pick the wrong one and get one that is either too small or too large for what you need.

The two types I am going to focus in on are front- and rear-tine tillers. There are also cultivators, which I will talk about in a future posting.

These types of tillers are designed for a small to midsized garden that has been previously tilled, or had the ground broken. They will be able to break ground for a new garden if the conditions are ideal and that means the ground has be very soft. Such a condition would be after plenty of rain or a heavy soaking to an area. 

Front-Tine Tillers
As the name implies, the rotating tines are in the front of the machine. Many of these require that you “pull” the tiller for best results, although there are models where you can push. Most, if not all, models and brands of front-tine tillers have an OHV engine. This is a type of piston engine where rods are used to actuate rocker arms. Newer models could have an OHC engine, but the process of the tiller is still the same.

Popular features on front-tine tillers include handle-mounted tine engagement, adjustable tilling widths (as much as 24 inches), and an adjustable wheel base. Not all brands will have these options so if they are important to you, then make sure you request them from the person selling you the tiller or read the box and/or product specs.

A front tiller give you excellent power for tougher jobs, and the tines in most models are self sharpening. The chain case in many varieties are enclosed; therefore, it is virtually maintenance free. With brands that offer an adjustable width, this will give you more versatility for varying conditions.

Rear-Tine Tillers
As its name implies, the tines are in the back of the machine. These types of tillers are designed for large gardens and with the power they provide can tackle difficult jobs. They have large engines, and like front tillers the chain case is sealed and comes pre-lubricated to reduce maintenance. 

On many models the tines will counter rotate and that will help you break up the toughest of soils. They are also adjustable to various depths which will allow you to set your tiller to a preferred tilling depth. They have adjustable side panels, which will keep tilled soil in a defined area. Top-notch brands of rear tillers have large 14-in. agricultural tires as well as a serrated trailing shield which smooths out the tilling path (this is an added feature, so make sure you ask for it).

There are many companies that make both types of tillers, so if you are brand specific with gardening tools, chances are your favorite one makes a tiller. Be sure to select a tiller that meets your needs, but not one that is too large for them either. If you have an 11-ft. by 11-ft. garden, you won’t need a rear-tine model as a front-tine tiller will do (you get the point). Also be sure to check what type of fuel the engine takes. They usually are either 2-stroke or 4-stroke engines. To read more on how these engine types differ be sure to do Google search on “2 stoke engine 4 stroke engine differences.


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Comments (12)

Mariewhite writes: That's really easy way for working in garden
Posted: 12:20 pm on August 12th
bradlewilliams writes: Great work and presentation and awesome UI!
Posted: 11:33 am on August 2nd
KayClayton writes: i love the colors and the shadows

Posted: 6:50 am on July 4th
DianaRey writes: wow… its awesome
Posted: 6:50 am on June 23rd
KeithMullins writes: Really Great choice for garden
Posted: 11:21 pm on March 30th
LattisaArora writes: Good Garden tool
Posted: 11:07 pm on March 30th
BalluBachlor writes: Great one projects
Posted: 12:48 am on March 29th
RandyFish writes: Best of the Best, really well said

Posted: 1:59 am on February 18th
RixonJoy writes: Great project
Posted: 12:20 am on February 16th
JamelFlower writes: Really its great project
Posted: 1:08 am on January 26th
grannybird writes: I've had both the front & rear tine tiller. My first garden was in beautiful deep sandy loam (How perfect was that?!)and the front tine tiller did a wonderful job. After moving, I used the faithful front tine tiller to make my new garden, but it didn't do so well in the rocky, caliche soil. It bounced and bucked and shook my bones. So after some research, I bought a rear tine tiller that was much easier to use in the rocky ground - no bucking and bouncing and it churned right thru that hard caliche. So I guess I would say that size isn't the only consideration in choosing your tiller but also the type of soil you have to work with.
Posted: 10:45 pm on April 16th
jazmjz writes: Good article Mike. Can't wait for your next on cultivators.
We decided to put in a decent garden this year. Small by most comparisons but we have had a drought for the last 3 years in Tx.
I have a old Craftsman 5 HP that I last used 4 or 5 years ago. Couldn't get it running the next year so I let it set.
My wife has a electric trimmer that also converts to a small tiller. We plan to have a few small gardens instead of just 1 larger one. I was getting tired tring to till up unbroken ground ( 10 x 20) so I dug out the Craftsman. Made sure there was fresh gas, hit it with starting fluid. Sputtered after 3 pulls. Started after 2 more. Took me some time to get this one garden tilled up as the tiller wouldn't keep running. I will work on it since it did start. Just want to say if I ever get another tiller it will be a rear tine . Used on a few years ago and found them less tiresome. Getting to old to horse them around.
Thanks for the great article, keep them coming. jazmjz


Posted: 5:01 pm on March 20th
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