How Do You Choose Between Cultivator And Tiller?

cultivator vs tiller

So you want to till your land but you can't decide whether you should till with a tiller or a cultivator. When it comes to the cultivator versus tiller debate, which one is better for your needs? Before anything else, you need to know what those two things are. From there, you should also find out which of those two devices will serve as a perfect fit for your specific tilling needs in light of what they are and what they're capable of.

​What Is A Tiller?

Southland SRTT196E Rear Tine Tiller

Via amazon.com

A garden tiller is what you use to break up compact or hard soil into broken up or loose dirt. Few to no plants can grow on compact soil, after all. Tillers are gas-powered machines with a bigger working width compared to a cultivator.

​They're also more powerful than their cultivator counterparts. You can also use the machine for cutting down off-season plants, composting, soil preparation, and weeding. There are two types of tiller: Front tine tiller and rear tine tiller.

  • Front-Tine Tiller: First, there's the front-tine tiller that pushes forward with the tine in the front.
  • Rear-Tine Tiller: Second, there's the rear-tine tiller that pulls the tine with its front wheels. Its tine can turn opposite the direction of its wheels, resulting in stronger tilling action.

What Is A Cultivator?

Sun Joe TJ603E 16-Inch 12-Amp Electric Tiller and Cultivator

Via amazon.com

A cultivator is responsible for cultivating the soil of an existing planting area, as its name suggests. To be more specific, it tills soil that's already been tilled or loosened by a till for the sake of maintaining its looseness. To wit:

  • You can use the cultivator for the same reasons you'd use a till, like mixing compost into soil or weeding the area during the so-called growing season.
  • These machines are smaller and easier to maneuver.
  • These devices can only cultivate mostly small-to-medium-sized gardens like the front-tine tiller, but lacks the raw power that even a front-tine possesses in loosening compact soil.
  • You can pick between cordless, corded-electric, and gas-powered cultivator models.

What's The Difference?

Both tillers and cultivators use blades for the sake of digging into the ground. In spite of the same raw power and usage, they differ substantially.

The size of the task and the amount of compact soil involved can help you make the decision between these 2 types. What's more, you'll also have to choose between a front-tine and rear-tine tiller (the latter is more powerful and can till a larger area of compact or untouched land).

The smaller and more maneuverable cultivator is mostly used for maintaining tilled land. Tillers can also be used for maintenance, especially front-tine tillers, but they have the extra capability of tilling new ground into loose soil that cultivators lack.

Features Of The Cultivator And Tiller​

In order to properly compare the cultivator and tiller, you need to pay attention to the pros and cons of their respective specs in light of what you want to use them for.

  • Cultivators Have 2-Cycle Engines: You'll need the right gasoline/oil mixture in order to properly operate a cultivator.
  • Tillers Have 4-Cycle Engines: You won't have to deal with the mixing of gas and oil by going the 4-cycle engine route of tillers.
  • Front-Line Tillers versus Cultivators: A front-tine tiller can do everything cultivators can and more (tilling compact soil). A cultivator is smaller, more energy-efficient, and is all you need on gardens with already tilled land.
  • Cultivators and Their Electric Starters: Corded-electric and cordless cultivators can start at the push of a button. You don't need to pull-start it at all.
  • Tillers Dig Deeper and Wider: You can classify different tillers by their different maximum tilling widths and depths. The smaller and weaker cultivators can't even compare.
  • Heavy-Duty Usage: Rear-tine or wheel-driven tillers with a reverse drive option are capable of tilling the hardest ground or the largest fields and gardens. They're particularly effective if their tines can rotate in the opposite direction of the wheels.

Should You Buy A Tiller Or Cultivator?

A tiller is what you use to break new ground. A cultivator merely cultivates existing ground that's already broken or loosened.

Therefore, you should buy a tiller if you want to till small to large allotments with ground that hasn't been tilled already. Whereas, a cultivator maintains already tilled ground, as in the case of most front-line tillers save for the ability to loosen compact land.

With that said, even though tillers have better tilling capabilities than the limited cultivator, sometimes using a tiller is overkill for your garden when daily garden maintenance tasks only requires the cultivator's assistance.​

So you want to till your land but you can't decide whether you should till with a tiller or a cultivator. When it comes to the cultivator versus tiller debate, which one is better for your needs?
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About the Author

With the endless passion for organic living, I - Ann Sanders has come up with the idea of creating A Green Hand. Being the founder and editor of A Green Hand, my goal is to provide everyone with a wide range of tips about healthy lifestyle with multiform categories including gardening, health & beauty, food recipe,...