Tiller FAQ: 19 Things to Know (For Beginners)

A garden tiller is one of the most common pieces of equipment used by gardeners. This article will help you learn more about them, including what they are, how to use one and why they’re so useful.

What is the Purpose of a Tiller?

Tillers are designed to bust up hard ground, which might contain clay or pebbles as well as top soil. They can loosen up hard ground and make it generally easier to plant crops in an area.

What is the Difference Between a Tiller and a Cultivator?

According to the Troy-Bilt Knowledge Base, cultivators are primarily used to mix up existing loose soil. A tiller can break up hard ground and make it into loose soil.

Is a Tiller Hard to Use?

Tillers can be hard to use if they’re not self-propelled. While self-propelled ones take a lot of the work out of tilling, they’ll also be more mechanically complicated so there are situations where a simple one might be easier to use.

Should I Buy or Rent a Tiller?

Rent a tiller if you have a large garden that sits on a lot sized around an acre or more. You’re going to need a full-sized tiller in this case that can attach to a garden tractor.

Buying a small electric tiller you can shove in the shed should be fine for those with smaller gardens.

Can You Plant Immediately After Tilling?

The SF Gate Garden Home Guide suggests that you don’t plant for at least a few weeks after tilling so that you can get air and moisture down into the soil. Some suggest waiting at least a month.

Is an Electric Tiller Worth It?

Electric tillers don’t require any gas, so they might save money in the long run. Corded electric ones produce no external emissions and don’t even make you charge a battery, though you’ll want to be careful if you’re using an extension cord.

Will Tilling Kill Weeds?

Properly using a tiller should be enough to pull weeds straight out of the ground, though some particularly resilient species might have to be run over several times to ensure that they can’t root themselves over again.

Will a Tiller Remove Grass?

Stronger tillers should be able to remove grass. You’ll want to make sure you’re working with something that has tough enough tines to do the job if that’s the case.

Starchy grasses, like those that grow in prairie areas, will probably need a stronger gas-powered tiller to eat through.

Is Tilling Bad for Soil?

Usually, tilling shouldn’t be bad for the soil, but it’s possible to damage soil that’s already aerated by tilling it too much. If this happens, then you’d simply have to wait for air and water to penetrate deep into the soil again.

Should I Use a Tiller Before Planting Grass?

While you’ll want to till the dirt before planting grass if it’s got a lot of rocks or other bad material in it, you might not have to if your ground already consists of top soil.

Can You Level a Yard With a Tiller?

Stronger tillers that have a full set of tines should be able to level a yard. Consumer-grade equipment may struggle with this chore, however.

Can I Use a Cultivator as a Tiller?

Larger cultivators might be strong enough to work as tillers. If the soil is good enough, then you should be able to exchange the two tools relatively easily.

What is the Easiest Tiller to Use?

A hand tiller that doesn’t have any motor might be the easiest to use and it’ll never run out of juice. On the other hand, you’re going to need to put a lot of elbow grease into using this sort of solution.

Self-propelled models might be easier for those who have to work through particularly challenging types of soil, however. This is especially true of those who have to power through long grass or rocky soil.

What Type of Tiller Should I Use?

Choice of tiller depends largely on the ground you have. See if you have a significant amount of clay, rocks or any other hard material that would require you to invest in a heavier piece of equipment.

Do You Push or Pull a Tiller?

Engineers have actually designed tools that work in both directions. Tractor-mounted tillers may travel behind the vehicle while hand-guided tools are often pushed.

It’s possible to design either type of tool to operate in either direction, so you’ll want to look closely at any listings if you plan on buying a new piece of equipment.

How Do You Till a Yard Without a Tiller?

Small gardens can be tilled with an aerator or some other kind of hand cultivator. These are simple hand-held tools that rotate easily so you can break up the soil.

Since these don’t work all that well around certain types of earthworks, you might want to pull out a small hand rake in order to break up stubborn rocky soil. Keep in mind that you’ll want to set aside a fair amount of time for this because it could take a while.

How Much Is a Used Tiller Worth?

Used gas-powered tillers have a tendency to hold onto their value more than most other types. They can usually be sold for anywhere from 30-50 percent of their initial price if they’re still in good condition but have been used for some time.

Electric tillers may not go for very much if they either don’t have their batteries or have lost the ability to charge them. On the other hand, you might look at this as a buying opportunity if you’re in the market for one.

A corded electric tiller that’s gently used may sell for around 15-25 percent of its original MSRP.

Should Tiller Tines Be Sharpened?

Many tillers aren’t designed to be sharpened. In fact, they might not include sharp tines to begin with.

However, there are DIYer types who do recommend that they periodically be treated with a file. If you decide to do this, then you’ll want to make sure that you have a model that can handle sharpening.

That being said, there are tillers that are designed to accept sharpening and these should be managed in a way that’s consistent with their labeling.

What to Do After Tilling?

Waiting is usually the best path to take after you’ve tilled the soil. Some gardening experts will actually recommend that you wait upwards of a month if not longer to plant.

The problem is that your soil could actually become loaded with other material in the meantime, so you’ll want to keep a close eye on it while you wait. Depending on the type of crops you’re planning on planting, you might also need to irrigate the area to ensure that it has a sufficient amount of moisture for your plants.