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Choosing the Right Tiller for your Home Vegetable Garden

Date Posted: October 15, 2014

Seeds of the Month Club by Mike the Gardener Choosing the Right Tiller for your Home Vegetable Garden
photo credit: iStockPhoto

My dad’s tool of choice for his garden was his trusty pitchfork, which he has since passed on to me. While I love using the pitchfork and digging in the dirt, nothing speeds up cultivating the soil faster than using a tiller. A good tiller will turn any large cultivating job into a quick one. However there are features and benefits you should be on the lookout for so that you do not pick the wrong one and get one that is either too small or too large for what you need.

The two types I am going to focus in on are front and rear tine tillers. There are also cultivators, which I will talk about in a future posting.

Front Tine Tillers
These types of tillers are designed for a small to mid sized garden that has been previously tilled, or had the ground broken. They will be able to break ground for a new garden if the conditions are ideal and that means the ground has be very soft. Such a condition would be after plenty of rain or a heavy soaking to an area.

As the name implies the rotating tines are in the front of the machine. Many of these require that you “pull” the tiller for best results, although there are models where you can push. Most, if not all variety and brands of front tine tillers have an OHV engine. This is a type of piston engine where rods are used to actuate rocker arms. Newer models could have an OHC engine, but the process of the tiller is still the same.

Popular features on front tine tillers include handle mounted tine engagement, adjustable tilling widths (as much as 24 inches), and an adjustable wheelbase. Not all brands will have these options so if they are important to you, then make sure you request them from the person selling you the tiller or read the box and/or product specs.

The benefits of a front tiller give you excellent power for tougher jobs and the tines in most models are self sharpening. The chain case in many varieties are enclosed therefore it is virtually maintenance free. With brands that offer an adjustable width, this will give you more versatility for varying conditions.

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Rear Tine Tillers
As its name implies the tines are in the back of the machine. These types of tillers are designed for larger sized gardens and with the power they provide can tackle difficult jobs. They have large engines and like front tillers the chain case is sealed and comes pre-lubricated to reduce maintenance.

On many models the tines will counter rotate and that will help you break up the toughest of soils. They are also adjustable to various depths which will allow you to set your tiller to a preferred tilling depth. They have adjustable side panels which will keep tilled soil in a defined area and top notch brands of rear tillers will have large fourteen inch agricultural tires as well as a serrated trailing shield which smooths out the tilling path (this is an added feature, so make sure you ask for it).

There are many companies that make both types of tillers, so if you are brand specific with gardening tools, chances are your favorite, makes a tiller. Be sure to select a tiller that meets your needs, but not one that is too large for them either. If you have an eleven foot by eleven foot tiller, you won’t need a rear tine model as a front tine tiller will do (you get the point). Also be sure to check what type of engine for fuel it takes. They usually are either 2 stroke or 4 stroke engines. To read more on how these engine types differ be sure to do Google search on “2 stoke engine 4 stroke engine differences”.

Please share this article! Let`s get everyone gardening!

Mike the gardener

About the Author

Mike Podlesny is the author of the book Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person as well as the creator of the Seeds of the Month Club where members receive non gmo, heirloom variety seeds every month. You can listen to Mike each week on the Vegetable Gardening Podcast where he interviews gardening industry experts. Don`t forget to link up with Mike on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.


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