Tiller vs. Cultivator: How to Use Them
When you’re ready to work up the garden for spring planting, having a tiller or cultivator sure beats shoveling the dirt or hoeing by hand. Many people use the terms “cultivator” and “tiller” interchangeably, and think they’re the same thing.
They’re both used for the same purpose – digging up and stirring the soil. But there are key differences.
Chuck Obendorf is a product marketing manager for Troy-Bilt. He says a cultivator is smaller and easier to operate, and doesn’t have quite the digging power of a tiller. It’s mainly used for loosening the soil in an existing planting area.
"They’re ideal for a raised bed. If you’ve got a vegetable garden they’re great for doing a lot of maintenance between the rows to keep the weeds out, they till up to 12” wide," says Obendorf. "We say they’re good for a garden up to roughly 1,500 square feet. You could till up the entire garden, then you would want to step up from there to a tiller."
Tillers have larger engines, and bigger tines in both thickness and diameter. Obendorf says the type of tiller you choose will also depend on the square-footage of your garden.
"A larger garden, 1,500 square feet and up, probably to about 5,000 square feet you could use a front-tine tiller. They’re the smaller of the tillers," says Obendorf. "And then once you get up over 5,000 square feet if you’ve got a nice big vegetable garden, you’re going to want to go to a rear-tine tiller, have a real work horse that’s really going to be able to dig deep and turn the soil."
A rear-tine tiller is what you should use to break new ground. The machine needs to dig down deep, tear into roots, and flip the dirt. Some rear-tine tillers have the option of counter-rotating tines, which offer more torque.
Once your plants are growing, use a cultivator for weed control. It’s less likely to uproot and damage new seedlings. Having both machines will make your gardening easier.
Dig deeper into finding the machine that will suit your gardening needs
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