- 2 Big Reasons Not To Use A Rototiller In The Garden
- Raised Bed Gardening Tips
- Raised Beds with Frames
- Raised Rows and Beds Without Frames
- Wide Row Gardening
- Raise Your Garden’s Image
- The Difference Between a Tiller and a Cultivator
- Garden Tillers
- Tilling Gardens: Different Ways To Use Tillers In The Landscape
- How to Choose Between a Tiller and a Cultivator
- What Is a Tiller Used For? 5 Important Things to Know
- 3. What Are the Common Types of Tillers?
California Prop 65 Information
This warning pertains to the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 commonly referred to as Proposition 65 which requires warnings about chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. For more than thirty years this law has required businesses selling products in the State of California that may expose persons to chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm to provide special warnings. The Proposition 65 regulations have recently changed and effective August 30, 2018, new requirements apply to the content and location of certain Proposition 65 warnings. In response to these changes, Schiller Grounds Care, Inc. is providing the warning you see on the product web page you viewed prior to linking to this explanation. The company has the same warning on the product associated with that product web page. The regulatory agency in the State of California responsible for Proposition 65 has made additional information about Proposition 65 available on its web page: https://oehha.ca.gov/propostion-65.
The company is also party to a 1995 consent decree entered into together with many other manufacturers of covered products (as defined in the consent decree) and for those products the company has, in addition to the warning referred to above, also included the Proposition 65 warning mandated by the consent decree in the owner’s/operator’s manual for the covered product.
As crazy as it sounds, if you want a garden with less maintenance, less weeds and better yields – stop using a rototiller!
Tilling, especially over-tilling can all but destroy important soil structure!
Our garden is now going on its 8th year without a rototiller. And I can tell you with 100 percent assurance that every single year our soil gets better, gardening becomes easier, and our harvest grows.
As for those pesky weeds, they have all but been eliminated through the simple process of using mulch and cover crops in place of tilling up the soil.
So, do rototillers have a place? I suppose they do if you are creating your very first garden from an overgrown area. Or perhaps, using it to loosen soil for planting grass in a yard.
But beyond that – they really are a detriment to the health of a garden. And here are 2 big reasons why:
2 Big Reasons Not To Use A Rototiller In The Garden
#1 The Amazing Weed-Planting Ability Of A Rototiller
If you are tired of weeding your garden year after year, and the problem only seems to get worse, then perhaps that rototiller might just be the problem.
Tilling causes more weed issues than it ever helps to eliminate. Every time the soil is tilled, thousands of weed seeds laying on the surface of the soil are replanted. And the vicious cycle of tilling and re-tilling to eliminate the next batch begins.
Tilling a garden simply leads to more and more weeds in the long run
We did an experiment last year in order to take a few photos for our Raised Row Garden book. We planted two 6′ rows with three tomato plants in each. Then we mulched one row heavily, and with the other, tilled around plants every few weeks with no mulch. We never touched them beyond that.
The difference was astounding! The tilled rows had more and more baby weeds every few week as the growing season progressed. In fact, it looked like a carpet of grass around the tomato plants by the end of the growing season.
The heavy mulch rows had some weeds, but they were but a fraction of the tilled rows. And, even after 12 weeks, we were able to finally pull the weeds in those rows in about 10 minutes. They came up easily through the mulched soil. In addition, the tilled rows dried out much faster, and required watering to keep alive during a dry spell. The un-tilled mulched rows required no additional watering. And the yields per plant were nearly 2 to 1 in favor of the mulched row. See ; How To Eliminate Weeds From Your Garden
#2 Tilling Destroys Soil Structure
In addition to the weeding issues, tilling also plays a part in the demise of soil structure. Healthy plants need healthy soil. And believe it or not, tilling, especially over-tilling, all but destroys great soil. Many think that loose, tiny, fragmented soil left behind after 15 passes with a rototiller is a good thing. In reality, it is quite simply not!
As the tines of a rototiller plow through the soil, the natural state of the soil’s structure is compromised. Undisturbed soil is alive and filled with organic matter. It is loaded with bacteria, nutrients, and millions of microorganisms that are working hard to give life to the soil. In addition, worms and other ground dwellers have created channels as they chew through the soil. Those channels help to bring oxygen and water into the ground below, making it easy for plants to find the nutrients they need to thrive. Left alone, it is full of life.
But as soon as the tines are driven through the soil, that natural harmony is disrupted. Making matters worse, that loose soil left behind compacts easily. As that soil compresses, those channels and air pockets are blocked off. That in turn makes it hard for the roots of your vegetable plants to get the nutrients they need. The result, an under-performing garden.
So How Do I Plant and Maintain A No-Rototiller Garden?
Vegetable gardening really doesn’t have to be difficult. With our raised row garden, we only work the soil we plant in. It allows us to concentrate adding organic matter and cover crops to only that small portion. For the majority of the garden area we walk in, or as we obviously call it, the “walking rows”, we simply use a heavy mulch. It can be whatever is readily and inexpensively available. For us, that happens to be hardwood bark chips.
Our no -rototiller, Raised Row Garden at the height of summer last year.
For our growing rows, we grow a cover crop each fall of annual grass to rejuvenate and protect the soil from weed seeds blowing in. Then, in the spring, as it dies off, we plant right through it. We don’t til the soil or turn it over anymore, we just use a simple post hole digger to make a small hole, plant and mulch. That’s it!
In season, we keep weeds out of growing rows with a layer of organic material such as straw, compost, grass clippings or even shredded leaves. We mulch right over the decaying cover crop, and the weeds simply can’t get started. By fall, we scrape back the mulch, and seed a cover crop again.
This process not only keep the garden looking neat and healthy, but adds more organic material to build the soil every year. Now that is a not-so-vicious cycle that actually works! You can find all of this and more in our new complete book on Raised Row Gardening. It is now available on line at Amazon, and in Barnes and Noble stores around the country.
Happy Gardening! Jim and Mary. To receive our 3 Home, Garden, Recipe and Simple Life articles each week, sign up for our free email list. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. This article may contain affiliate links
2 Reasons Why You Should Never Use A Rototiller In Your Garden Tagged on: eliminiate weeds gardening without a rotoiller no rototiller no-til gardening rototiller rototilling vegetable gardening tips
Raised Bed Gardening Tips
When we think of farmers and gardeners hard at work, we get a certain picture in mind of what that work involves:
- Digging deep into the soil, either by hand or with a tiller
- Scattering seeds across the ground while they walk
- Bending over rows of crops to collect their harvest
But there’s another picture being painted of how farm or garden work can look, and it doesn’t always involve digging into the ground or crouching over soil.
As popular as raised garden beds become, raised bed gardening is a technique that’s been used around the world for centuries.
One of the reasons it’s so popular is that there are so many ways to do it.
Raised Beds with Frames
These days, the most common idea of a raised garden bed is one that involves a frame placed on top of the ground. This setup makes gardening easy and ideal for institutions like schools, community parks, and retirement homes.
How to Build a Raised Garden Bed with a Frame
A raised bed frame garden, also called a box garden, takes time and effort to establish. In fact, you might start working on your garden plot while other people are getting ready for the autumn harvest.
Your frame can be set up anywhere, even on top of a concrete patio. However, if you want to build your bed on top of a patch of grass or dirt, it’s recommended that you lay a sheet of cloth or plastic over your plot the autumn before the growing season. This will help kill any weeds or grass that could pop up and interfere with your garden.
The frame for your bed can be any length or width. A depth of six inches will provide adequate drainage for most plants, but frames anywhere from four to 12 inches deep are common. Frames can even be 18 to 24 inches deep or built on top of legs to make gardening easier for people who use wheelchairs, or other people with physical limitations who would benefit from adaptive gardening techniques.
A frame can be made from almost any material:
- Untreated lumber (cedar raised garden beds are popular due to cedar’s resistance to rot and insects)
- Pre-cut manufactured planks (metal or plastic)
At the start of the growing season, build your frame on top of your plastic or cloth. Fill it with a soil mixture – the recommended blend is 60% topsoil, 30% compost, and 10% potting soil.
Why would gardeners want to grow their crops on top of the ground?
Advantages and Disadvantages of Raised Beds with Frames
The simple answer is that raised beds in frames help gardeners overcome some common obstacles or avoid common problems:
- Soil compaction
- Extreme temperatures
Raised beds in containers or frames allow people to garden in spaces where otherwise crops might not grow. For the gardener who has poorly drained soil or clay soil that’s too difficult to amend, a raised bed provides an alternative. It also can help with adaptive gardening by raising the level of the soil for people who otherwise wouldn’t be physically able to reach the ground.
By lifting the growing medium off the ground, raised beds bring the soil closer to people’s hands – and farther from their feet. Walking across a garden can compact the soil, which blocks root growth and reduces the movement of water and nutrients. Raised beds prevent this from happening (unless someone jumps onto the soil bed!).
Raised beds also extend the growing season. Ground soil is susceptible to cold temperatures in the winter and early spring, but the soil in a raised frame will warm sooner thanks to exposure to the sun and rising air temperatures.
For all their advantages, raised frame garden beds also come with some disadvantages that the savvy gardener should keep in mind:
- Raised beds drain quickly and might need to be watered more often than in-ground gardens
- Diseases can spread more easily among plants growing closely together
- The cost of frame materials can be expensive
- Lumber that’s been treated can leach chemicals into the ground that root vegetables might absorb
- Untreated lumber can be difficult to find
The disadvantages are easy to work with as long as gardeners are diligent about establishing and maintaining their beds. The picture that raised frame beds creates is of a healthy collage of garden squares that make the most of limited space and allow people access to soil with less difficulty.
Raised frame beds have helped the adaptive gardening and urban agriculture movements grow in popularity. But for those who have the land space and quality soil for an in-ground garden or small farm, raised beds still can be an option.
Raised Rows and Beds Without Frames
Take another look at your mental picture of a farm or garden. Do you see rows dug parallel to each other, as if someone had run a giant rake along the soil’s surface from one end of the plot to the other?
Seeds can be planted in the valleys, or furrows, between those rows. However, gardeners who want to enjoy the perks of raised bed gardening without building or buying a frame can make raised beds out of the hilly rows of soil.
How to Build Raised Bed Rows
To be clear, a gardener or farmer also can create raised beds without frames simply by building piles of soil and compost on top of the ground. But because this is so often done using rows, this technique sometimes is referred to as raised row gardening or gardening with raised bed rows.
To create a raised row, combine soil and compost and heap the mixture into gently sloping hills about six inches above ground level. This can be done with hand tools such as rakes or spades, or it can be done with a tiller.
Using a tiller to build raised bed rows allows you to incorporate ground soil into your growing medium – a great choice if your ground soil is close to the loamy type of soil that’s not too dense and not too loose. Plus, using a hiller/furrower tool to build your sloped beds lets you dig deep channels for irrigation and drainage at the same time.
Advantages of Raised Bed Rows
If raised beds built within frames make gardening so much easier for so many people, why create raised beds without frames directly on top of the ground?
As mentioned before, raised bed rows allow a gardener or farmer to make use of land and ground soil that already are excellent for growing crops. Once established, they also provide other benefits:
- Can be weeded with a cultivator or other tools between rows
- Easier to irrigate due to channels that hold and distribute water
- Less planning required to start
- Less expense without a frame or frame materials
Another benefit is that raised bed rows can be used along with other in-ground growing techniques. A favorite is wide row gardening.
Wide Row Gardening
Imagine old-time images of a gardener or farmer walking along a row and planting seeds. In almost all those images, the seeds are planted one after another in a single-file line.
Wide row gardening challenges that picture. Instead of planting seeds single file in a row, the wide row gardener or farmer creates or marks out a row that’s one to three feet wide. The seeds are then scattered or sown across the entire width so that they grow in clusters.
Wide rows can be created with raised beds, which typically are built four to six inches high, or with flat rows. In the latter case, fast-growing seeds such as radish seeds are planted along the rows’ edges to mark each row’s location until the main crops sprout.
The reasons why this planting strategy is so successful are almost as broad as the rows themselves:
- As crops grow, they create a living mulch that crowds out weeds and shades the soil for even temperatures
- Wide rows maximize the growing area available by wasting less space on walking paths
- Fewer rows or paths to walk on leads to less soil compaction
- Gardeners still can use cultivators between rows to remove stray weeds
With wide rows, gardeners and farmers can achieve the large swaths of lush, green growth that they picture every time they sow their seeds.
Raise Your Garden’s Image
There is no one definitive picture of how a farm or garden should look. People today prove this true with every urban rooftop farm or community garden they establish.
Because of the different ways to build a raised bed, raised bed planting contributes to the richness of this mosaic. No matter what kind of space you have available, raised beds can help you raise healthy crops and paint a vivid living picture, full and bright green.
NEXT: How to Plow Perfect Furrows While You Cultivate
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary1. (n.) One who tills; a husbandman; a cultivator; a plowman.
2. (n.) A shoot of a plant, springing from the root or bottom of the original stalk; a sucker.
3. (n.) A sprout or young tree that springs from a root or stump.
4. (n.) A young timber tree.
5. (v. i.) To put forth new shoots from the root, or round the bottom of the original stalk; as, wheat or rye tillers; some spread plants by tilling.
6. (n.) A lever of wood or metal fitted to the rudder head and used for turning side to side in steering. In small boats hand power is used; in large vessels, the tiller is moved by means of mechanical appliances.
7. (n.) The stalk, or handle, of a crossbow; also, sometimes, the bow itself.
8. (n.) The handle of anything.
9. (n.) A small drawer; a till.
Greek 2202. zeukteria — bands, ropes
… band. Feminine of a derivative (at the second stage) from the same as zugos; a
fastening (tiller-rope) — band. see GREEK zugos. (zeukterias) — 1 Occurrence. …
//strongsnumbers.com/greek2/2202.htm – 6kStrong’s Hebrew 5647. abad — to work, serve
… 9), performed (2), plowed (1), rendered (1), serve (141), served (52), serves (2),
serving (5), slave (1), slaves (1), subject (1), till (1), tiller (1), tiller …
/hebrew/5647.htm – 6k Library
… scholarship. 2. After that she bore his brother Abel, and Abel was a keeper
of sheep and Cain was a tiller of the soil,. The scriptural …
//christianbookshelf.org/leupold/exposition of genesis volume 1/chapter iv.htm
The First Book
… For they clearly understood that as the helmsman never takes his hand from the tiller,
so God never in the slightest degree withdraws his care from the world …
//christianbookshelf.org/salvian/on the government of god/the first book.htm
Book V Here She Made an End and was for Turning the Course of Her …
… For neither the burier nor the tiller intended that the gold should be found; but,
as I said, it was a coincidence, and it happened that the one dug up what …
/…/boethius/the consolation of philosophy/book v here she made.htm
Thesaurus Tiller (3 Occurrences)
… In small boats hand power is used; in large vessels, the tiller is moved by means
of mechanical appliances. … Multi-Version Concordance Tiller (3 Occurrences). …
/t/tiller.htm – 8k
The Difference Between a Tiller and a Cultivator
People often use the terms tiller and cultivator interchangeably, but these words actually refer to two different tools with two distinct purposes.
Using a tiller when it would be better to use a cultivator, or vice versa, would be like using a power mixer to toss salad, or a fork to stir cake mix.
Instead, choose the right tool for the job, and you’ll be much more efficient.
Garden tillers are the creators. They’re strong machines designed for digging and mixing hard soil into a loose garden bed.
Garden tillers are widely available in two styles:
- Front tine tillers
- Rear tine tillers
A third style, the mid-tine tiller, is available but less common among consumers.
The type of tiller you choose will depend on the kinds of projects you hope to accomplish with it.
Front Tine Tillers
Front tine tillers are ideal for many of the tasks that gardeners take on every year:
- Breaking moderately hard ground
- Loosening firm soil
- Digging small to medium garden
They’re easier to maneuver than their rear-tine counterpart because their wheels are in the back, which makes turning and reversing your tiller far simpler.
Learn More: How to Pick the Perfect Front Tine Tiller
Rear Tine Tillers
Rear tine tillers are excellent machines for the kind of work that needs to be done when starting a large new garden plot:
- Breaking hard ground
- Loosening hard or rocky soil
- Digging large gardens or small farm plots
Rear tine tillers tend to be large, which can make them more difficult to push and steer. However, a rear tine tiller allows you to leverage the weight of the machine for more power.
Learn More: How to Pick the Perfect Rear Tine Tiller
Less powerful than garden tillers, cultivators aren’t designed for breaking ground or loosening hard soil. Instead, they’re ideal for the tasks that keep your garden healthy and thriving throughout the growing season:
- Blending and aerating soil prior to planting
- Stirring in compost and fertilizer
- Controlling weed growth
Cultivators churn soil into a much finer mixture than tillers, making them great for putting final touches on your garden plot just before you sow your seeds.
Unlike garden tillers, which are available only with gas engines, cultivators come in gas-powered, corded electric, and cordless models. When people use the term “electric tiller,” they’re actually referring to an electric cultivator.
Learn More: How to Pick the Perfect Cultivator
Tilling Gardens: Different Ways To Use Tillers In The Landscape
By Nikki Tiley
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)
With the onset of another garden season comes the topic of tilling. By definition, “tilling is a means of cultivating soil, or getting it ready for planting.” But there’s more to tilling than just digging up sod.
Why Use a Tiller?
Ok, so when it comes to tilling the earth, for many of us this is a personal choice. Not everyone thinks using a tiller is a good idea. That being said, in many cases and used appropriately, tilling the soil does have its benefits. Not only can it speed up the decomposition of organic matter, releasing much needed nutrients into the soil, the practice of using tillers for the garden can make cultivation easier and less backbreaking, especially in new areas with hard, compacted soil.
Tillers, as well as cultivators, can be useful tools for turning soil – whether starting a new garden or simply tilling an existing one, you can easily loosen hard dirt clods, break up unwanted roots, or mix in compost and fertilizer. So the question shouldn’t be why use a tiller, but rather why not? Or, more importantly, in what other ways can tillers for the garden be used?
Ways to Use Tillers for the Garden
Most of us know the key use of any garden tiller is for breaking up the soil. But different tillers can do different things, especially those that come equipped with various attachments. Generally, there are three main types of tillers: front tine, rear tine, and cultivators.
Front-tine tiller – This tiller has blades, or tines, in the front and is a good choice for weeding between rows.
Rear-tine tiller – The tines on this tiller can be found in the back and the engine in the front. Since it is normally bigger, heavier and more powerful, you’ll find it useful for turning over large areas and those which have never been cultivated.
Cultivator – This is lightweight tiller used similar to that of a garden hoe by mixing loose soil and weeding between plants, only more efficiently.
Some of the ways to use tillers may include:
• Preparing soil for planting seeds or transplanting vegetables and flowers
• Aerating soil around growing plants
• Mixing nutrients by incorporating manure/fertilizer/compost/cover crops
• Weeding between plants and vegetable rows
• Creating trenches or planting furrows
• Shredding, grinding or chopping small sized roots and plant debris
• Turning up yards for grass seeding
• Breaking up compacted dirt
• Building potato hills
• Clearing snow in the winter
As you can see, there are many uses for tillers in the landscape depending on what type you have. Tilling gardens need not be limited to one season and one purpose – with multiple functions and appropriate accessories, you can use your tiller year round.
The above article was paid for and sponsored by Mantis. The information contained in this article may contain ads or advertorial opinions.
How to Choose Between a Tiller and a Cultivator
If you’re planning a garden, you may be wondering whether you should purchase a cultivator or a garden tiller. Although they are often thought of as the same thing, they are actually two different pieces of equipment – which is why it is important to know the difference.
Differences Between Tillers and Cultivators
A cultivator is primarily used to mix loose soil, while a garden tiller can break up hard pieces of ground. As such, a cultivator is unlikely to work if you are creating a new garden plot because its tines are not heavy-duty enough to loosen hard soil. That doesn’t mean you should use a garden tiller to do the work of a cultivator though, as a tiller is likely to loosen more dirt than you anticipated. As a result, your soil mixture may not be exactly what you had imagined.
A cultivator could be ideal if you:
- Wish to mix potting and regular soil together
- Want to work fertilizer, manure or compost into your soil mixture
- Need to break up small weeds and grasses to prevent them from taking over your garde
- A garden tiller would be a better choice if you:
- Need to break up hard ground
- Have rocky soil that needs to be loosened
- Want to install a new garden plot
Garden tillers and cultivators are two distinct pieces of equipment that have their own distinct functions. Knowing the difference will help you choose the right piece of equipment and ensure you have the best garden possible.
What Is a Tiller Used For? 5 Important Things to Know
Getting loose in the garden
Dense soil isn’t very good for gardening or planting crops. For one, it means more resistance for plants. Also, it hinders the passage of oxygen and water. Plus, nutrients won’t spread very well.
As a result, plants may have a very hard time growing in hard-packed soil. If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s also a risk of flooding or overwatering when water can’t drain into the soil.
What is a tiller used for in this context? Well, tilling the ground turns hard-packed mud into loose and porous planting soil.
Shaking up the weeds
Anyone who has experience with gardening knows what a pain weeding can be. If you’ve spent a day ripping out weeds only to find new ones before the week’s over, you know what I mean.
You may be wondering: What is a tiller used for in terms of weeding?
The problem in the above scenario is that there are root systems and sprouting seeds under the surface. While manually tearing out weeds tackles the visible symptoms, tilling literally gets to the root of the problem.
For one, this can kill off unwanted plant systems. What’s more, dead weeds in the ground become great mulch.
Where’s the nutritious soil?
All plants require water and nutrients. As they absorb these from the ground, this can eventually lead to depletion and bad pH levels. To make matters worse, there’s the weather.
A combination of sun and wind or water can strip even more of the nutritious topsoil and leave an inhospitable or barren environment. Deeper underground, there’s more moisture and a whole ecosystem of little beings producing fertile soil.
So, what is a tiller used for, and how does it help? By tilling your garden, you move the better soil up to the surface where it can nurture your plants. You can also use it to work nutrients and other additives into the ground.
For example, sand is very helpful when the soil is too dense or saturated with water. In such soil, nutrients can’t move, and new water will have a hard time penetrating if it dries up. Working sand and compost into it will help tremendously.
Fall or winter tilling
Fall is generally the best season for tilling. In warmer climates, the winter is also suitable.
By tilling in the fall, you mix the dead plants and leaves into the earth and give them ample time to break down and produce great soil that’ll be ready by next spring.
Also, sod and weeds tilled in the fall will decompose and provide nitrogen. If you till these in the spring, they’re more likely to sprout up again and compete with your plants.
Plus, the fall is a great time to work your natural yard compost, sawdust, and twigs into the ground. This gives more time for their slow decomposition to benefit your next planting.
It’s important that you don’t wait too late. If it gets cold and the ground hardens, it will be harder to till and you may damage your tiller. We don’t recommend tilling below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
What is a tiller used for in the spring? While it’s best to do your tilling in the fall, the spring isn’t a bad time either. In fact, many gardeners and farmers like to till both seasons.
Please note that spring tilling can delay your planting a bit if you’re not prepared. You must give the tilled ground a few weeks to settle before you plant. Tilling disturbs the microorganisms in the ground, and they need some time to recover.
Two to three weeks is a good amount of time. If you wait too long, the ground may become compact and hard again.
On the other hand, being too eager is also an issue. Wait until the temperature exceeds 60 degrees Fahrenheit. If you can crumble a clump of dirt in your hand, go ahead and till.
This is a prime time to add fast-release fertilizers such as manure and store-bought topsoil. The best way to do this is to first till your garden, then add the fertilizers, and till it all again.
3. What Are the Common Types of Tillers?
Once we’ve answered the question of “what is a tiller used for?” the next one that arises is “what tiller do I use?” There are a few different types, ranging from rudimentary hand tools to elaborate tilling mini-tractors you can ride around the garden.
These days, mechanized “rototillers” are the typical solutions. Most run on gas, but there are electrical ones as well. Instead of overcomplicating things, let’s look at the primary options.
View full sizeTroy-BiltExpanding a vegetable garden or flower bed is easy when you chuck the spade for a garden tiller. Troy-Bilt’s Super Bronco CRT Garden Tiller is a counter-rotating rear-tine model that costs about $760.
Bob Crewe is an expert on garden tillers, but when he needed one at his suburban Chicago home, he rented it.
That’s about to change.
“This might be the season when I finally pick one up,” said Crewe, who works for Power Equipment Direct, an online home equipment store. “If you already have one waiting for you, you’re more apt to go out and get to it.”
The advantages of owning or renting a garden tiller — or its smaller cousin, a cultivator — are many.
Tillers and cultivators are useful for turning soil, mixing in compost and fertilizer for soil amendment and loosening soil to help water reach plant roots.
Gardeners are firing up their tillers now to prepare flower beds and vegetable gardens for planting. This year’s early spring has brought strong demand for tillers, said Joseph Cohen, CEO of Snow Joe, a garden equipment company headquartered in Edison, N.J.
“No one expected to be in the garden this early. I’ve never seen demand this early,” Cohen said.
In summer, tillers and cultivators can weed between vegetable rows, said Barbara Hastings, senior manager of marketing and communication for Troy-Bilt brand of outdoor equipment. The company is headquartered in Valley City.
Come fall, tillers plough garden waste back into the soil to decompose over the winter, Hastings said.
Many homeowners like to rent a tiller just for a few hours, and let someone else deal with maintenance and storage. Fees at tool rental companies can run from $29 for a two-hour rental of a small tiller up to $85 for a 24-hour rental of a large unit. Rental companies typically ask for a deposit.
But, when you rent a tiller, transportation is your headache. That means lifting a heavy unit in and out of the car, and protecting the car trunk from dirt and mud, Crewe said. You may also need to wash and dry the tiller before returning it.
If you rent a tiller every year, the fees will soon equal what a new tool would cost. Plus, owning a tiller means no more working with one eye on the clock.
What type of tiller should you rent or buy? The size of your plot and type of soil to be worked are the two big determining factors, say tiller manufacturers.
Here are tips to keep in mind when renting or buying a tiller or cultivator; information came from the above experts and eHow.com:
• Cultivator: This lightweight machine is for mixing loose soil material and breaking up soil between rows of plants.
Cultivators are good for raised beds. They are easy to store and maneuver, but they can handle small areas only. Models run on gas, electric or battery power. Expect to pay between $100 and $250.
• Rear-tine tiller: The blades, or tines, are in the back and the engine is in the front. This type is bigger, heavier and more powerful than front-tine tillers. If you’re turning a patch of lawn into a flower bed, this is the kind of tiller to use. “The rear tine tillers will really dig into the ground,” Hastings said.
If you want to cultivate between rows of vegetables, plant rows at least 16 inches wide to accommodate a rear-tine tiller. Some large models have electric start and reverse gear. Expect to pay approximately $550-$1,000.
• Front-tine tiller: The blades, or tines, are in the front of the machine. This type is good for weeding between rows. Expect to pay about $300-$550.
• Tines: The blades that churn through the soil. Look for tines made of heavy-duty steel with multiple cutting surfaces for cutting through roots and weeds, Hastings said.
There are three kinds of tines: bolo for deep tilling, slasher for chopping roots; and pick and chisel tines for rocky soil.
• Counter-rotating tines: Tines that move opposite to the rotation of the wheels. Counter-rotating tines dig in harder, making this feature perfect for breaking new ground, or dealing with hard-packed soil or clay.
• Forward-rotating tines: Tines rotate in the same direction as the wheels. Most front-tine tillers only come with forward-rotating tines, Hastings said. Rear-tine tillers can come with counter-rotating or forward-rotating tines.
• Safety: Read the safety instructions carefully before operating the machine. Wear long pants, boots and safety glasses. Keep kids and pets away from the area.
If your tiller runs on a mixture of gas and oil, follow the directions carefully. (Some larger tillers run on regular gas.)
Remove rocks from the area before you begin tilling. Chop large roots with an ax first; tines can get caught on roots and jerk you forward.
Choose the right tiller, and you may be inspired to turn your entire lawn into a vegetable garden or an expanse of ornamental plantings.
“You’ll use it season after season,” Hastings said.