A Sampling of Rear Tine Tillers

For gardeners who are thinking about purchasing a rototiller, here are reviews of four rear-tine tillers in a useful range of sizes.

| March/April 1981

A rototiller is a big investment. Many folks find that they can get along just fine renting or borrowing the machines when they need them, usually no more than once in the spring to till the garden and again in the fall to chop up crop wastes and expose belowground insect larvae, etc.

However, the more involved a person becomes with wholistic gardening, the more practical it often becomes to own a tiller. After all, the machines can cultivate between rows throughout the growing season (producing an orderly and weed-free garden without hand hoeing), retill areas as crops mature and are harvested (allowing for easy succession planting), and more.

But often just how much machine the potential tiller owner needs is a difficult decision. And the decision is important, because rototiller prices tend to rise in proportion to the power of the tools. Buying too large a tiller can result in unnecessary expense and inconvenience when maneuvering the big machine around a small garden. Purchasing too small a tiller can result in extra labor, and—worse yet—the need to rent a large model to break up soil before the "little tiller" can handle it!

There are any number of good tillers on the market, but in preparing this article we decided to limit ourselves to a sampling of rear tine tillers spanning the most popular horsepower ratings. The list of machines isn't complete, then, and isn't meant to imply that tillers not included are in any way inferior to those listed. It is, however, intended to give you an understanding of what you can expect from the four specific models tested and the potential of other machines with similar horsepower ratings.

The Yellowbird

The little Yellowbird (sold by Precision Valley Manufacturing Co.) is—as far as we know—the smallest rear tine tiller on the market. Weighing a scant 75 pounds without its blades in place and sporting a 3-HP Briggs & Stratton engine, the Bird is a fine tool for gardeners who have small plots and/or often need to till in confined areas.

Of course, the machine's light weight and limited horsepower may be disadvantages when one has a large garden or needs to cultivate unbroken sod. However, we found that even the latter task can be accomplished with the small tiller. In our tests the Bird was able to work a previously unbroken pasture to a depth of 4 1/2 inches, although eight passes with the machine were necessary to do so.

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