A Simple Guide to Using a Tiller: Why? When? How?

Reader Contribution by Charles Spencer and Agriaffaires
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If you are planning to set up a garden with a surface that is bigger than 300 m2, a tiller will help you save a lot of time and energy. Its sharp heavy blades might be a little intimidating for first-time users, but with a little practice, you will get the hang of it.

Usage and Functionality

A tiller is a motorized machine that works with gasoline or diesel powered engines. Wither it is for weeding, hoeing, plowing or crumbling, this multifunctional tool is commonly used to work the land and get the soil ready for planting. By breaking the soil into smaller pieces, tillers prevent weed growth and improves soil aeration and oxidation.

Tillers also loosen the ground to allow crop roots to develop quickly and increase the permeability of the earth to water. Further down the line, the tiller is very useful to make compost or fertilizer mixtures as it can chew up materials and turn them into mulch.

Timing and Preparation of the Soil

Autumn and spring are the most favorable seasons to get your tiller out of the shed. Avoid using it if the land is too soggy as this could result in compact clods when the soil dries. For best results, wait a day or two after the rain until the soil is semidry. If a handful of soil crumbles in your hand when you squeeze it, it should be fine.

If it hasn’t rained in a while, you can also water the land a few days prior to tilling to make the work easier. You should also beware of using this machine too often as it could cause soil depletion. It is important to consider all these elements to make good use of your tiller and enjoy all the advantages it has to offer.

Operating and Handling a Tiller

When using a tiller, it’s important to avoid digging too deeply too quickly, especially if the soil hasn’t been tilled for some time. If the ground is hard, consider two passes in different directions rather than pressing strongly on the machine in one pass. Use the shallow depth regulator settings (only an inch or two deep) for the first passes through the garden area and adjust the depth regulator to dig an inch or two deeper with each succeeding pass.

Your tiller is designed to propel itself forward naturally so you do not need to put too much pressure on the handlebar. Simply keep the machine steadily balanced at the right angle and let it move forward under its own weight. Slightly moving the handlebar from side-to-side can allow for better propulsion.

Tiller Safety and Security Guidelines

The tiller is a powerful motorized machine with sharp tools and it is essential to comply with the precautions of use. Make sure to read the service manual and familiarize yourself with the different controls and safety clutches. If specified by the manufacturer, wear eye protection, boots and any other gear.

Even though a tiler will make plowing considerably easier, you still need to be in good physical condition. Handling the machine can be tiring as it requires vigilance. Never operate your tiller without good visibility or light and when driving the machine, pay attention not to put your hands or feet near the rotating parts.

Always be sure of your footing and keep a firm hold on the handles. Remember to cut the engine off as soon as you leave the machine and one last thing: before you even start, check that no pets or children are around.

Tiller Maintenance

To service the tiller, always verify the secure mounting of the units and check that the safety features are operational. In addition, cleaning the internal and external parts of the machine is strongly recommended. The blades should be cleaned with a hose after each use. Inspect the spark plug regularly, clean light deposits with a wire brush every six months or change it if required.

Regarding the wheels, wash them after each monoculture session with a good spray of water to remove mud and dirt clods. During each maintenance session, make sure to have a clean air filter and undamaged, inflated wheels. Finally remember to drain your tiller before storing it during the off season.

Buying vs. Renting a Tiller

The purchase of a new tiller will make you the owner of a machine free from mechanical problems or body damage. But if buying a tool that will only be used occasionally represents too big of an investment, there is also the possibility of renting a tiller at your local hardware store.

This option will save you from maintenance and storage issues. At Agriaffaires, we also provide you with the alternative of buying a second-hand tiller online. This eco-friendly solution represents a very good compromise for those who wish to enjoy all the advantages of owning a tiller but at a reduced price.

Charles Spencer is freelance journalist specializing in farm machinery and crop production. He works for various magazines across the world and provides the writing for the technical, advertising and marketing needs of farm equipment companies. Read more from him on the Agriaffaires Blog.

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