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What Should I Consider When Buying a Tiller?

A front tine tiller.
A rear tine tiller.
A mini-cultivator.
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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2014
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Choosing a tiller to buy or rent should be based on the project or projects you plan on tackling in your garden. First, determine the size of the area you are planning to work on and whether the ground is soft or hard. The three basic types of tillers you have to choose from are front tine, rear tine, and mini-cultivators. Choosing the right tiller for your garden project is easy once you know how a tiller works and how each type performs.

A tiller is a piece of powered equipment with rotating tines that dig into the earth and turn over the dirt and soil as it is pushed along. The depth that the tines reach into the soil can be adjusted as needed for the situation. A tiller is useful for breaking new ground for planting and for maintaining existing gardens.

A front tine tiller has tines located at the front of the machine under the motor which rotate in a forward motion. The wheels are located at the back of the machine and make pushing the tiller easy work. A front tine tiller is good for maintaining a medium-sized garden with fairly soft soil, but is not the best choice for breaking new ground, especially if the ground is hard. This is because the forward rotation of the tines tends to cause them to skip over parts of the ground.

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On a rear tine tiller, the tines are located at the back of the machine and the wheels are located at the front. A rear tine tiller may have standard rotating tines (SRT), meaning the tines rotate the same direction as the wheels, or it may have counter rotating tines (CRT). A rear tine tiller with counter rotating tines is a good choice for breaking new ground and maintaining gardens of any size and soil type. A rear tine tiller is not as easy to push as a front tine tiller, but it gets the job done well.

For smaller sized gardens, a mini-cultivator may be the best choice. These tillers are smaller versions of full-sized front tine models and are lighter weight and more portable. A garden area less than 1,000 square feet (304.79 meters) can be tilled and maintained with a mini-cultivator. Its wheel-base is smaller, making it easier to get between garden rows as well. The mini-cultivator is less expensive than full-sized versions and easier to store. However, a mini-cultivator will make more work than is necessary if used in large areas.

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