Which hand tiller is best?

Tillers are tools for preparing soil for planting by loosening and mixing up the dirt. Tilling improves air circulation, pushes fertilizers and nutrients deeper into the soil, and breaks up weeds at the roots. Tillers are also used to remove grasses and weeds around the edges of gardens and flower beds, and to mix nutrients into the soil. And in addition to all the benefits your plants and soil get when you use a hand tiller, you’re getting some healthy exercise.

If you are looking for an excellent tiller, the Yard Butler Heavy-Duty Twist Tiller offers powder-coated steel with a cushioned ergonomic handle.

What to know before you buy a hand tiller

Tillers, cultivators, rakes and hoes are all tools made to work the soil. Tillers and cultivators are designed with some of the elements of rakes and hoes combined. Hand tillers are made principally for working small areas, so if your garden is a large one, you might want to take a look at an electric tiller.

Handles

  • Short-handled tillers are about the size of a large hammer and require gardeners to kneel on the ground while working the soil. Short-handled tillers are used with only one hand at a time and are good for working small beds and in tight places.
  • Long-handled tillers are made to be used while you’re standing. Long-handled tillers are better when more strength is required to break up tough soil, because you use both hands and your body’s weight to exert downward pressure.

The proper handle length is one where you can comfortably hold your tiller while standing upright. If you have to bend over, your tiller handle is too short, and you are likely to strain your back. 

Material

  • Wood handles are found on many short-handled tillers. They should be made of hardwoods that take a bit of abuse without breaking.
  • Metal handles are found on a few short-handled tillers and most long-handled ones. Aluminum resists rust and is lighter than steel, but it’s less durable. Steel is sturdier but heavier, and resists rusting only if stainless or powder-coated. 

What to look for in a quality hand tiller

Grip

As you are supplying all the power, the grip is all-important. Look for cushioned handles made of non-slip materials that are easy to grip and feel good in the hand.

Tines 

Tines are the sharp projecting prongs, claws or teeth that do the actual tilling of the soil. The effectiveness of your tilling depends upon three things:

  • Tine size: The bigger your tiller’s tines, the more effectively they break up hard soils.
  • Tine shape: Most are a basic L-shape, like a crooked finger. Some designs are corkscrewed to break up the ground more easily and efficiently.
  • Tine layout: Tools with fewer tines are best for small areas and tight spaces. The more tines you have, the quicker the work, but the harder it is to push the tines through the soil.

Ease of replacement

The tines on long-handled tillers ultimately bend or break when used in really tough soil, so look for tillers where they are easily replaced or, better yet, covered by a lifetime warranty.

How much you can expect to spend on a hand tiller

Short-handled hand tillers cost from $10-$30. Long-handled ones cost from $30-$50, depending upon their size and the materials used in their construction.

Hand tiller FAQ

Is a tiller the same thing as a cultivator?

A. Tillers and cultivators both work the soil, but tillers break up the soil while cultivators mix it. Strictly speaking, tillers would be used to create new garden beds while cultivators would be used to prepare existing garden beds. The tiller is designed to cut through tough turf where the cultivator isn’t. Tiller/cultivator combinations are made to do both, and a good choice for beginning gardeners.

How big an area can I till by hand?

A. Tilling can be exhausting work, especially when done by hand. Unless you are accustomed to rigorous physical labor, keep your ambitions modest. Small, short-handled tillers are good for small flower beds and long-handled tillers are good for small vegetable gardens. 

What’s the best hand tiller to buy?

Top hand tiller

Best Yard Butler Heavy-Duty Twist Tiller

Yard Butler Heavy-Duty Twist Tiller

What you need to know: A wide horizontally mounted handle makes it easy to twist with minimal effort. 

What you’ll love: The cushioned ergonomic T-handle is comfortable to hold and operate. The shaft is powder-coated steel and the step plate is positioned directly above the blades to exert maximum downward pressure to loosen, turn and till your soil.

What you should consider: It’s not effective in dense clay soils.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top hand tiller for the money

Best Edward Tools Hand Tiller Hoe and Cultivator

Edward Tools Hand Tiller Hoe and Cultivator 

What you need to know: This tiller is used to till and cultivate small areas while kneeling.

What you’ll love: The blade is made of strong carbon steel and the ergonomic 14-inch solid oak handle has a comfortable rubber grip. It comes with a lifetime replacement warranty. 

What you should consider: Some reviewers warned that the rubber grip may come loose.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Best Fiskars 40- to 60-Inch Telescoping Rotary Cultivator

Fiskars 40- to 60-Inch Telescoping Rotary Cultivator

What you need to know: The six spiked wheels dig deep into the ground as they roll to loosen soil, uproot weeds and mix in nutrients. 

What you’ll love: The lightweight aluminum handle will never rust and the telescoping feature makes it easy to adjust to the length most comfortable for you. You can remove the center wheel to till around newly planted seedlings without damaging them.

What you should consider: Some customers said they needed to keep tightening the handle.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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