Cultivator buying guide

Cultivator buying guide

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

198 guides

The cultivator loosens the soil using the rotation of its blades, as opposed to the tiller, that ploughs with a single non-rotating blade. The rear-bladed cultivator, known as a rotavator, is the gold standard for gardeners of large vegetable gardens! Want more information? Follow the furrow and we'll explain everything!

Important features

  • Engine
  • Working width
  • Blades
  • Disc Protector
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What is the difference between a cultivator and a tiller?



These two motorized machines are conceived specially for the garden and intended for the tillage, but there is one big noticeable difference: the tiller ploughs and the cultivator tills and hoes. We will explain the subtle details!

  • The tiller is effective due to its ploughPloughing is the process of inverting the soil very deeply, therefore burying the top layer, exposing the lower layer in the goal of preparing the soil for seeds. When the plough passes through, it will result in a furrow. Don't have a tiller? A spade will do nicely to replace it!
  • The cultivator hoes or tills the ground via the rotary motion of rotors, or wheels composed of claws or teeth. Hoeing or tilling, unlike plowing, is a loosening ofthe surfacesoil before sowing seeds.  If you find yourself without a cultivator, the basic hoe or even the gardener's claw is the perfect replacement!

What is a cultivator?

The cultivator is useful for loosening soil up to 3,000 m² in area

Equipped with a 2 or 4 stroke combustion engine, its power is measured in horsepower (hp) and its engine size in cubic centimeters(cc or cm 3).

It has multiple rotors, with different widths, that determines the width and the depth of the soil that will be worked. It also has optional steerable handlebars and may have a front wheel that can useful for transport on tough ground. The rotors are located below the motor and the transmission can be powered by belts, chains or cogs.

What is a rotavator?


Also referred to as a rear-row tiller or cultivator , the rotavator sets itself apart with two agricultural wheels and its rearrotors, which are protected by a heavy duty case that prevents any projection of soil. The advantage of such a mechanism is the enhanced comfort of use - the gardener simply has to hold the machine and follow along.

Comprised of a 2 or 4 stroke combustion engine, its power is expressed in horsepower (hp) and its engine size is measured in cubic centimeters (cc or cm 3).

With multiple depth and width combinations available, the rotavator counts on the stability of technological progress, and the quality of work can be observed in the consistency of the tilling when loosening of the soil.

The rotavator's power is amplified due to its gear-driven transmission located the rear of the engine, rendering it clearly superior to a conventional tiller.

How to classify the cultivator's engine?


Small gardens are best left to the use of electric cultivators. Light and handy, they allow you let the surface soil breath, but have have a small working width.

The current trend is to replace the two-stroke engines in favor of the more durable4-stroke engines because of their higher power (hp) and bigger engine size (cc).

Without needing to enroll in a mechanics course, remember that the bigger theengine, the moretorque it has. That implies that there is no need to run it at full speed in order to expect a good result. Due to this, the engine is better preserved since it's not used to its full potential and has an increased comfort level.

The tiller generates on average between 5 and 7 hp of power. Machines equipped with 5-horsepower engines are generally reserved for surfaces of less than 1,000 m² while those going up to 7-horsepower can handle surfaces up to 3,000 m².However, the vast majority of the market is comprised of 6.5 hp tillers.

Starting up cultivators is largely done thanks to a starting cord.

Somehigh-end models are equipped with an electric start.

What other factors should be considered when choosing your cultivator?

Going further than the main characteristics defined above, a tiller can also have:

  • A handlebar that can be oriented from high to low and left to right to find the best position;
  • Two available gearsfront and rear-drive. Some tillers have two front-driving gears in addition to the rear-drive.

How to select your cultivator's blades?


The blades are actually wheels of claws and the amount of them determines the working width of the tiller. The working width is the surface than can be loosened at one time:

  • 8 blades have a working width of 110 cm;
  • 6 blades have a width between 80 and 90 cm;
  • 4 blades have a width of roughly 70 cm.

Their diameter, or more precisely their radius, determines the depth at which the blades will penetrate into the soil.

Ploughing blades generally allow for the soil to be loosened in one trip. This loosening of the soil is rather deep however, it does not replace the actual ploughing and tilling..

The edge guard discs on the blades are designed to more precisely define your path, to avoid any projection of soil through the sides and any accidental tangling of the blades in wire mesh or plants.

More tips on cultivators?


With the decline of three-gear models, the standard two front-drive and one rear-drive models are very useful due to their low penetration into the ground, which allows for faster trips, contrary to the tiller, where a slow speed is recommended.

The working width can be increased simply by adding blades - a set of 4 to 6 blades is recommended for any surface over 2000 m². Ultimately, the limit on how many blades can be configured depends on the cultivator's engine.

The blade mount can be secured with bolts or pins, the latter of which are far easier to add or remove.

Engine size determines the number of revolutionsper minute(rpm), which translates into more torque and better tilling.

The use of a protective guard over the blades further enhances your comfort by preventing the projection of any soil on the person.

Short summary on tillers and cultivators


Although transforming a tiller to a cultivator will require an in-depth mechanical intervention, the advantage of having two tools in one is indisputable!

Even for a small garden of  roughly 1 000 m², it's always better to use a 4 T, 6.5 hp, 200 cc petrol engine to achieve more torque and not need to run it at full speed.

Of course, any combustion engine requires maintenance - spark plugs, filters, service, wintering, etc. If you have a smaller garden, you're better off with an electric tiller or cultivator.

And if you want to make only one trip, it's always best to use plough type blades. Also, always remember to put the cart before the horse, to till in autumn and plough in early spring!

More Information

For garden lovers and enthusiasts who want more know-how, follow the links below to gardening related accessories, advice for our editors and more gardening guides:
• How to choose your tools to loosen the soil?• How to choose your tiller?
• How to know when to sow?
• How to prepare your plants for sowing?
In case of indoor gardening: 
• How to choose your soil?• How to choose your tools to work with soil?

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Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter, 198 guides

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Redo a roof with wooden beams? Check.Advise Mister everybody in the DIY shop? Check.Redo the bathroom plumbing? Check.Fit together, build the walls, paint a partition, throw my hammer in a rage thinking that it will fix the problem? Check. The DIY motto ? Learning is better than delegating… well, it's also a question about your wallet! The satisfaction? The beer at the end of the job! What do the best have in common? The influence of Gyro Gearloose, Mac Gyver and Carol Smiley depending on your generation, a good dose of curiosity, a average hand-eye coordination and a taste for risks… and if it doesn't work, try again! Advise you? I'll do my best!

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