If you want to properly prepare beds for planting, dig up turf, remove large patches of weeds and even mix compost into your soil, then a good-quality rototiller is the best too for the job!
There are lots of rototillers out there that vary in quality and features, so we’ve developed a guide – complete with reviews, tips and advice – to help you find the best rototillers for your yard and your budget.
Uses of the Best Rototillers
You may be asking, what is the purpose of a rototiller? Garden tillers break up compacted soil and plant growth, which is useful for:
Different Types of Rototillers
There are several different types of garden tiller on the market, each suited to different tasks.
1. Front Tine Tiller
A front line tiller is designed for lighter work, including mixing up soil in established beds and pulling up weed growth, and they’re especially good at navigating around obstacles or into narrow corners.
They’re more powerful than a typical cultivator but not as powerful as other types of tiller, so they’re a great option for someone who wants the benefits of a cultivator with a bit more performance.
They are operated manually by pushing the machine in front of you to dig the tines into the soil, which then turns the tines to plow up the soil, so there is a bit of labor and effort involved.
2. Rear Tine Rototiller
If you have harder, more compact soil that you need to break up or a much larger space you need to work, then a rear-tine is a good bet.
These larger and more powerful machines have rugged tires and can work in most conditions, and are considered to be the best tiller for clay soil.
These tillers tend to have the most features, including variable speeds, tilling depth and width, gears and counter-rotating tines.
The tines are located in the rear of the machine and are driven by an engine, so there’s a lot less manual labor involved in the tilling process.
The tines can usually move in either direction to break up the soil more effectively.
3. Mid-Tine Tiller
In this tiller, the blades are mounted directly under the engine rather than at the front or back. These use the weight of the machine to dig the tines into the soil, while the wide wheels provide stability.
They are used for the same types of job as a front-tine tiller, but their design makes them easier to operate and helps to prevent back strain.
These are also referred to as cultivators. These are smaller, more lightweight machines that are best-suited to light work and general upkeep in established yards.
They have front-tines, which till by rotating, pulling the machine forward. This guide will help you decide if you need a cultivator or a tiller.
5. Electric Tiller
Electric tillers, which can be corded or battery-operated, are another great lightweight option for everyday use in established gardens.
They are quiet, environmentally-friendly, dependable and have plenty of power for smaller jobs like mixing in compost, digging over beds, and removing weeds.
6. Gasoline Powered Tiller
These are the most powerful garden tillers available on the market, so they’re best-suited to commercial use and tougher projects like establishing a new garden.
The downside is that they are much louder than electric models, emit fumes, and are often heavier machines.
Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Rototiller
1. Size of Your Garden
The first thing you need to look at is the size of your garden. This is going to determine how much power you need for your rototiller.
- 500 square feet or less – Cultivator/mini-tiller or electric tiller
- Up to 5,000 square feet – Front-tine garden tiller or mid-tine tiller
- 5,000-10,000 square feet – Rear-tine tiller or gasoline-powered tiller.
2. Type of Soil
Another consideration is the type of soil you have. Very dense or rocky soil can be difficult for smaller rototillers. If the rototiller isn’t strong enough to break through, it will just skip over it, which isn’t safe.
You may also have to make multiple passes over the same area to get a good result. Look at your garden soil, and consider moving up to a stronger horsepower tiller if this is your soil type.
3. Types of Tines
What is a tine? This is the blade that churns through the soil. There are different tines for different soil types, and they should be made from high-quality materials to make sure they don’t break or get damaged easily.
The best rototillers' tines are made from heavy duty steel with different cutting surfaces for different applications, so you can swap them out depending on whether you are cutting through weeds and roots, working on heavy clay soil, or mixing in mulch or compost.
Here are a few different types of tines:
- Counter-Rotating Tines - These move in the opposite direction of the rototiller. They dig in the deepest and are ideal for breaking new ground or working through tough, clay soil.
- Forward-Rotating Tines - Just as the name suggestions, these tines more in a forward direction just like the tiller. They are typically found on front-tine tillers.
- There are three types of blades that come with rototillers: Bolo tines for deep tilling, slasher tines, for thicker weeds and roots, and Pick and Chisel tines for rocky ground.
When you are choosing a tiller, think about the project you are going to use it for. Are you going to break new ground for a large, brand new garden? Are you working on heavy clay soil?
Are you primarily going to be using it for existing beds in an established yard? This is going to determine the amount of power you need in your rototiller, as well as the tines you’ll need to have.
5. Tiller Depth and Width
This determines how deep your tiller can dig and how many passes you’ll have to make to prepare your beds. Good garden tillers have an adjustable depth and width so that you can customize it to your project.
A good rule to follow is that when breaking new ground, you want a tiller that can reach a depth of 8 to 10 inches. This is especially important if you want to plant root vegetables, such as carrots and turnips.
Here’s a helpful guide on how to prepare soil for your vegetable garden.
Useful Features in the Best Garden Tillers
Garden tillers range from very basic equipment to fairly advanced machines. Here are some features to look for when you’re buying your tiller.
- Collapsible handle – This makes it easier to store your tiller when it’s not in use, as well as to transport it to different sites.
- Electric start – This is a great convenience feature that allows you to start the machine with a button rather than with a traditional pull cord (found on gas tillers).
- Reverse gear – This reverses the movement of the wheels, allowing you to maneuver the tiller backwards as well as forwards, which is easier on your back and makes navigating tighter corners easy.
- Counter-rotating tines – These tines spin backwards when the tiller moves forwards, helping to give the machine more traction to allow it to dig much deeper into the ground.
- Dual-rotating tines – This feature is usually only found in the best rear-tine tillers, where you can switch back and forth between rotation direction as needed.
- Extra attachments – Attachments aren’t essential, but they can make your task a lot easier and give your tiller more uses around the yard.
Typical attachments include snowblower attachments, edgers, dethatchers and fittings to set it machine up as a pull behind tiller or tow behind tiller.
Can You Use a Rototiller on Grass?
Garden tillers are often used in lawn maintenance, whether it is to remove old or unwanted turf, re-seed or overseed a lawn for spring, re-sod a space with new turf or grass seeds, or to aerate your lawn to support healthy growth and nutrient uptake.
Can You Plant Immediately After Tilling?
It’s best to wet your soil down and leave it for a few days after tilling before you start planting. This will help any soil enhancements (compost, mulch or fertilizer) start to decompose and enrich the soil.
Can I Use a Tiller to Remove Grass?
The best tillers for removing grass (especially an established lawn) are the larger, more heavy-duty rear-tine tillers. These have powerful engines and sharp, counter-rotating blades that can cut through the turf and roots easily without getting tangled or straining the motor.
Should You Till Your Garden Every Year?
For new gardens and planting beds it’s recommended that you till your garden once a year in spring. This should be done a few days or a week before you start planting in order to prepare your beds and aerate the soil properly.
Once the beds are established, you only have to till when it’s needed – if you start replacing plants, if you want to add compost and mulch, if you find the soil is getting compacted, or you see that it is not draining well.
Can You Over Till a Garden?
Yes, it is possible to over till a garden. Tilling too frequently – more than once a year – can damage root growth and disrupt the biome within the soil. Tilling while the soil is wet can also cause compaction.
How Deep Should a Garden be Tilled?
A good rule to follow is to till to a depth of 6-10 inches, depending on what you are planting. Very shallow plants like lettuce, cabbage or spinach only send their roots a few inches into the ground, while plants with deeper roots like potatoes, beets and carrots need more depth to grow.
What to Do Before You Start Tilling
- Pick a day in early spring when the soil is semi-dry and crumbly, as tilling wet soil can compact it. The outdoor temperature should be around 60 degrees.
- Clear away bigger debris that might get trapped in the tines or damage them, such as rocks, sticks and branches, and bigger plants. You can cut the plants down and use the tiller to remove the roots and finish the job.
- Always read the user manual first and follow safety directions.
- Set your garden tiller to a shallow depth for dry, compact soil and a medium depth for softer ground.
- Move slowly and steadily in straight lines parallel to each other. Then set your tiller to a deeper tilling depth and move the machine in lines that are perpendicular to your first set.
10 Best Rototillers on the Market
Do you need a rototiller that’s quiet and yet still does the job? The American brand Earthwise has the perfect electric, zero-emission rototiller and cultivator for you, the 13.5 Amp Earthwise TC70016.
Adjustable Stainless Steel Tines
With its 11 to 16 inches clearing width and 8 inches tilling depth, this rototiller and cultivator can till mid-size to large gardens.
Its six adjustable stainless steel tines can quickly and smoothly mix and grind hard-packed soil. As a result, it aerates the soil and effectively delivers water and oxygen the plant roots need.
Easy to Store and Operate
This lightweight, 29 pounds rototiller is not only easy to store, but also easy to operate. It has 6 inches flip-down rear wheels which makes it easier to transport.
Its comfortable and ergonomic handle has a cord retention hook to secure your extension cord when in use.
Starting this tiller is an easy job, you just have to push the start button and squeeze the lever and it will do its work.
Low Maintenance Rototiller
Since it’s an electric rototiller, you won’t have to worry about regular maintenance unlike when you’re using a gas-powered one. It’s even backed with a two-year warranty.
Another powerful rototiller on the list is the sun joe tj604E electric garden cultivator and tiller. This rototiller has a 13.5 amp motor that can effortlessly slice through soil at 370 Rpm. Its durable 6 steel angled tines can till soil up to 16 inches wide and 8 inches deep.
Easy to Store and Transport
Storing this 27-pound rototiller won’t be a problem at all. Its handle can be folded so you can easily store it.
Plus, with its 3-position wheel adjustment, you can easily transport it when storing or maneuver around obstacles when in use.
Starts Up with just a Push of a Button
As it is electrically powered, it starts up easily every time with just a push of a button. Although it can be a bit loud, at least you won’t have to deal with smoke, harmful emissions, and even costly maintenance
Yes, you read that right. We have another Sun Joe rototiller and cultivator in this list. Although this model is a lot similar to the Sun Joe TJ604E, they still have some huge differences.
Just like the previous model, the Sun Joe TJ603E electric tiller and cultivator has 6 steel angled tines designed for maximum durability and performance.
It also has an adjustable clearing width that reaches up to 16 inches and can till up to 8 inches deep. Unlike TJ604E, the TJ603E model only has 12 amp motor and 340 RPM making it suitable for small to medium-sized gardens only.
Complete Tasks with more Comfort
This rototiller promises to be able to control weed and complete garden tasks easier and with more comfort.
To help achieve this, this model has a 3-position wheel adjustment that makes it easier to maneuver the rototiller around even when in use.
In addition to that, it only weighs 27 pounds making it easy to transport and its foldable handle also makes it easy to store.
Starts Effortlessly and Easy to Maintain
Although electric, corded rototillers have their limitations, a few others enjoy using them because they are easy to maintain and start effortlessly every single time.
Aside from not having to mix oil and gasoline, these rototillers are also a lot quieter than the gas-powered ones.
Being lightweight doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be powerful enough to do yard work. One great example is the 22 pounds Tacklife Electric Tiller.
This rototiller is equipped with a 13.5 amp motor that can easily till soil with its 380 RPM.
Switch its Manganese Steel Tines from 4 to 6 Tines
In addition to its powerful motor, it also has tough and durable manganese steel tines that ensure the most stable performance.
Not only is its working width adjustable from 18 inches to 12.5 inches, but you can also switch them from 6 tines to 4 tines without even using any tools.
Its working depth can reach up to 8 inches perfect when you’re working on your garden and even in your vegetable plot.
Storage is Never an Issue with its Foldable Design
With its foldable design, this 22 pounds rototiller is so easy to store. You can even fold it without using any tools, a feature you’ll definitely need if you have small storage.
Safety buttons and brake switches, as well as ergonomic handlebar with anti-vibration system, are some other notable features of this rototiller.
Get Ready to Enjoy the Best Rototillers of 2021
We hope this guide has helped you find the right garden tiller for your yard, whether you are establishing a new garden, maintaining your vegetable garden or flowerbeds or maintaining your lawn.
Remember, front-line tillers are the most basic of the lightweight tillers and are great for established yards, but they do require some effort to use, so an electric model can be a lot easier – especially if you get back strain.
They’re also more eco-friendly and quite to use, which is great if you’re in a suburban neighborhood.
For larger jobs with highly compacted soil and tangles of roots, you’re going to need a more powerful machine, like a rear-tine tiller with a gas engine, which can be easily propelled by hand or attached to a garden tractor as a tow behind tiller.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our advice, tips and recommendations for the best rototillers of 2021!