How to Select a Rototiller

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Without a doubt, using a rototiller to prepare a garden bed can spare you the agony of doing the work by hand. When selecting one rototiller model over another, however, you'll have a number of considerations. Before you bring home a tiller, consider the size of your garden, the job you want the tiller to do, your overall strength level and your budget.

The Size of Your Garden

  • Measuring your garden before you shop for a rototiller will be beneficial. If your garden is fewer than 1,500 square feet, then a miniature rototiller, sometimes called a cultivator, can work just fine for it. Such a tiller model has small tines in its front section. If your garden is between 1,500 and 5,000 square feet, then look for a front- or rear-tine tiller that has at least 5 to 6 horsepower. Preparing a garden that is more than 5,000 square feet requires the use of at least a 6-horsepower tiller.

The Extent of the Job

  • Whether your tiller will be used in a new, undisturbed area or an established garden is another consideration. A small, front-tine tiller is fine for weeding an area or for retilling a garden space that was used in the past. If, though, you want to create an entirely new garden bed, then using a rear-tine tiller is probably best. If clay or really hard soil is in the area where you want to put a garden, then using a rear-tine model with two tines, or tines that rotate in counter directions to one another, will help you break up that earth more easily than you could with a different style of tiller. A rear-tined model's tines will be the last machine parts in contact with the soil as you move forward while tilling; the machine's wheels won't repack the soil, unlike front-tine tillers.

Your Strength Level

  • Breaking up soil is not a simple job. Still, not every tiller does all the work. If you don't already have some level of upper-body strength, then consider selecting a rear-tined tiller model because it has more horsepower than a front-tined model. A front-tined model weighs fewer than 20 pounds, but it needs to be carried instead of wheeled when moved from one area to another area. Using a mid-size tiller also requires upper-body strength because the machine has to be held slightly tipped back as it is pushed forward.

Your Budget

  • While you consider all the other tiller aspects, also think about price. The smallest front-tine or miniature tillers cost less -- sometimes much less -- than the larger, rear-tine tillers. If you have established that you need a large tiller but you want to save money, then an option is to rent one from a rental supply store or even to combine forces with other area gardeners to buy one tiller that all of you can use.

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