The 9 Best Tillers to Prepare Your Garden for Planting

Our top choice is the Honda FG110 25cc 9-Inch Front-Tine Tiller.

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Earthquake 33970 Victory Rear-Tine Tiller tout
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon

Whether you're looking to create a new garden bed, break up compacted soil, or mix in compost and fertilizer into your existing garden, a tiller can make the task faster and easier than manually working the ground.

A tiller uses metal tines to dig into the soil and turn it over, thereby eliminating hardened clumps of soil, mixing the soil and any added fertilizers or compost, and aerating the ground so plants have greater access to nutrients.

"Vegetable gardens and planting beds need rich, loose, drainable soil to ensure root growth and abundant crops," says Gary McCoy, a Lowe's store manager serving the Charlotte, North Carolina, market. "You'll need to properly prepare the soil with a cultivator or tiller to successfully plant it."

We looked at tine position, power, size, and features to help us determine the best tillers for every type of outdoor gardening work. Our overall choice for the best tiller is the Honda FG110 25cc 9-Inch Front-Tine Tiller because it has removable tines that allow you to work in narrow spaces, and it can both till and cultivate, giving you two tools in one.

Here are the best tillers.

What We Recommend

Best Overall: Honda FG110 25cc 9-Inch Front-Tine Tiller

best tillers
Courtesy of Lowe's

Why You Should Get It: The outer tines can be removed for tilling in tight spaces, and the tiller comes fully assembled.

Keep In Mind: With an engine displacement of only 25cc, this tiller is best for established gardens with finer soil.

Our overall choice for the best tiller is the Honda FG110 25cc 9-Inch Front-Tine Tiller, which allows you to customize the machine to your ground conditions and space limitations. The four-stroke engine starts easily, and the machine can also cultivate if you remove the drag bar and move the machine back and forth, giving you a two-for-one tool.

"The machine's commercial-grade toughness has a heavy-duty drive gear and a front engine guard for adding protection," McCoy says. "In addition, the ergonomically-designed controls are user-friendly for easy operation."

Another great feature is the ability to adjust the tine configuration. For larger spaces, you can opt for the regular configuration, which will till with a width of 9 inches. If space is tight, you can remove the outer tines to create a tilling width of just 6 inches—a great option for tilling in between established plants.

The machine also arrives fully assembled, which means zero time is needed to assemble it, and it's relatively easy to move since it's compact and weighs less than 30 pounds. It comes with a limited lifetime tine warranty and a two-year residential warranty, in case you run into any hiccups along the way.

Keep in mind that this tiller, which has an engine displacement of 25cc, is best for tilling existing gardens with finer soil, not churning up rough ground to create a new bed. But it's a great choice for most gardens since it's easy to maneuver around obstacles, transport from bed to bed, and store in a small garden shed.

Product Details:

  • Power source: Gas
  • Engine displacement: 25cc
  • Weight: 29 pounds
  • Tine position: Front
  • Maximum tilling width: 9 inches
  • Maximum tilling depth: 8 inches

Best Budget: Sun Joe TJ604E 16-Inch 13.5 Amp Electric Garden Tiller/Cultivator

best tillers
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at The Home Depot

Why You Should Get It: Its wheels adjust to three different heights, and the handle is collapsible for easy storage.

Keep In Mind: This electric tiller requires an extension cord and outdoor outlet for power; it does not have a battery.

Not every garden requires an extra-large tiller. If you have an established small garden or raised beds, a small electric tiller should meet all of your needs—and at a fraction of the cost. Our choice for the best tiller on a budget, the Sun Joe TJ604E Electric Garden Tiller has a 13.5-amp motor to help you efficiently prepare your beds for planting as well as aerate the soil, all for under $150.

Its tilling width of 16 inches is just as wide as the more expensive Earthquake 33970 Victory Rear Tine Tiller below, although it doesn't till quite as deep (just 8 inches). A wider tilling width allows you to cover more ground in a shorter amount of time. We also like that you can adjust the Sun Joe tiller's wheels into three different height positions to accommodate various ground types. For those with small storage spaces, this tiller is relatively compact to store due to its collapsible handle.

Keep in mind that this electric tiller needs an extension cord and an outdoor outlet to supply power, so you'll want to make sure that your garden bed is within reach of an extension cord before purchasing. You'll also need to be careful that you don't accidentally run over the cord when tilling.

Product Details:

  • Power source: Corded electric
  • Motor power: 13.5 amps
  • Weight: 27.1 pounds
  • Tine position: Middle
  • Maximum tilling width: 16 inches
  • Maximum tilling depth: 8 inches

Most Powerful: Earthquake 33970 Victory Rear-Tine Tiller

best tillers
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at The Home Depot, Tractor Supply, and Walmart

Why You Should Get It: It can be used for just about any tilling job, and it has an instant reverse lever so you can back up by simply walking the machine backwards.

Keep In Mind: It weighs 163 pounds, so if you need to haul your tiller around your property, you may want to choose a more lightweight machine.

If you're looking for a tiller that can do it all, Earthquake's 33970 Victory Rear Tine Tiller is our pick for the best tiller for power. Its versatile design is ideal for both breaking new ground and maintaining established gardens, yet it still manages to be easy to maneuver. Its steel tines can dig up to 10 inches deep and 16 inches wide in one pass.

Rear-tine tillers are generally more powerful (and expensive) than front-tine tillers, making them a great choice for preparing new ground or dealing with compact, rocky soil. This tiller has a 212cc engine displacement to break through tough ground and is an ideal choice for medium- to large-size gardens. Keep in mind that this powerful tiller weighs 163 pounds and will require more strength to transport and control than smaller tillers, so make sure your physical ability is a match to this size of tiller.

The Earthquake tiller's tires have an aggressive lug pattern that allows them to gain excellent traction for working in a variety of soil types. Plus, the tiller has an instant reverse feature that allows you to back the tiller up with a quick pull of a lever—no shifting required. Its handlebars are also adjustable, allowing you to change the handlebar height to three different height settings to accommodate short and tall users alike.

Product Details:

  • Power Source: Gas
  • Engine displacement: 212cc
  • Weight: 163 pounds
  • Tine position: Rear
  • Tilling width: 16 inches
  • Tilling depth: 10 inches

Best Gas: Earthquake 20015 Versa Front-Tine Tiller Cultivator with 99cc 4-Cycle Viper Engine

best tillers
Courtesy of Lowe's

Also available at Walmart

Why You Should Get It: This tiller is a two-in-one garden tool, converting from a tiller to a cultivator. It also has the widest tilling width of the picks on our list, allowing you to cover more ground in one pass.

Keep In Mind: It's 75 pounds and may be a bit heavy to maneuver.

If you prefer gas tillers over electric machines, the Earthquake 20015 offers both versatility and an extended reach to help you make the most of your time in the garden.

Tillers and cultivators are relatively similar yet work very differently. "A cultivator is good for loosening the soil in an existing planting area, weeding the area during the growing season, or mixing compost into soil," McCoy says. "On the other hand, a tiller is a gasoline-powered machine with a greater working width than a cultivator, which is what makes it a great option for heavier jobs." This particular machine from Earthquake combines both, so you can buy one tool for both tasks.

Without any extra tools, the tiller can be converted from a front-tine tiller to a cultivator in just seconds by removing the shields and outer tines. You also have the option to choose between 11-, 16-, or 21-inch tilling widths to cover more ground at once or to navigate between existing rows of plants. The tiller can reach a depth of up to 11 inches.

It's worth noting that this tiller offers the widest and deepest reach of all the tillers on our list, but it's also hefty at 75 pounds. It may not be the best choice if you plan to regularly load it into a truck bed to transport it around your property.

Product Details:

  • Power source: Gas
  • Engine displacement: 99cc
  • Weight: 75 pounds
  • Tine position: Front
  • Maximum tilling width: 21 inches
  • Maximum tilling depth: 11 inches

Related: The 9 Best Wheelbarrows for All of Your Home and Gardening Needs

Best Cordless Electric: Greenworks 40V 10-Inch Cordless Tiller and Cultivator with 4Ah Battery and Charger

best tillers
Courtesy of Amazon

Why You Should Get It: The included 4Ah battery provides up to 40 minutes of runtime.

Keep In Mind: Its maximum depth is 5 inches, which is less depth than most of the tillers on this list.

If you want an electric tiller option that won't keep you tethered to a cord, the Greenworks 40V 10-Inch Cordless Tiller is our top pick. It allows users to move freely around big or small outdoor spaces and has a battery life of up to 40 minutes, which should be plenty of time to till most small- to medium-size garden beds. But you can also purchase an extra battery for more runtime.

The tiller's four durable adjustable rotating tines have a cutting width of 8 to 10 inches and a depth of 5 inches, which, while less than other tillers on this list, should get the job done in established garden beds. It can also till and cultivate, depending on your needs.

Other electric benefits this tiller brings to the table include an easy push button start, none of the fumes that come with gas models, and very little required maintenance. The manufacturer says the Energy Star-rated tiller's battery can also recharge for as little as $0.04 per charge, making this a wallet-friendly choice over the long term when compared with the cost of refueling a gas tiller. Plus, its compact size and foldable handle makes it easy to store in a shed or garage.

Product Details:

  • Power source: Electric; 40V battery with up to 40 minutes of runtime
  • Weight: 21 pounds
  • Tine position: Front
  • Maximum tilling width: 10 inches
  • Maximum tilling depth: 5 inches

Related: The 9 Best Small Greenhouse Kits You Can Assemble Yourself

Best Corded Electric: Sun Joe TJ603E 16-Inch 12-Amp Electric Garden Tiller/Cultivator

best tillers
Courtesy of Home Depot

Why You Should Get It: At 10.3 pounds, this is one of the most lightweight tillers on our list, reducing the potential for arm and hand fatigue.

Keep In Mind: There isn't a cord lock, so you'll need to be careful to not tangle the cord in the tines.

If you're looking for a lightweight electric tiller, a corded model is often your best bet since it doesn't include the added weight of a battery pack. The Sun Joe TJ603E Electric Garden Tiller is one of the lightest on our list, weighing just 10.3 pounds. Using lightweight tools can help you avoid straining your arms and hands, allowing you to work more comfortably for longer spans of time.

This Sun Joe tiller has a 12-amp motor for powering through dirt and weeds as well as a maximum tilling width of 16 inches and a depth of 8 inches to get more done in fewer passes. Some other helpful features include its folding handles for easy storage and transport, its three-position wheel adjustment, and its maintenance-free design.

Since this is a corded electric model, you'll just want to be careful to keep the cord out of the way as you work, especially since this tiller doesn't have a cord lock feature.

Product Details:

  • Power source: Corded electric
  • Motor power: 12 amps
  • Weight: 10.3 pounds
  • Tine position: Middle
  • Maximum tilling width: 16 inches
  • Maximum tilling depth: 8 inches

Related: The 10 Best Garden Hoses for Watering All Your Plants

Best Cultivator: Black+Decker 20V Max Cordless Garden Cultivator

best tillers
Courtesy of Amazon

Why You Should Get It: It can tackle up to 325 square feet with each charge, so you can maximize its usage.

Keep In Mind: This is more of a cultivator than a tiller, so it's best for mixing soil that's already loose as well as adding in fertilizer or compost.

Looking for a machine that makes it easy to mix in compost or fertilizer? A cultivator, such as this one from Black+Decker, is your best choice and is a great option if you already have a large tiller in your garden shed and want a quick tool to easily mix your soil or remove small weeds.

Created with an ergonomic design, the cultivator has an adjustable, soft-grip handle and telescoping tube to accommodate users of different heights. Its cordless design lets you haul it anywhere around your property, and because it's small and weighs less than 10 pounds, you won't have to worry about straining your hands and arms.

However, its best feature is that it can cultivate up to 325 square feet before running out of battery. Note: It does take eight hours to fully recharge, so it's worth checking the machine ahead of using it to make sure it has a full battery. The machine also arrives with a two-year warranty, in case you run into any mishaps, and requires little to no maintenance over time.

Product Details:

  • Power source: Electric; 20V battery
  • Weight: 8.1 pounds
  • Tine position: Middle
  • Maximum tilling width: 7 inches
  • Maximum tilling depth: 4 inches

Related: The 11 Best Compost Bins for Outdoor, Indoor, and Kitchen Countertop Use

Best Mini: Mantis 7268 25cc 9-Inch Mini Tiller

best tillers
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Lowe's

Why You Should Get It: This tiller has heavy-duty features yet remains lightweight and compact.

Keep It In Mind: The tiller doesn't come with wheels, but you can purchase a wheel kit separately.

The Mantis 7268 Mini Tiller is the best tiller for those looking for something mini yet heavy duty. "It's easy to use and feels lightweight when you carry it," McCoy says. With a four-cycle engine, it can handle getting rid of weeds, aerating the soil, weeding in between narrow rows, and digging up garden beds, including those in hard-to-reach areas. It has a maximum tilling width of 9 inches and depth of 10 inches.

"The machine is also tough enough to till through sod and stubborn soil, thanks to its curvy tines," McCoy says. In addition, the ergonomic handles fold down for seamless transport and storage.

This tiller doesn't include wheels, but you can purchase a wheel kit and add them for an additional cost, if desired. The wheels will allow you to roll the tiller from your storage shed to the garden bed and help the tiller to stand upright without additional support, like a wall.

The Mantis tiller has a five-year warranty, so you can rest assured knowing that it can be easily fixed or replaced.

Product Details:

  • Power source: Gas
  • Engine displacement: 25cc
  • Weight: 21 pounds
  • Tine position: Front
  • Maximum tilling width: 9 inches
  • Maximum tilling depth: 10 inches

Related: The 8 Best Lawn Mowers to Keep Your Yard Neat and Trim

Best Hand Tiller: Yard Butler Twist Tiller

best tillers
Courtesy of Amazon

Why You Should Get It: It comes with a lifetime warranty and takes up the least amount of storage space of the tillers on this list.

Keep In Mind: This tool isn't designed to till or cultivate an entire garden.

For a weeding and cultivating solution that doesn't require fuel or a battery charge, consider the Yard Butler hand tiller. This steel tiller includes a lifetime warranty and is built to last season after season.

Weighing in at under 5 pounds, it's lightweight enough to carry throughout your property, and its compact size also makes it easy to store in a small garden shed. It also has cushioned grips for a comfortable feel and a foot bar to help you drive it into the ground.

A hand tiller is a great tool to have on hand for quick weeding and cultivating needs that don't require hauling out a bulkier tiller. Created with a long-handled garden claw cultivator, the Yard Butler tiller uses the force of your body to rotate angled claw tines to get deep into compacted soil.

In addition, it can also be used to mix fertilizer, prepare garden beds for planting, weed, and amend soil. Just keep in mind that a hand tiller is too small to till an entire garden, and you'd likely tire out quickly if you attempted to do so.

Product Details:

  • Power source: Manual
  • Engine displacement: N/A
  • Weight: 4.6 pounds
  • Tine position: N/A
  • Maximum tilling width: 6 inches
  • Maximum tilling depth: 6 inches

The Bottom Line

The Honda FG110 25cc 9-Inch Front-Tine Tiller tops our list of the best tillers because it has removable tines to allow you to work in narrow spaces, and it can both till and cultivate. The 25cc engine has plenty of power for working the ground of established gardens, and we also like that the machine comes fully assembled so you can put it to work right away.

What To Know About Tillers Before Shopping

Power Source

When it comes to selecting the best tiller for you, you'll want to think about your gardening needs and soil type and then decide between an electric, gas, or handheld tiller.

A handheld tiller requires more manual labor than an electric or gas option, and it's generally best for weeding small areas and mixing in compost or fertilizer. It's also much less expensive than an electric or gas tiller, and it's compact and easy to store in a small garden shed.

An electric tiller requires little to no maintenance, and it tends to be more lightweight and cheaper when compared to a gas-powered tiller. However, electric tillers are also generally less powerful than a gas tiller, and they may not provide enough oomph if you're starting a new garden in rocky or very compacted soil. You'll also need to remember to charge the battery on a cordless tiller (or purchase a spare one) or be comfortable being restricted to a certain section of your property if you're using a corded electric model that requires an outdoor power outlet.

Voltage and Engine Displacement

The more powerful the motor, the more heavy-duty work a tiller can take on. But keep in mind that with more power comes a higher price tag and generally a heavier, more cumbersome machine.

When choosing the best tiller for your property, consider your soil type, whether you're creating new beds or just turning the soil in established gardens, and the amount of land you need to work. If you have compacted or rocky soil or a large garden, you may want to consider a gas tiller with a 200cc or higher engine displacement. Smaller, established beds will need less power.

If you have your eye on an electric tiller, make sure the battery's amp hours will last you the duration of your daily tilling needs. You could also purchase a spare battery. You'll find corded electric tillers in the range of 5 to 14 amps, with those on the latter end offering the most power. Corded tillers are generally more powerful than cordless tillers because they can draw a steady source of power through an outlet.

"Overall, it's worth keeping in mind that the higher the voltage, the longer the run time and the horsepower, which equals the stronger the machine," McCoy says.

Tine Position

Tillers fall into one of three tine positions: front, rear, or middle. Front-tine machines have their tines at the front and are ideal for working in established gardens. "Front-tine tillers are best for performing general garden maintenance, such as weeding, soil preparation, and composting in small or medium gardens," McCoy says. "Alternatively, rear-tine tillers, which have engine-driven wheels, are best for larger planting areas."

Rear-tine tillers lead with large-tread tires followed by the tines, allowing the machine to get a deeper reach into the soil to break new ground or turn over hard-packed soil. They tend to be heavier and more expensive than their front-tine counterparts but also offer more power.

Mid-tine tillers share a lot of the same characteristics as front-tine machines, but since their tines are centered under the engine, they offer a bit more maneuverability and ease of control.

Your Questions, Answered

When should you use a tiller?

The best seasons to till are in the spring after the ground has thawed and in the fall before planting autumn crops or when clearing your garden beds for winter.

Before using a tiller, make sure the soil is crumbly and dry enough that it can't be formed into a ball when pressed between your hands. If it's too wet when you till, you risk damaging the topsoil's structure. Keep in mind that tilling bone-dry ground can be tough work, so the soil should ideally have some moisture from rainfall a day or two prior.

What is the difference between a tiller and a cultivator?

According to McCoy, a cultivator is smaller and easier to maneuver than a tiller and is best for loosening the soil in an existing planting area, weeding the area during the growing season, or mixing compost into the soil. "A tiller is more powerful than a cultivator and tends to have larger, heavy-duty tines that work the soil."

How often do you need to use a tiller?

A tiller should be used every fall to allow the crops to settle in and break down over the winter so the beds are ready for planting in the spring, McCoy says. A tiller is also useful in the spring to turn and loosen the soil for planting. A small tiller or cultivator can weed a troublesome patch and mix in fertilizer and compost during the growing season as well.

Who We Are

This article was written by Rachel Dube, who has written for a wide variety of publications across all topics related to lifestyle. To come up with this list of the best tillers, she consulted Gary McCoy, a Lowe's store manager. She also thoroughly researched the best tillers while considering factors like power source, tine position, ergonomic features, and tilling width and depth.

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