Gardening is an incredibly rewarding hobby. But if you’re new to the game, you may have no idea where to even start. Understanding tools is just as important as understanding what you’re growing. At some point, you may find yourself asking “how do I choose between a tiller and a cultivator for my garden?” The two tools have different strong suits and purposes but are both very helpful when it comes to gardening.
What is a Tiller?
Tillers are used to start new gardens where there previously were not one. They break down hard ground to make it softer to enable planting. Plants need soft ground in order to grow, otherwise their roots will remain stagnant and they will die. Tillers allow hard ground to become friendlier for growing plants by breaking down hard soil so that roots can grow deeper, elongating the life of the plant they are attached to.
There are two main types of tillers, front tine and rear tine tillers. Both types use large tines to break up hard ground. They are also both gas-powered. A front tine tiller works better for moderately firm ground and smaller gardens. These ones have the tines in the front. They are a bit easier to use and maneuver but can’t cover as much ground as a rear tine tiller. Rear tine tillers are for hard ground and large areas, such as farming areas or large garden spaces. They pull the tines with the front wheels. They’re heavier and harder to maneuver but offer more opportunities for spaces. While front tine tillers are easier than rear tine tillers to move around, they are all still pretty hefty machines and may be a bit difficult for beginners to maneuver. But as they say, practice makes perfect.
When to Use a Tiller
You may want to invest in a tiller if you need to break up any hard ground, the soil you want to work with is rockier than desired, or you want to create a whole new garden plot. Basically, if you have to deal with hard ground or soil, a tiller is going to be your best friend. It assists with creating gardens practically anywhere.
What is a Cultivator?
A cultivator is better at reviving or improving previously established gardens. It helps to churn the already slightly-softened soil in order to mix around the nutrients and create a healthier environment for plants. Like a tiller, it does break down dirt, however, not as intensely. Cultivators are much less heavy-duty. They’re more about maintaining a healthy garden than building one from the ground up.
Since they are less heavy-duty, cultivators are easier to use for beginners. They also have a wide variety of uses. They distribute nutrients throughout soil, help to create furrows, and can remove weeds from their roots without impacting the rest of the garden. Cultivators come in both electric and gas-powered models. Some electric cultivators are cordless to allow for easier movement. Like tillers, cultivators also have tines, though much smaller than those of tillers. Cultivators are smaller machines than tillers, hence the smaller tines. They also have a less intense job and aren’t used to break down hard ground, just enhance soil to maximize the health of the garden and ensure plants the best soil they can get.
When to Use a Cultivator
Cultivators work best in scenarios where soil needs to be mixed or softened. Some examples could be mixing potting soil with natural soil, adding fertilizer, manure, or compost into your garden, and breaking up any unwanted weeds, grasses, etc. that have made their way into your garden. If you are looking to take your garden to the next level and enhance the health of your plants, a cultivator may be in your near future.
How Can I Choose Between a Tiller and a Cultivator?
Now that you know the difference between tillers and cultivators, the main thing left to do is figure out which one best fits for what you want to do. Are you looking to create a brand new garden where there is currently hard ground? A tiller is going to be your go-to for that. Do you already have remnants of a garden ready to be revived? You’ll definitely want to invest in a cultivator to help you create a healthy garden from the previously softened soil. Whichever one you decide is best for you is going to make your gardening so much easier!
Written by Alissa Buckley