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 2023
1. Mantis 7940 4-Cycle Gas Cultivator
2. Earthwise TC70016 16-Inch Corded Electric Cultivator
3. Craftsman C210 9-Inch 2-Cycle Gas Cultivator
4. Black+Decker GC150 Corded Garden Cultivator
5. Sun Joe TJ601E 9-Amp Electric Cultivator
6. Greenworks 10-inch 8-Amp Corden Cultivator
Best Tillers for 2023
7. YARDMAX Compact Front Tine Tiller
8. Southland Outdoor Front Tine Tiller
9. Earthquake 20015 Versa Front Tine Tiller
10. Craftsman Rear Counter Rotating Tine TIller
11. Husqvarna TF224 Front Tine Tiller
12. Champion Dual Rotating Rear Tine Tiller
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?
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 2023.
What is a Tiller?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tiller Reviews from Top Brands
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.