Consider the soil conditions, the size of the area and your energy levels when choosing a tiller and tines.
For lawn and garden projects, a rototiller could be your best friend. This handy tool uses rotating curved metal blades called tines to break up soil for planting seeds, cultivating crops and laying sod. When renting a tiller, you’ll want to match the machine to the job at hand. Here are the different types of tillers as well as the drive options and tine types to consider when choosing a tiller.
What kind of tiller do I need?
There are three categories of tillers, named for the position of the tines: front tine, mid tine and rear tine. Each has distinct advantages.
Front tine tiller
Front tine tillers have blades in front of the wheels. These are the smallest and lightest tillers, typically weighing under 100 pounds, with a digging depth of 6 to 8 inches and a tilling width of 1 to 2 feet.
Thanks to their smaller size, front tine tillers are best for small-to-medium size gardens up to 5,000 square feet. Use this type of tiller to loosen pre-worked soil, prepare seed beds or weed between garden rows. It requires more muscle to operate than larger tillers, but it’s also the most affordable.
Mid tine tiller
The blades on mid tine tillers sit beneath the engine, which adds weight to make digging more efficient. Mid tine tillers cut depths similar to those of front tine tillers and are used for similar tasks, but they require less effort to operate. That extra power typically comes with a slightly higher price tag.
Rear tine tiller
Rear tine tillers, also called soil cultivators, have rotary blades at the back of the machine behind the engine. They are sometimes called walk-behind tillers because they are pushed from behind while walking. The tines rotate in the opposite direction of the wheels, which creates enough resistance to dig up to 10 inches deep. The size of the machine allows a tilling width of up to 20 inches.
A rear tine tiller is the best tiller for breaking new ground or tilling soil that contains a lot of rocks or roots. These machines weigh as much as 500 pounds, which affords a much smoother operating experience on rough terrain than lighter models. They are suitable for tilling large areas, from 5,000 to 10,000 feet.
Mechanical drive vs. hydraulic drive
Tillers feature mechanical or hydraulic drive systems. Mechanical drive models, typically front tine and mid tine tillers, have components such as gears and chains and are fueled by gas or electricity. These tillers are lightweight and therefore ideal for small garden and landscape jobs.
If you want more power and durability, hydraulic tillers are for you. Hydraulic fluid powers the engine and allows both backward and forward tilling so you can easily move around obstacles and maneuver in tight spaces. Hydraulic tillers are larger and heavier than mechanical tillers, so they can be more difficult to maneuver and store. They are an excellent choice if you need to till tough, compact soil or a large area.
Types of tiller tines
The three types of tiller tines are bolo, pick and chisel and slasher. Bolo tines are standard on most machines. They are large and curved inward for deep tilling with minimal clogging. The best rototiller for rocky soil uses pick and chisel tines, which have more teeth and less curve than bolo tines. Slasher tines are short and sharp and can cut through heavy vegetation or root-heavy soil.
Look for tines coated with carbon alloy or another other durable material to withstand use in rocky and sandy soil.
Tine rotation: Forward and reverse tine
The turning direction of the tines determines how the tiller digs. Forward rotation tines are common on front tine and mid tine machines and are best suited for tilling loose, aerated soil. Reverse rotation tines dig deeper and require fewer passes. Found on rear tine models, they turn in the opposite direction of the wheels and are used to break up rocky soil, sod and hard clay.
Compared to a spade or shovel, a tiller can save you a lot of time and effort. Use the information outlined above to choose from among the different types of tillers. When in doubt, speak with a United Rentals associate at a branch near you for guidance on which tiller will serve you best.