Garden Tillers Buying Tips – What To Look For


Question: We want to buy a garden tiller and have a small home garden (less than 1000 square feet) and having been tilling by hand, it is easy but time consuming. We have looked at rear tine, front tine and the mini tiller and cultivator down at our local garden lawn shop that sells lawn mowers and looked at user ratings on the web… but would like to get more information before we spend our money as our budget is tight.

Answer: Let’s look at 3 Types of garden roto tillers to help you decide which tools for gardening or product type is right for you:

  • Rear-Tiller
  • Front-Tine Tiller
  • Mini-Tiller or Cultivator

Front-Tine Tillers


The Front Tine Tiller has fines located in the front of the machine. The tines rotate in a forward motion (SRT – standard rotating tines) “pulling” the machine forward. The rear-mounted wheels allow an operator to push and move the tiller from location to another. One downside of the front tine tiller is with the tines pulling forward, soils which are hard or never been tilled can cause a problem. Instead on “digging in” on heavier soils, they can have a tendency to skip and “walk” over the soil. However, the front mounted tines are not a problem in loose soil.

If you garden is of reasonable size with good loose soil and say less than 5,000 square feet of garden the front-tine tiller is a good choice.

When looking at these special garden tools and yard machines, ease of maneuverability, weight balance and your ability to handle the equipment needs to be considered. Taking one for a test “dig” in your garden is a smart move. Remember that the heavier models may “dig in” and have much less tendency to skip and run over the ground but are much less mobile.

Home Depot, Walmart, Lowes and others carry tillers manufactured by: Troy-Bilt, MTD, Honda, Poulan, Yard-Machines, Ariens

Mini-Tiller or Cultivator


Description: These small mini cultivators are lightweight and excellent for small gardens with soft soils and a garden size of 1,000 square feet or less. These machines are so lightweight, wheels are not needed to move them around. Small in weight and small in width the mini tillers can till areas as small as 6 inches wide, working between rows. These mini cultivators also work wonderful in raised beds where a light tilling can be used. They also work great to keep those weeds down in the long vegetable garden rows.

When comparing the small garden tillers to the large garden tillers depending on your physical strength, the large models can physically whip you and provide a real workout if you use it for a long time. They can sort of run away for the operator. This makes the smaller mini cultivator a better buy for those who physically cannot handle the power of a large tiller.

These mini garden cultivator can be purchased in a gas powered tiller models and as electric garden tiller models but do not preform as well as gas tillers.


  • The Mantis Tiller line has many models in the small mini market
  • Troy Bilt garden tiller models cover the mini up to large horsepower models
  • Honda tillers also cover a wide product line

Rear Tine Garden Tiller

Description: Twenty-Five years ago the rear tine tiller was more of a novelty, the garden tractor was much more likely to be found near the herb garden the the rear-tine rotary tiller. Today the small electric tiller may be used as a companion tool to the rear tine tiller in the garden.


As the machine description says these top of the line, powerful machines weighing in at over 200 pounds have the tilling tines located in the back or rear of the engine. These 6 to 8 HP engines

These power-packed soil eaters can be difficult to maneuver so do not expect to man-handle them, but they make short order of 5,0000 square feet of hard, rocky soil by tilling width of up to 36 inches wide. They

If garden space is tight rear-tine tillers may take up too much space to turn around and even rate a look. If you need the feature of electric start and additional accessories the large rotary tiller has money to offer and it is always recommended to do some web searches for garden tiller reviews.

Manufacturers: Check out the MTD Tiller, Troy-Bilt, Craftsman, Honda, Yard Machines, Poulan, Husqvarna

Note on the rotating tines – When searching for roto tillers you may see SRT and CRT. SRT stands for Standard Rotating Tines and CRT stands for Counter Rotating Tines. SRT rotate forward operating in the same direction as the wheels. CRT rotate towards the rear opposite of the forward moving wheels. If your soils are hard the CRT makes for easier working of the soil. Some models – usually the more expensive offer rotating tines which operate in either direction, making the rear garden tiller cultivator a more versatile yard machine.