The age of modern technology has brought about an explosion in useful tools and machines to make our everyday work easier and less strenuous. In the realm of gardening and outdoor work, there is an especially expansive market filled with tools and gadgets to make gardening as easy and enjoyable of a process as possible.
When you begin a garden from scratch, most likely, the hardest part is preparing the ground for the planting of your seeds and seedlings. Tilling up grass, roots, rocks, and other debris is physically taxing work if it is done with a traditional gardening tool such as a plow or a manual tiller.
Aren’t you thankful we have come a long way since needing to use something like that Vintage Antique Montgomery Ward Garden Push Plow Tiller shown above?
Today we are going to take a closer look at automatically run garden tillers or rototillers and learn about which ones are the best in the market and how to find the exact mini tiller for the job at hand.
This article will give you everything you need to begin your shopping journey of finding the best garden tillers to start your next project and save you time and money along the way. We will look at several different options including electric tillers, gas-powered tillers, and even battery-operated tillers.
This article can take the guesswork out of small garden tillers for you and help you choose the perfect model for your garden and your goals. Carry on reading to discover my comprehensive buyer’s guide or jump straight to my number #1 pick on Amazon here.
Table of Contents
What Should I Look For When Buying a Small Garden Tiller?
It is my goal in this article to equip you with all of the information you need about small garden tillers to make the right and best decision for both you and your garden because, when it comes to buying tools such as rototillers, there is simply not one right or wrong one to buy.
There are several different makes and models on the market today that cater to different needs and gardening goals. It is important, before you begin the shopping process, to establish what your specific goals are for your garden so that you can choose a mini tiller that will get the job done right.
Here I have created a detailed list of some of the most important criteria that you need to consider before purchasing a new rototiller. This list will help you narrow down your decision and go into your search well-informed and with a specific idea of what you are looking for.
Below you will find my list of the most important criteria to consider before going out to purchase a new rototiller. Each criterion will look different to you depending upon your specific garden and goals, however, each one will help guide you in deciding which tool will be the most useful for your garden.
Most automatic garden tillers on the market today come in three different varieties which include gas-powered tillers, electric tillers, and battery-operated tillers. Each kind comes with some specific pros and cons that you will have to weigh.
First, gas-powered tillers are usually considered to be the most powerful. So, if you live in an area with especially rocky soil and rough terrain, a gas-powered tiller may be the best choice for you.
Electric tillers are usually much lighter and easier to maneuver. They are designed for the small household garden and will easily break up compact soil and prepare flower beds for planting. These types of mini tillers, however, usually come with a cord which takes some of the convenience out of its use. You must plan before using this type of tiller because you will need to ensure that the unit can reach an outlet from where you will be working.
Battery-powered tillers provide great convenience in that they are very portable. With a fully charged battery, many of them can be used for several hours without the need to worry about proximity to an outlet. These kinds of mini tillers are usually suited best for small, outdoor gardens. They will not have the same power levels as that of a gas-powered model, however, they will work well for the gardener that wants to prepare soft, new ground for planting and preparing small gardens.
The type of power source you choose for your rototiller depends greatly on the type of soil you will be working with as well as what you are going to be using your tiller for specifically. For more heavy-duty projects in hard soil, a gas-powered model may work best, while an electric or battery-powered tiller may be exactly what you need for a small garden or flower bed of soft soil.
Next, you will need to consider the size of the garden you will be working with. This will greatly affect your decision in choosing a new rototiller because using the wrong-sized tiller for your garden can make this tilling process unnecessarily difficult.
If you are working with a relatively large garden over about 1,000 square feet, a large and more powerful tiller will work best for you. For this size garden, you are going to want a tiller that can cover a significant amount of ground at one time. You will also want your tiller to be more powerful as it will have a lot of soil to loosen.
If you are working with a smaller garden of 500 square feet or less, a small garden tiller will work just fine. A mini garden tiller with adjustable tilling width may be a great choice for this size of garden as you can adjust the width of the tilling area to your specifications.
Using a tiller that is either too big or too small for the amount of land you are looking to till will just put extra work and unneeded stress into the process for you. Making sure that you purchase a tiller that is designed to accommodate the specific size of your garden will ensure that you have the best overall experience possible and receive all of the benefits that a small garden tiller has to offer.
There are three main construction designs that tillers can be found in. These include front-tine tillers, rear-tine tillers, and counter-rotating tine tillers. Each tiller design has its pros and cons which we will get into, and it is important to determine which design will work best for your garden and the type of soil you will be working with.
First, let’s explore the rear tine tiller because this is the kind of tiller that is most commonly found and used among average gardeners. This type of tiller has tines, which are the large rotating blades that break up the soil, in the back of the machine. The wheels are located in the front. Most gardeners prefer this style of tiller because they do not have to worry about the wheels and the weight of the tiller compacting their freshly tilled soil.
Compaction is a concern when it comes to front tine tillers because, unlike the rear tine tiller, the front tine has wheels placed in the back of the machine and the tines in the front. This means that any soil that is tilled will be slightly compacted by the wheels as they roll over the soil. While this is not ideal for most gardeners, it does work for some, and it creates less of a mess and is a bit easier to maneuver than rear-tine tillers.
The last kind of tiller design comes with counter-rotating tines that can either be placed in the front or the back of the machines. These types of tillers have two separate tines that spin in opposite directions to achieve a complete turnover of the soil. This type of tiller is usually preferred by gardeners that have very large gardens or who need to achieve a very deep till.
Another important factor to consider before going out to purchase a new garden tiller is to think ahead about how you will be using your tiller.
For those with a large area of land to cover and a lot of ground to till, a large, industrial-sized tiller may work best and help save time in the long run.
For this article, however, we are going to be focusing more on the smaller, residentially used tillers. These smaller tillers are great for the average home gardener that needs to prepare the ground for the planting of vegetables, fruits, or flowers.
If you are looking to buy a small garden tiller, just make sure to use it for the appropriate tasks so as not to overtask the machine and cause it to burn out. Tilling too heavily of soil with a small tiller could cause the machine to fail. It is important to choose a tiller size that is appropriately fit to perform the level of tasks you have planned for it.
Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Small Garden Tiller
Now that you have a picture of what to look for when buying a small garden tiller, it is time to look at some of the newest options that are on the market today and compare them to my buyer’s guide to see if they might be the right fit for you.
Here we have developed a list of the best small garden tillers in 2021 so that you can get an up-close look at the specifications of these machines and, hopefully, find one that will work best for you.
1: Sun Joe TJ603E Electric Tiller and Cultivator (Best Value – All-Purpose)
“I purchased this because I found myself in the middle of a landscaping job I was doing on my property and found out just how compact and hard my soil is. Trying to break it up by hand was a nightmare so I ordered this. It got the job done, but as others recommended I slapped some extra weight on the top which really helped.”
The Sun Joe TJ603E is my first pick on my list of rototillers because of its excellent customer ratings, its highly affordable price, and its great performance.
This little rototiller can get the job done right the first time and leave you breathing a sigh of relief at the sight of a beautifully tilled garden bed that is ready for planting.
The neat thing about the Sun Joe is that it is a 2-in-1 machine which means that it is both a tiller and a cultivator at the same time. What this means is that while your machine is tilling the soil, you can also use it to simultaneously finely grind your soil as well to get two very big and time-consuming jobs done at the same time.
The Sun Joe is a corded tiller that provides up to 120 volts of power. The unit can be turned on simply with the push of a single button and adjustable wheels bring allow you to adjust the tilling depth of your machine.
With 6 angled, steel blades that spin at up to 340 rotations per minute (RPM) this mini tiller is made to impress and make wide, deep cuts into the soil to quickly prepare the ground for planting.
The Sun Joe received overwhelmingly great reviews and customers loved the portability that this unit provided. With its foldable handle, it makes storage and transportation of the unit much easier than a classically styled tiller.
One downside to this particular tiller is that it is extremely lightweight, which may feel like a good thing for maneuvering and handling. However, because this tiller is so lightweight, it will not be able to cut into the ground with as much force and direction as that of heavier models. This can make tilling a little bit more difficult for you and make it hard to control the overall direction of the tiller itself, as it is prone to jumping and changing speeds frequently.
This particular, corded electric tiller is also considered to be a front-tine tiller which means that the wheels will be in the back of the tines. This can be a drawback for some gardeners because the wheels will cause some compaction of the soil after it is tilled.
2: Greenworks Cordless Tiller (Best Machine)
“This cultivator is well-built, lightweight, and has the power to till your garden. The assembly was straightforward and took about 15 minutes of unboxing and assembling everything. However, I recommend looking at the pictures when assembling the tines since it is not well worded in the instructions. During use was impressive. It didn’t require too much power to maneuver and pulled itself forward a bit, giving me less work.”
Greenworks is an outdoor tool supply company that has quickly made its way to the top of the market as one of the best manufacturers of gardening tools and supplies on the market today. Greenworks specializes in making energy-efficient garden tools and machines that are made to pack a punch in both strength and durability.
The Greenworks Cordless Tiller is a battery-operated garden tiller that works great on both soft grounds as well as hard and compact soil. This unit may be small, but it sure is mighty. Let’s learn more about its specifications and what makes it such a special and highly-rated machine.
Reason #1 – Ultra Power Battery
Greenworks specializes in supplying all of its battery-operated machinery with ultra-power batteries that charge fast and stay charged. This tiller comes with a 4.0 Ah battery and a charger so that you can take your tiller with you anywhere and always have power on the go. A complete charge of this battery can be achieved in as little as 50 minutes.
The push-button start on this machine makes starting up a breeze. With just the simple press of a button, you can have this tiller and cultivator combo up and running in a matter of seconds.
Reason #2 – High-Efficiency Motor
As we mentioned before, Greenworks strive to make tools and machinery that are energy-efficient. They are always looking for ways to update the overall design of their products to provide maximum energy efficiency.
The Greenworks Cordless Tiller is equipped with a brushless motor that provides more power and strength for a longer period which means less charging time between uses. The motor on this tiller also makes the entire unit incredibly quiet, which was a trait that was highly praised among past customers.
Another unique feature that this tiller has is the ability to make up to 2,000 strikes per minute which means that it can cut through even the thickest and toughest of dirt with no problem at all, making quick work of a large job.
With 4-inch, steel tines that rotate at an impressively fast speed, this rototiller has been known to slice through even the hardest soil. Users were amazed by its ability to cut through hard, clay soil with ease, despite its small size.
With a 5-inch tilling depth and an 8.25-10-inch adjustable width, this rototiller works great for both small jobs that require more precision as well as large jobs that time a longer amount of time.
Easy folding handles on this model also make storage and transportation easier which is always a major plus when it comes to gardening equipment. One drawback to this particular model however is the fact that it is a front tine tiller which means that the wheels on the back of it will compress the freshly turned soil. This isn’t a major issue, but it can become an inconvenience for some gardeners, so be sure to keep this in mind before you purchase.
3: Earthwise TC70016 Electric Tiller (Best Electric Tiller)
“This machine is a little beast. I was very skeptical at first because it is electric but this has a lot of power. I am hoping it lasts for a long time. It is very lightweight which is good because I have a really bad shoulder. It kicked the rocks out with no problem. Just be careful with the cord. It is easy to get it stuck in the blades. Very satisfied with the performance.”
With over 125 years of expert experience in designing and manufacturing high-quality gardening equipment, Earthwise is one of the top-performing companies and makes a wide variety of earth-friendly gardening tools and equipment.
After much research and consideration, we consider the Earthwise, TC70016 to be one of the best electric tillers on the market today. This mini-tiller works great for small to medium-sized gardens and has been proven to slice through even the toughest of terrain. The entire unit is very user-friendly and is guaranteed to start every single time.
With 6 adjustable tines that cover an 11 to 16-inch tilling width and an 8-inch tilling depth, this rototiller provides great flexibility and options for different-sized gardens. This 13.5 amp electric tiller provides just as much power and thrust as that of a gas-powered tiller without leaving any pollution behind, which is one of Earthwise’s main goals for their products.
The Earthwise is a corded tiller complete with a cushioned, ergonomic handle for maximum ease and comfort when in use. This handle is also designed to be non-slip. A cord retention hook prevents the electrical cord from getting tangled up within the tines.
Like many of my choices on this list, the Earthwise is a front tine tiller which means the wheels are located in the back and will leave compression marks on your newly turned soil. So keep this in mind when purchasing.
Overall, the Earthwise received many highly-rated small garden tiller reviews and is one of the most comfortable and easy-to-handle rototillers on the market today. Just be sure to plan when using this tiller to make sure that you have a reliable power source nearby to operate the tiller.
4: Black & Decker LGC120 (Best Low Cost)
“This is the third machine I’ve had through the years, the switch broke on the other two after a few years and I had no way of fixing them, they were 18v. This one is 20v and I’ve noticed it seems to be a little more responsive. Even though the switch breaks after a few years, I would still recommend these cultivators, they are easy to use and really break up the ground for a home gardener.”
The Black & Decker LGC120 is a handheld tiller cultivator combo machine that is powered by a 20-volt lithium-ion battery. Black & Decker is known for providing all of its tools and equipment with the best batteries that are made to last and provide longevity with every charge.
A convenient feature of Black & Decker’s power connect batteries is that they are interchangeable amongst all Black & Decker tools and products. This means that if you own several Black & Decker tools and equipment you can use all of the batteries that come with your tools interchangeably amongst them.
The LGC120 holds the ability to till and cultivate a 325 square foot area in just one charge, which means that you will be able to till and prepare your small to medium-sized garden in just one charge of this tiller’s battery.
Counter-rotating tines allow this tiller to break both new ground and established garden areas with ease, however, a little more patience is required with this model because of its overall small size compared to some of my other choices shown above. It just will not be able to move the same amount of soil that some of my larger models can.
Black & Decker also provides its customers with a 2-year warranty on this product so that you can receive assistance and replacement if need be.
The LGC120 is an excellent tool for anyone looking to care for an established garden or to begin a new, small garden. It works great on all types of soil, however, it will not be able to handle compacted soil as well as some of my other larger models can. This model, because of its hand-held design will also take more strength from you as the user to operate because the weight of the device itself will not be present to add pressure to the tines.
Most customers that used this product were very satisfied with its user-friendliness and especially with the performance of the battery. However, some did express that the entire unit was surprisingly loud for a battery-operated tiller. This may not be the case for every Black & Decker tool, but this one tends to be on the louder side.
5: Mantis 7940 Gas-Powered Cultivator (Best Gas-Powered Tiller)
“This Tiller works well on soils that aren’t clay-based. It tends to bounce when encountering garden spots that are firm or hard. In these areas, a tight grip and arm strength are required. Care is necessary under normal circumstances to keep it going in a straight line, as in between rows. And don’t use when the dirt is moderately wet because it adheres to the tines and if enough gathers between tines and housing it will stall.”
The Mantis 7940 tiller cultivator is in a class all of its own. If you are looking for optimal power and easy usability, the Mantis 7940 may be the perfect tiller for you.
The Mantis comes with a 4-cycle engine that does not require the mixing of gas and oil like other models do, and speed control is a breeze with an easy-to-use, sliding throttle.
This gas tiller has been designed to provide users with the utmost is user-friendliness and power by being both lightweight and insanely powerful. This tiller works perfectly for virtually any size garden and is breaks through even the toughest, heavy clay soil to transform it into the fine powder that is perfect for planting
Operating at 240 RPM, this tiller can spin two times faster than several other models of its kind, and it is known for its easy maneuverability and longevity throughout several heavy uses. The Mantis is made to last and perform time and time again. A 2-year warranty is given on this device to back up your purchase.
The handles on this tiller easily fold down which makes for easy storage. Several attachments can be added to this machine to transform it into a variety of different gardening tools. With separately sold attachments from Mantis, this tiller can easily be transformed into an edger, plow, aerator, or dethatcher. There virtually is nothing that this garden tiller cannot do for your soil.
This level of power and versatility does come at a price, however. The Mantis is the most expensive choice featured on my list, but for the gardening enthusiast who is serious about planting and making a garden that will serve you for years to come, this tool will be well worth the investment.
The only drawback to this garden tiller lies within the fact that it is gas-powered, which for some users may be a major turnoff. This tiller is highly powerful but is not the most environmentally friendly model there is to choose from.
Having a magazine-worthy garden doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Here we will be exploring some budget-friendly garden tillers that will get the job done right without emptying your wallet. Here we will take a look at a budget-friendly option for each of the three main types of garden tillers.
1 Earthquake Mini Tiller – Gas-Powered
Gas-powered tillers always tend to be a bit more expensive than electric tillers or battery-operated tillers. However, the Earthquake comes at a great price for gas power. This tiller comes with a 2-cycle viper engine that can work through a wide variety of types of pre-tilled soil.
The key here is “pre-tilled.” It is important to know that this tiller does not contain enough power or speed to till up compacted, untouched soil. It will be important to pre-till the soil before using the Earthquake. However, once the soil is pre-tilled, the Earthquake will easily finish up the job by breaking up large pieces of clay or moderately compacted soil to make it perfect for planting.
The adjustable tilling width on this machine ranges from 6 to 10 inches which allows it to be used for a variety of different functions such as aeration, soil mixing, and weeding.
The wheels on the back of the machine make it easy to transport and maneuver around fences and tight corners.
2 Earthwise 6.5 Amp Electric Tiller – Electric Tiller
“I’ve used the tiller several times over the past 6 months and I’m very happy with it. It tills very fast, so you have to be aware when you pull the trigger. It does hop a bit on hard ground, but that’s to be expected from a light tiller. Dirt will get thrown a few feet from the tiller due to the speed of the tines. My only complaint is the position of the safety button. You have to push a button and pull the lever at the same time to start the tiller but the button could be placed in a more convenient location”
The Earthwise 6.5 Amp electric tiller is very similar to my other Earthwise model mentioned above, however, it is just a bit smaller thus making it less expensive. This electric tiller features 4 steel tines with an 11-inch width workspace that can till up to 8 inches deep.
This tiller is designed to be lightweight and very easy to maneuver making it a great choice for smaller-sized gardens. Its easy start is guaranteed to start every time.
An ergonomic handle, very similar to the Earthwise TC70016 mentioned above, provides excellent comfort and non-slip capabilities so that you can feel confident and in full control while using this electric tiller.
Due to its smaller size and lightweight, this tiller may not be able to handle the tougher soil as well as some of my other models. Like my other budget-friendly pick, this tiller would work best with pre-tilled soil.
3 Sun Joe Telescopic Tiller – Battery-Powered
“Have used it in recent New England snowfalls and been impressed with its efficiency and ease of use. As a 78-year-old, I needed something lighter than my other snow tools and this fit the bill. Works best in light fluffy snow, and have been able to clear a 30-yard sloping driveway with 2-3″ in far less time than shoveling or scraping. The hour-long charge is more than enough for the deck and paths around the yard I need to do. Best purchase in a long time. Would have rated it a five, but wish the shovel blade could be directed to right/left.”
As we have learned, Sun Joe is one of the most reputable names in the gardening equipment market, and for good reason. They are known for making high-quality products that are built to last and perform great every time.
The Sun Joe Telescopic Tiller is a handheld, battery-operated tiller that features dual spinning 6-inch blades capable of digging deep into the soil. With a 24-volt lithium-ion battery, this tiller can be powered for a significant amount of time between charges.
The telescopic pole of this unit extends from 28.3 inches to 37.3 inches making it very versatile and great for users of different heights.
This Sun Joe tiller is extremely lightweight though. With the entire unit only weighing 6 pounds, it will take quite a bit of muscle from the user to get this tiller to dig deep.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does a tiller work?
Most garden tillers are designed with long, spinning metal blades that are used to cut deep into the soil to help prepare it for the planting of vegetables, fruits, or other plants. Tillers take the hard work out of breaking up the soil by cutting deep into the ground and turning the soil in a circular motion so that the large, compact pieces of the earth are tilled down to a fine powder which is perfect for planting.
Most tillers work along with their own weight to apply pressure into the ground which sends the rotating blades deep into the soil. These helpful garden tools take the hard and strenuous work of manual plowing out of gardening and make the entire process much easier and more enjoyable for the gardener.
What size tiller do I need?
Tillers come in a wide variety of different sizes. The size of your tiller directly depends upon the size of the garden you are planning to till. If you are looking to till a large piece of land, larger than about 1,000 square feet, you will want to use a larger tiller that covers a longer width of land and digs deeper into the soil. Usually, tillers of the heavier variety work best for larger gardens because they can dig deeper into the earth.
For small- to medium-sized gardens that are 500 square feet or less, a small garden tiller or even a handheld model will do the trick. Just remember that the larger the tiller the more ground you will be able to cover in a shorter amount of time.
What is the difference between a tiller and a cultivator?
Many tillers on the market today, including some from my list here in this article are designed to be both tillers and cultivators, but what is the major difference? The main difference lies within what they are being used for.
Tillers are designed to be the first tool used to create a garden. Their heavy frames and longer steel tines dig deep into the compact soil and rotate the earth to make it ideal for planting.
A cultivator is designed to be used after the primary tilling. Cultivators grind the soil into a fine powder making it perfect for planting, and they are used for soil maintenance between planting seasons.
Many of the tillers you find on the market today come with both tilling and cultivating capabilities which are very convenient for the modern gardener. With a 2-in-1 tool, you can get two jobs done at the same time.
Verdict: Your Best Small Garden Tiller
Several different factors go into determining the best small garden tiller, and it is something that truly only you can do. The best garden tiller is going to be the one that works best for your garden size and unique planting needs.
If you want the best value for your money, pick the Sun Joe TJ603E. This tiller comes as a 2-in-1 cultivator and tiller which can save you both time and money in the planning and construction of your garden.
If you are looking for an electric tiller, pick the Earthwise TC70016 which is known to slice through even the toughest soil like butter. Its conscious effort to reduce its carbon footprint will make you feel good about your gardening and environmentally friendly efforts.
If you want to keep the spend under $200, pick one of my best budget choices shown above. Each of these choices is a quality tiller that will work great for a small- to medium-sized garden.
Creating a bountiful garden that will serve you for years to come takes a little bit of planning, a moderate amount of elbow grease, and a whole lot of heart. However, the garden tiller is a tool that will take some of the hard, physical labor out of gardening for you. It is a product worth investigating for both beginner gardeners and enthusiasts alike.