If you are fond of gardening, the rototiller can be your best friend. Also known as rotary hoe, rotary plow, power tiller or rotavator, this machine is gaining in popularity among gardeners. It is now available in various makes and models.
Rototillers eliminate the hassle of hoeing and spade digging. It makes gardening tasks easier and faster. With that, we have found the best rototiller in terms of quality and affordability. We spent over 50 hours doing comparative research on some of the popular rototillers in the market and our efforts all pointed to this one product, the Earthwise TC70001 Electric Tiller.
If you have a small garden and a small budget for a powerful rototiller, the electric Earthwise TC70001 Electric Tiller and Cultivator is Jen’s top pick.Among its best features is its ability to plow quickly with a cutting width and depth of 11 inches and 8.5 inches, respectively. Its handles are comfortable enough allowing for multiple gripping positions. Unlike other tillers, it automatically shuts down once the handle is released.
We could have chosen Sun Joe TJ601E Tiller Joe 9 Amp Electric Garden Tiller and Cultivator as our top pick were it not for its more expensive price. This tiller is fitted with a powerful 9-amp motor with 6-steel blade tines. Its cultivating width and depth are 18 inches and 7 inches, respectively.
If the two units are not available, you could also consider the Troy-Bilt TB154E 6 Amp Electric Garden Cultivator. It has a 6.5-amp electric motor with adjustable tilling width of 6-9 inches and a tilling depth of 5 inches.
If you have a bigger yard and your extension cords cannot cover it, a gas-powered rototiller is more practical. Based on hundreds of reviews, the Troy-Bilt TB146 EC Cultivator with JumpStart Technology emerges as the best rototiller among gas-powered tillers. It is equipped with a powerful 29-cc 4-cycle engine with 6 premium steel tines. It can dig up to a depth of 5 inches and a width of 6-12 inches. One of its prominent features is that its SpringAssist JumpStart technology which lets the engine start without pulling a cord. However, this engine starter is sold separately.
Table of Contents
- How rototillers came to be?
- Functions of a rototiller
- When to use a rototiller
- Gas rototiller versus electric rototiller
- How to choose the best rototiller
- How we picked our top choices
- Rear tine versus front tine rototiller
- Our best pick
- Flaws but not dealbreakers
- The second best
- The budget picks
- Specialized rototiller for weeded areas
- Other options worth checking
- Wrapping it up
How Rototillers Came to Be?
Rototillers are perhaps the most popular tool among gardeners. As early as when humans started sowing seeds, it is also the time when tilling the soil for planting started. In the ancient times, manual tillers were made of wooden sticks. Then came the use of modern metal blades which were eventually mounted under a piece of wood allowing the tillers to be pulled by horses and oxen. It was not until 1936 when the first gasoline-powered rototiller was first introduced.
Functions of a Rototiller
Perhaps you already asked yourself a dozen times: why buy a rototiller? If you have been manually gardening or maintaining your lawn for months or years now, you will appreciate having a rototiller. Simply put, the best rototiller will make your life easier. Modern rototillers are extremely useful machines for tackling tough weeds, breaking up soil and mixing compost into the soil. They can also be used to till or aerate areas that will not be used for planting such as walkways.
Rototillers work to make gardening fast and easy. The ability of a rototiller to perform its functions depends on several factors, the most important of which is the type of tine used. Other factors include engine size, weight and overall strength and design.
When to Use a Rototiller
Come spring and fall, gardeners already start planning about tilling the soil in their garden. If you want to keep your garden productive and healthy, there are certain things that one must start doing during these seasons. For many knowledgeable and experienced gardeners, these are the best times of the year for rototilling. However, it is more than just bringing out your rototiller and using it.
There is a perfect time for rototilling. A well-versed gardener knows that it is not good to rototill when the ground is wet. The soil should just be moist enough to be squeezed into a ball while would crumble when light pressure is applied. It will be a total waste of time when you till the ground while it is still wet because you will just make it more compact as you walk on it. It also forces air to go out from the soil. When the soil is ideal, it is also good to pick a day that is not too hot and windy so you will not easily get tired while working on your garden.
As a rule of the thumb, just rototill the soil only when necessary to not disturb the helpful creatures that live in the soil. For areas that do not require seeding, it is more ideal to use a hoe, spade or other garden tool.
Till only as deep as needed, depending on what you will be planting. For instance, leafy vegetables such as lettuce do not require deep tilling while root vegetables require deeper tilling.
Fall is the best season for adding soil balancers. If your soil requires balancers or other additives including compost or manure, add them with little amount of rototilling. It is important to note that if your garden area is on a slope, it is not ideal to till the soil until after winter snows disappear because loose soil is subject to erosion when left exposed all winter.
During spring, it is recommended to rototill the garden two to three weeks before planting begins. You could also choose to add compost or manure at this time instead of during fall.
Gas Rototiller Versus Electric Rototiller
Some gardeners have been using a gas tiller for many years and they are okay with it while others claim that an electric tiller works best for them. Depending on your need, a gas or an electric tiller may work better for you. But it would be good to have a quick bird’s-eye view of what each one has to offer.
Gas tillers are a mainstay for longtime gardeners. They are portable and accommodate any garden size. They can also till even the hardest solid soil in your yard. Because they are more portable and convenient to use, you can expect their price to be higher compared to that of electric tillers. Gas tillers also have an environmental impact as they spew massive amounts of exhaust every time you use them.
For large gardens, a gas-powered tiller is a necessity since it is impractical to haul around hundreds of feet of extension cord for you to work with. However, if you have a small garden, an electric tiller will be adequate as long as you will not go beyond the recommended cord length of 100 feet. Electric tillers are compact, lightweight, powerful and safe to use.
How to Choose the Best Rototiller
Some yard work can be easily done by hand so you might be wondering if it is worth to buy your own rototiller. A dedicated gardener will tell you that having one is a good investment. There are various types, makes, models and sizes of rototillers in the market. If you have no idea on how to choose or what to choose, it is important to first know your needs. The size of your yard is a fair starting point for determining the best rototiller for your needs. Mini-tillers are ideal for small gardens measuring less than 1,500 square feet. If your yard is bigger but measures less than 5,000 square feet, you could get a rototiller with at least 5 horsepower. Larger gardens are manageable with tillers that have at least a 6-horsepower engine.
Considering the type of soil you will be working on is also important. Even if your yard is small, a big rototiller is most suitable if the soil is rocky or hard. On the other hand, even if your area is large, a smaller rototiller may suffice if you will be tilling an existing garden.
Moreover, it is important to ask yourself how much you are willing to spend for a rototiller. There are models that cost less than $100, but generally, their features are very basic and they are not suitable for heavy-duty use. If you could double your budget, they are several good options in the market that you can get for a little over $100 such as our top pick.
Buying a rototiller needs proper planning. Before you go online shopping, you should already have a basic knowledge about tillers. Decide first whether to get a gas-powered tiller or an electric-powered tiller and whether it will have front or rear tines. These factors are important as they greatly affect the overall performance of the machine.
How we picked our top choices
With so many factors to consider when buying a rototiller, we picked our top choices based on power, ergonomic design, performance and cost. Our choices may be electric-operated or gas-powered but all of them have front tines as they are more practical for most households. We made a comparison to let you understand more.
Rear Tine Versus Front Tine Rototiller
Rear Tine Tiller
This type of rototiller has large front wheels that pull the blades or tines that are located at the back. These rototillers are normally big, heavy and more powerful that front-tine tillers. They are easy to maneuver because you simply have to hang on and steer while the tines and wheels do all the work. Rear tine can break up large hard-packed soil. If you are making flower beds or rows of vegetable gardens in your patch of lawn, it is the most ideal equipment to use.
Rear-tine tillers are more complex in operation and have larger engines. Generally, you can expect to pay over $500 if you want to buy one. Most units feature variable speeds and capability to do forward and reverse motion, making it easier to get into tight spots. They can also deal with large roots and rocks and give you more control when it comes to the tilling depth.
Front Tine Tiller
Tillers under this type are considered to be versatile and all-around. They are smaller and lightweight compared to rear-tine tillers. They typically have rotating tines at the front of the machine while the engine sits on top of the tines. Some models may still have guide wheels at the back that are not powered but placed for stability purposes. Front-tine tillers are more labor intensive. Muscle power is needed when tipping the tine to the soil or holding back the machine to control the tilling depth or propulsion.
When cultivating a virgin ground, it is more difficult to till the ground using a front-tine tiller because instead of penetrating the ground, the tine has the tendency to skip over the ground or grab hard obstacles. Many users experienced having a machine that tends to jerk forward or jump. Overall, tillers with front tines are less complicated, easy to operate and cheaper. They are more practical to use for small-sized and medium-sized yards.
There are many reasons why the Earthwise TC70001 Electric Tiller and Cultivator is our top pick among dozens of rototiller designs and models available, the most important of which is its powerful and ergonomic design. It works as both a tiller and a cultivator. Its main features include the use of 120 volts, 60 hertz and 8.5 amperes. The cutting width and depth are 11 inches and 8.5 inches, respectively with dual blade steel tines. Among its competitors, it has fitted with one of the most powerful motors and one of the biggest blade widths. The machine’s approximately 25-pound weight is also pretty good balance. It is light enough to be easily maneuverable while substantial enough to be able to dig in.
The Earthwise TC70001 Electric Tiller and Cultivator is designed to work effortlessly for normal garden soil. According to our interviews, we discovered that some users are able to use this machine for tackling hard-packed soil and the result is good. The tiller can also handle hard-packed red clay sod but it may require some time and more manual effort. Moreover, this machine also performs well when churning through weeded areas. Its blades rotate fast, chopping through different types of materials with it.
It is surprising to see many good features from a budget model like the Earthwise TC70001 Electric Tiller and Cultivator. Aside from its power and performance, it is also relatively easy to operate. You simply have to press the start button, pull the lever, and start working. Because it runs on electricity with less power consumption, it is less costly to use. It also leaves little environmental footprints than those that run on gasoline. The tines can also be easily taken out for maintenance or cleaning. Additionally, it does not make very loud and annoying sounds when being used.
Above all, many prefer to buy the Earthwise TC70001 Electric Tiller and Cultivator because of its inexpensive price tag. It also comes with a 2-year warranty.
Flaws But Not Dealbreakers
The Earthwise TC70001 Electric Tiller is far from being perfect. We tried using it and noticed some minor flaws. One flaw in particular is that it comes with a cord retainer that is a bit sharper than necessary. It could possibly cut into the cord. Thankfully, this problem can be solved by setting the cord at different lengths beforehand before using the machine in the garden. This also eliminates the hassle of always adjusting the cord when you are already using it.
The Second Best
The Earthwise TC70001 Electric Tiller is our top choice because of its great features and affordability. However, there is another durable and feature-rich rototiller that we would like to recommend if you can afford a more expensive one.
Our second pick is powered by a 9-amp motor with 6 powerful steel blade tines. Its cultivating width measures about 18 inches which is quite good for tilling gardens. However, its tilling depth is only 7 inches which is lower by 1.5 inches compared to our top pick.
Some plus factors for this machine include wheels for portability and a comfortable handle that is foldable for easy storage. Its lightweight advantage is also noticeable. A user with average built can easily pick this tiller up and maneuver it around. For a first-timer, it would be easy to assemble and easy to use. It also does not easily overheat.
The Budget Picks
When money is limited, there are still good rototillers that you can buy for less than $100. And they have quite useful features for basic use. However, they are not ideal for heavy-duty use.
Black and Decker LGC120 20-Volt Lithium Garden CultivatorTiller
This rototiller has a powerful transmission system with double counter-oscillating tines to easily break up hard soil and prevent weeds from tangling. It is powered by a 20-volt MAX lithium-ion battery that can cover up to 325 square feet of area per charge. Moreover, it has telescoping shafts that can be adjusted to your desired length to allow you to use it comfortably without bending over. What’s more is that it comes with a 2-year limited warranty.
New Power Glide Corded Electric Garden TillerCultivator
If you are just after some basic features when looking for a tiller, this machine has a single-speed transmission and runs on 120 volts at 60 Hz and 330 rpm with 18/2 x 16″ power cord. Its 24 tines with a cutting diameter of 6 inches are good enough for small gardens. It can also easily maneuver through small and tight areas because of its adjustable angle handle. Many of its users found this product useful for cultivating landscape and garden beds. It is also reliable in removing weeds. Even beginners will find this machine lightweight and easy to use.
Specialized Rototiller for Weeded Areas
While our top pick and its runner-up work quite well on weeded areas, there is another rototiller that displays commendable performance ahead of others. The Earthquake MC43 Mini Cultivator with 43cc 2-Cycle Viper Engine is a superstar when it comes to weeding. It also works well for aerating soil. It has a tilling depth of 8 inches while its tilling width can be 6 or 10 inches.
One of the best features of the Earthquake MC43 Mini Cultivator with 43cc 2-Cycle Viper Engine is that it is lightweight and only weighs about 35 pounds making it very convenient for users to maneuver or store. It is a front-heavy machine as the engine is attached to the front but light enough to move into raised garden beds and weeded areas. Although lightweight, it does not easily jump as much as other tillers do when it is confronted with soil or thick weeds. It is also less bouncy and more stable. This can be attributed to the unique design of its handlebars.
Moreover, you can also expect that it has some flaws such as running loud with its 2-cycle engine. The starter also can be a little bit tight. This machine is gasoline-operated and easy to assemble once you purchase it online. It also comes with a 2-cycle oil. It is important to note that you can get an optional edger or detacher attachment for this unit.
Other Options Worth Checking
While we encourage you to check out first our best rototiller, there are also many other tilling machines in the market worth checking. Who knows, you might find the best match for your needs in any of those machines. They are equally powerful compared to our top picks, but we listed them here because of their more expensive price.
Troy-Bilt TB154E 6 Amp Electric Garden Cultivator
Some buyers initially say that this machine is a bit expensive for their needs. But when you thoroughly check it, this Troy-Bilt TB154E 6 Amp Electric Garden Cultivator is certainly worth the price. It can efficiently cultivate any type of terrain with its four forward-rotating blades that run on a powerful 6.5-amp electric motor. It has a tilling width of 6-9 inches and a tilling depth of 5 inches. Because of its 3-way tines, it is effective for tearing, digging and turning soil. It is also lightweight and user-friendly. It is backed by a two-year warranty.
You can expect some of the best features that go with this machine. It is both powerful and versatile and ideal for frequent use. It can be used for both flower and vegetable gardens. Equipped with a 29-cc 4-cycle engine, it does not require mixing oil and gas. It can till up to 12 inches in width and 5 inches in depth. Working with its six tough steel tines, you will appreciate how fast you can easily finish tilling even hard soil. Moreover, it is fitted with a SpringAssist JumpStart technology, allowing the engine to get started without pulling any cord. However, the engine starter is sold separately. It comes with a 2-year warranty.
Earthquake 26750 Vector Front tine Rototiller
This machine is known for its smooth tilling performance, thanks to its depth control with drag stake. It also runs on a gear-drive transmission with adjustable height and bicycle-style handlebar for easy control. Its outer tines and shields are also easily removable. Moreover, its full-sized tillers have a faster speed compared to those of average tillers in the market.
Southland SFTT140 Front Tine Tiller
Another equally powerful tiller is the Southland SFTT140 Front Tine Tiller. Its numerous advanced features include its self-sharpening tines and folding loop-grip handles. It also has a 139-cc OHV 5.0-foot engine, 11-inch tine diameter and adjustable tilling width of 11, 16 and 21 inches. This machine is certified by both EPA and CARB to be environment-friendly.
Mantis 7225-15-02 2-Cycle Gas-Powered Tiller-Cultivator
The Mantis 7225-15-02 2-Cycle Gas-Powered Tiller-Cultivator is also a good choice if money is not an issue to you. It comes with a long list of great features. It is fitted with a commercial grade 2-cycle engine that is powerful, reliable and fast-acting. It also starts easily with its push-button priming function. This tiller can easily get into tight spaces with its 9-inch width. Moreover, it comes with patented reversible tines that can cultivate from 2 to 10 inches down. Lastly, it is backed by a 5-year consumer warranty.
Husqvarna FT900-CA Adjustable Width Front Tine Tiller
Although a bit expensive for its price, you will surely be happy at how powerful and ergonomic this tiller is. It is fitted with a 208-cc Briggs & Stratton engine capable of tilling a large plot of lot at an adjustable width of 12, 24 and 26 inches. It operates on front-tines with a drag-bar and counterweight. Additionally, this machine has double handlebars, allowing for minimal adjustments while maneuvering.
Dirty Hand Tools 100983 Rear Tine Tiller
With Kohler 149-cc engine, 16 inches tilling width and 10 inches tilling depth, you can expect that this rototiller delivers powerful and versatile performance. It also comes with counter-rotating tines and operator-controlled safety lever. It is very reliable for residential use.
This machine is a tiller and cultivator in one. It has a high-performance 99-cc Viper engine with a maximum of 150 rpm, allowing it to deliver enough power for turning any type of soil. With the tines located at the front, you can expect its effortless performance every time.
Wrapping It Up
If gardening is part of your regular routine, investing in a dependable rototiller will make your life easier. The best rototiller offers numerous benefits especially during the preparation stage of your gardening. If you want a heavy duty and powerful rototiller that you can buy for not much, the Earthwise TC70001 Electric Tiller and Cultivator is a good choice. Another equally good rototiller is the Sun Joe TJ601E Tiller Joe 9 Amp Electric Garden Tiller and Cultivator. Despite its cost though, this machine gained many satisfied users online. And if you are working on an extremely weeded area, the Earthquake MC43 Mini Cultivator with 43cc 2-Cycle Viper Engine will be your best friend.