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Difference Between a Cultivator vs Tiller: Which One Do You Need?

Cultivator vs tiller, what is the difference? What is the better option for my yard? And what are the best brands? Get all the answers to guide your gardening from our useful guide!


Best Cultivators for 2022

Best Tillers for 2022

If you’ve started gardening and want to make sure you have all the right equipment for your needs, it’s important to understand how different tools are best used.

Two popular items are tillers and cultivators. Many people refer to these interchangeably, but they are actually different pieces of equipment with different uses.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about garden tillers and cultivators, from their differences and uses to the best brands!

Tiller vs Cultivator, What is the Difference? 

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, these are different pieces of equipment. A cultivator is used for lighter work in smaller spaces, while a tiller is a more heavy-duty machine used for larger yards or more difficult terrain.

What is a Cultivator?

Cultivator Vs Tiller - what are the differences

This automatic gardening tool can be identified by its rake-like apparatus. This is a smaller device than a tiller, used for smaller tasks like pulling up weeds and unwanted grasses.

Cultivators are more commonly used for general yard upkeep rather than major projects.

Different Types of Cultivators

Cultivators come in a few different types according to their engine:

Gas Powered Cultivators

Affordable to run, very robust engines that require annual maintenance and regular refueling. These are usually the most powerful cultivators and are better suited to more dense soils and larger yards.

Corded Electric Cultivators

Affordable to run, lightweight and quiet but you do have the hassle of dealing with an electric cord. You’ll need to make sure the cord is long enough or buy a long extension to fit your yard. They are more compact than the gas model.

Cordless Electric Cultivators

Quiet and affordable to run, this option gives you the mobility of a gas powered cultivator with the quieter engine and zero fumes of an electric corded model.

They do need to be charged in advance, so they require a little planning to use. It’s the most popular option and is often mistakenly called an electric tiller.

How to Use a Cultivator?

A cultivator is used to aerate soil, stir in fertilizer and compost, remove weeds and make planting easier. As you push it over the space you want to prepare for planting, the motor-driven steel tines churn up the soil for easy planting and sowing of seeds.

It’s well-suited to mixing soil or breaking up fairly soft soil, and wouldn’t perform well if you need something to break up hard, rocky soil. With cultivators, it is important to prepare your site a bit before you begin working the soil. 

Remove larger rocks and bigger plants, and always wear safety gloves, closed shoes or boots with good grip and safety glasses. After each pass, stop the engine and check the tines to ensure they are unclogged and cleared of debris.

Can I use a Cultivator on Grass? 

If you are seeding a smaller lawn (around 500 square feet or less), a cultivator should be able to handle the job with ease. Give the selected section at least one pass with the cultivator to remove weeds, aerate the soil, break up clumps and remove unwanted growth. 

It’s a good idea to follow this with an additional pass to mix in compost and fertilizer. 

Can I Use a Cultivator to Remove Grass?

A cultivator will not usually be powerful enough to remove grass, especially if the lawn is very thick or the soil is compacted. Instead, it is better to use a more powerful front-tine or rear-tine tiller, depending on how big or challenging the job is.

Using a tiller is one of the most efficient and easy ways to remove grass so that you can lay hard landscaping or plant a flowerbed. It will pull up the grass as well as aerate the soil and remove rocks. 

Cultivators Reviews from Top Brands

It’s always a good idea to do some research and read reviews before you buy a cultivator. Here are our 6 top picks for 2021.

Schiller Grounds Care Mantis 4-Cycle 7940 Tiller Cultivator

Source: Amazon

This is a gas-powered tiller, so it suits slightly tougher jobs. It’s lightweight, weighing just 24 pounds so it’s easy for anyone to use.

It requires no fuel mixing, is easy to start and relatively quiet for a gas engine.

It’s easy to operate and ergonomically designed, making it a good choice for yards and gardens of all sizes.

Earthwise TC70016 16-Inch 13.5-Amp Corded Electric Tiller and Cultivator

Source: Amazon

If you want a more earth-friendly choice, this electric corded model offers great value and performance. It has adjustable tines so you can work a soil depth of 11 to 16 inches, has a powerful 13.5 amp engine and a comfortable ergonomic handle for ease of operation.

It’s lightweight and well-suited to preparing flower beds and vegetable gardens, loosening soil and removing weeds easily.

CRAFTSMAN C210 9-Inch 25cc 2-Cycle Gas Powered Cultivator and Tiller

Source: Amazon

This is great value-for-money option for anyone looking for an affordable, compact gas cultivator. Its unique tine design makes it easy to pull weeds, prepare beds and mix in fertilizer or compost.

It has a simple 3-step start, a compact but powerful 25cc engine and you can adjust tilling width from 6-9 inches and tilling depth to 5 inches.

BLACK+DECKER Tiller and Cultivator (GC150)

Source: Amazon

If you want to maximize your depth with a cultivator, this is a great option as the tines are 50% longer than similar equipment. It has counter oscillating tines that prevents weeds and grass from tangling. 

With its adjustable handle and telescoping tube, it is ideal for cultivating, planting garden beds, landscaping, and weeding.

Sun Joe TJ601E Tiller Joe 9-Amp Electric Garden Tiller and Cultivator

Source: Amazon

Ideal for small-to-medium-sized yards, this powerful cultivator has 6 steel tines to effortlessly loosen and mix soil at a width of 18 inches and up to 7 inches deep.

It is easy to use, weighs just 28 pounds and has an instant-start push button to make operation even simpler. It is maintenance free, eco-friendly and folds up for easy storage.

Greenworks 10-Inch 8 Amp Corded Tiller 27072

Source: Amazon

Offering a 10-inch width and 5-inch depth, this corded cultivator is a great piece of equipment for everyday gardening. It offers good performance power ideal for a small-to-medium-sized yard, and folds down for convenient storage.

The tine design prevents weeds from clogging the blades, making it easy to use whatever the job! 

What is a Tiller?

Cultivator Vs Tiller - what are they each used for

A tiller is a much more powerful version of a cultivator, and is better-suited to tougher jobs like breaking up hard, compacted and rocky soil. The term “tiller” is often used to describe the more light-use cultivators, but they are actually different pieces of equipment.

Different Types of Tillers

Tillers are usually gas-powered because of the bigger engines they need to do more difficult work than a cultivator would be capable of. There are two main types of tiller.

Front-Tine Tillers 

This tiller has the wheels set behind the tines, which is great for maneuverability and getting around trees and shrubs. These are good for small-to-medium-sized yards and projects where the soil is compacted but not totally solid. 

Front-tine tillers are more compact, lighter and easier to store than rear-tine tillers.

Mid-Tine Tillers 

Here, the tines are located near the engine itself, which is near the middle of the tiller. They run like front-tine tillers and require the least physical strength to operate.

Rear-Tine Tillers 

These tillers have the tines set behind the wheels and are the most heavy-duty tillers for yard work. Because the tines rotate against the direction in which the tiller is being pushed, it can really dig deep into the earth, giving you the best tilling depth.

Here’s a useful guide for anyone looking to buy a small tiller.

Tiller Reviews from Top Brands

YARDMAX YT5328 Compact Front Tine Tiller, 79cc

Source: Amazon

This is a powerful front tine tiller with a 79.77 cc engine which delivers 180 RPM rotational speed. It has depth control with drag stake making it easier to return and delivers a smoother till. 

It provides a tilling width of 11, 16, or 21 inches and tilling depths from 7 to 11 inches of intense, compact cultivation. Lastly, with it's removable outer tills, maneuvering and tilling in tight spaces will surely be a breeze.

Southland Outdoor Power Equipment SFTT142 Front Tine Tiller

Source: Amazon

This front-tine tiller is a fantastic all-rounder, using a 150cc engine and steel self-sharpening tines to get the job done. It weighs just 100 pounds and has an adjustable tilling width of 11, 16 or 21 inches and a tilling depth of up to 11 inches. 

It is EPA and CARB certified with a 2-year guarantee, and it folds for easy storage.

Earthquake 20015 Versa Front Tine Tiller Cultivator with 99cc 4-Cycle Viper Engine

Source: Amazon

This front-tine tiller offers the best value for money as a two-in-one machine that is both cultivator and tiller. It has a 99cc engine, adjustable handle height and tough 8-inch tires, so it is designed to be easy to use on all types of terrain. It’s easy to assemble and has a useful drag stake in the back.

Craftsman CMXGVAM1144037 208cc 16 Inch Gas Powered Rear Counter Rotating Tine Tiller and Rototiller Cover

Source: Amazon

If you are looking for a value-for-money rear-time tiller, this is a great option to consider. With a smaller but still manageable 16-inch tilling width and a 208cc engine, this compact tiller can tackle almost anything without breaking your wallet.

It’s easy to maneuver, has great traction thanks to wide pneumatic tires and comes with a shield for additional protection from debris.

Husqvarna TF224, 24 in. 208cc Front-Tine Tiller, CARB

Source: Amazon

If you have the money to spare, this is a premium front line tiller that offers all the power and functionality you will ever need.

The high price tag means you get a 208cc engine with liquid combustion technology, a reverse gearbox for maneuverability and a drag bar for balance and stability.

It is very well built and easy to assemble, as well as EPA and CARB certified. 

Champion 19-Inch Dual Rotating Rear Tine Tiller with Self-Propelled Agricultural Tires

Source: Amazon

This is one of the best tillers for covering large amounts of agricultural ground or yard acreage. It has a 19-inch tilling width and adjustable 8-inch tilling depth with the ability to switch quickly from forward to reverse tilling.

With a 212cc engine, it is very powerful but also easy to maneuver, thanks to agricultural tires. It also comes with a 2-year warranty.

Do I Need a Tiller or a Cultivator?

If your yard is smaller (500 square feet or less) and the soil isn’t too rocky or compacted, you are better off with a cultivator. This will be more affordable to buy and run, more lightweight and better suited to this type of job. 

If you are working on very compacted soil or removing weeds, rocks or turf on larger tracts of land (500-10,000 square feet), then a tiller is a better choice.

These are heavy-duty machines that can tackle tougher terrain and bigger jobs with ease. See our in depth buying guide and product reviews on rototillers here

Wrapping Up Our Cultivator vs Tiller Guide

As you can see, cultivators and tillers are needed for different jobs. While cultivators are ideal for small yards where light work is needed to aerate the soil, prepare beds for planting and mix in fertilizer and compost, tillers are best for tough, large jobs over more challenging terrain.

For the toughest jobs, a powerful rear-tine tiller will remove rocks and growth while aerating the soil with ease! Thanks for reading our cultivator vs tiller guide.

About the Author Ann Katelyn

I'm Ann Katelyn, Creator and Chief Author of Sumo Gardener. Since I was a child I've always been fascinated with plants and gardens, and as an adult this has developed into my most loved hobby. I have dedicated most of my life to gardening and started Sumo Gardener as a way to express my knowledge about gardening with the hope of helping other people's gardens thrive.

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1 comment
Richard says December 17, 2020

Hello, I found your article about difference between a cultivator vs tiller really helpful..thanks, Richard

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