Tiller and cultivator buying guide
Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter177 guides
Any gardener wanting to plough or till soil will need a tiller or cultivator. Equipped with a single-furrow or reversible plough attachment, tillers are ideal for creating straight furrows. Follow our guide for all you need to know to sort your electric cultivators from your rear tine tillers. Let's get dug in!
- Engine capacity
- Plough attachment
- Working width
Difference between a tiller and a cultivator
Tillers churn up the soil using tines or a plough attachment. Ploughing consists in digging deep into the soil and turning it over using a ploughshare or blade, thus burying the top layer. This operation prepares the ground for seeding.
As you move the tiller across the soil, the plough creates a furrow. The manual equivalent of a tiller would be a spade!
Cultivators have rotating tines (a kind of wheel with spikes) which mix up, or cultivate, the soil. Unlike ploughing, cultivating only loosens the surface soil in preparation for seeding.
If you don't have a cultivator, a basic hoe or garden claw is what you need!
Description of a tiller
Tillers are designed to plough areas of between 500 and 3,000 m².
Key characteristics of tillers
All tillers plough the soil, but their key characteristics vary from one model to another depending on the area they are designed to plough, and how easy and comfortable they are for the gardener to operate.
When choosing your tiller, you should pay attention to the following features:
- plough attachment;
- number of gears;
What is a rotavator?
Also known as a rotary tiller or a power tiller, the distinguishing feature of a rotavator is that it has two wheels and rear tines which are covered by a housing to protect them from flying soil. The advantage of this is that the mechanics make the equipment easier to use: all the gardener has to do is hold the rotavator and follow its course.
Tiller and cultivator: the advantages of a 2-in-1 tool
Although converting a tiller into a cultivator requires some mechanical modifications, having two tools in one is of course a big advantage!
Choosing a tiller engine to suit your needs
Two-stroke engines are generally being phased out in favour of 4-stroke engines, which are more durable thanks to their higher power (hp) and bigger engine size (cc).
If two models have the same power rating, choose the one with the largest engine size. And we're sorry to say that you'll have to start up your tiller or cultivator using a starter cord!
Different plough attachments for tillers
A plough is a tool which digs furrows in the soil. Its blade is referred to as a ploughshare and can be either single, double or tilting – a single-furrow plough, a reversible plough or a tilting plough respectively.
Features of tiller wheels
Tiller wheels are large in size to make the tiller easier to operate.
The larger the diameter of the wheels and the thicker they are, the less the tiller will sink into loose soil, so the easier it will be to handle.
The added weights can vary in size, but usually weigh around 10 kilograms.
Optional features of tillers
Other than the key characteristics described above, a tiller may have:
- Adjustable/rotatable handlebars which can be moved up and down and left to right to make the machine easier to manoeuvre.
- A counterweight at the front to better distribute the weight and make manoeuvring easier.
- Two gears (one at the front and one at the rear), or even three gears (two at the front and one at the rear).
Adding tines to a tiller
Given the size of these items of equipment, if you can use your machine for multiple tasks, that's got to be a good thing!
The tines are installed below the engine and driven by a gearbox located on the lower part of the engine. They rotate thanks to one of three types of drive:
- Chain: located within a housing;
- Belt: located outside and connected to the tine shaft (can be dangerous if handled incorrectly);
- Gears: safer and more robust.
Electric tiller or electric cultivator?
For now, there is no such thing as an electric tiller... If you do come across a garden power tool with this name, it is really an electric cultivator, and it works the soil in a very different way to a tiller. As explained above:
- A tiller is able to plough: it can dig deep furrows when equipped with a plough. This is the first stage of soil preparation.
- A cultivator cultivates: it loosens the soil by breaking up clods on the surface. This is the preparation stage that comes just before seeding.
Electric cultivators can be used before seeding and are designed to cultivate vegetable patches and gardens measuring no more than 200 m².
Electric cultivators: ideal for small gardens
Tips for choosing the right tiller
Tillers generally have a working depth of 15 to 40 cm.
Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter 177 guides écrits
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!