Choosing a garden tiller | Living the Country Life

Choosing a garden tiller

Front tines or rear tines will make a difference

A garden tiller can be an important tool in cultivating weeds, working in compost, and starting new beds. As you’re shopping for one, consider the size and scale of the garden, how much money you want to spend, the soil type, and your own strength.

Shane LaBrake is a consultant and expert on machinery. He says tillers are built with front tines or rear tines, but not meant for the same type of job. Front tine models are best at stirring up established beds.

"I think if you have really light soils, sandy soils, you don’t have a lot of rocks, if you’re not trying to break ground, one of those might be fine. But if you’re trying to break sod or if you have heavier soils with a lot of rocks, I think you really need to look at a rear tine rototiller," says LaBrake. "Those are the stronger, more heavy-duty machines that are really going to last over the long-haul for that kind of work."

Rear tine tillers are also easier on the body. One of the issues with front tine tillers is that they generate a lot of vibration that moves right up the handles into your arms, shoulders, and back.  

LaBrake says you will feel like you’ve just been through a wrestling match after using a garden tiller. So while you’re shopping, determine your own strength before you buy one.

"Try and lift up the handles, try and maneuver it side-to-side. Get a sense of what it’s physically going to require of you to manage that machine. Rototillers are a lot harder to manage than something like a walk-behind lawn mower, which is free-wheeling over the surface of the ground. A rototiller is going to be engaging in the ground, and you’re going to be literally hitting hard things in the soil if you have clay or rocks," says LaBrake. "And all of that force is going to come right back at you. You’re going to feel it."

A tiller will hit you in the pocketbook too, but get the best machine you can afford. LaBrake says this is not something you want to skimp on.

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