Choosing the Right Tiller

Happiness and a tiller can go hand in hand. No, really.


| February/March 2003



196-083-01tab


Neil Soderstrom

I have to admit, the close relationships I've had with tillers through the years were not all happy affairs. Some included regular Saturday night fights (the half-ton draft animal that hated to start), while other seemingly committed relationships drifted into distant indifference (the front-tined crawler I eventually traded for a food dehydrator).

A few years ago, after breaking too many start cords on a cranky antique with a bad carburetor (it came with the house), I finally did what I should have done years earlier. I bought a tiller that I truly enjoy using.

But I shall not launch into a brand-name testimonial. My gardening life is mine, yours is yours, and the chances that we'd find happiness with the same tiller are pretty darn slim. Instead lets look at the makings of a good fit between garden, gardener and tiller. Get that three-way match right, and you can almost feel your soil smiling under your feet.

BY THE NUMBERS

The size of your garden is a fair starting point for determining your tiller needs. According to most tiller manufacturers, small gardens of less than 1,500 square feet can be worked with a mini-tiller ($200 to $350). Medium-sized gardens are manageable with a 5- to 6-horsepower tiller ($500 to $800), and big gardens of more than 5,000 square feet call for a tiller with at least a 6-horsepower engine ($800 to $2,000).

Of course there's a lot of wiggle room here, which is good because garden soil comes in many different types, and gardeners themselves come in many different sizes.

Very hard or rocky soil is difficult to work with a lightweight or undersized tiller, which will often skip over a tough spot rather than digging into it. A big, heavy tiller will do a better job in hard soil, but here I must pause to recommend a good plowing for hard-bottomed garden sites. If you turn your heavy soil with a plow in fall or early spring, your tiller will be much more effective. And you can get by with a smaller tiller, which has certain advantages.

craig
7/17/2015 10:08:36 AM

check out Tillerz.com home of the amazing “TIGER TILLER” – a revolutionary blade that bolts right on to your conventional lawnmower – and converts that mower into a powerful roto – tilling machine! They fit ALL lawnmowers – you simply leave the blade on if your particular mower has an odd shaped flange or adapter holding the existing blade in place. Other than that – it’s pretty simple. You merely lower the deck of your mower gradually – and of course use caution!


melissah
6/13/2014 1:13:26 PM

Found the lists! They're hidden in the slideshow at the beginning of the article. Click on the blue button.


melissah
6/13/2014 12:52:09 PM

'Ten True Tillers' and 'Ten Tiny Tillers' - where are these lists? It would have been helpful to include that with the article.


ann _1
4/12/2011 6:48:48 PM

Oh Wow! What a great article about tillers. I have a large garden and a large tiller, but I need a small one for weeds. I guess I'll start shopping because now I know a lot more than I did. Thanks A Bunch!!!!


boomshack
3/16/2007 11:45:25 AM

quick note about raised beds afore-mentioned in the article: they CAN attract termites. I used untreated pallet lumber to create mine, and just pulled them up, only to find termite colonies on nearly every single board...






dairy goat

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Aug. 5-6, 2017
Albany, Ore.

Discover a dazzling array of workshops and lectures designed to get you further down the path to independence and self-reliance.

LEARN MORE