Discover How Cultivators And Rototillers Can Turn Dirt Into Fertile Soil

Discover How Cultivators And Rototillers Can Turn Dirt Into Fertile Soil

Tilling or tillage refers to the mechanical processing of soil. It is done to ensure that soil is in the proper physical condition for planting.

Fertilizing on the other hand is the process of adding nutrients and trace elements to soil. Both these processes are crucial in successful agricultural operations.

What Is Tillage And Secondary Tilling

Tilling is achieved by mechanical means. Simply put, the condition of the soil is manipulated to achieve some kind of desired effect (cutting or pulverization) using specialized tools. Tilling or tillage is done to change the structure of soil, kill weeds, and manage crop residues.

Modifying the soil is not a new practice. People tilled soil to improve water drainage and provide a healthy environment for crops and seeds.

Big tiller for second tillage.

Remember that tilling is important for eliminating weeds. If left unchecked, weeds can compete with the plants for nutrients, water and even sunlight and this is not the best thing for crops. Tilling is widely practiced to manage crop residues. It is seen that managing crop residues on the surface provides friendly conditions for cultivating the desired crop.

Secondary Tillage

There are two types of tilling – primary tilling and secondary tilling. Secondary tillage is done to preserve moisture in the soil and this is achieved through the destruction of weeds. This type of tilling is also one of the preferred methods to cut up crop residues.

Secondary tillage involves the use of various different tools to stir soil at comparatively lower depths. These tools are employed after the more comprehensive and deeper primary tillage operations.

What Are The Benefits Of Secondary Tillage

  • Secondary tillage is often employed for plowing. The use of specialized tools loosens the soil particles and helps aerate the top layer of soil, which is a prerequisite for planting a successful crop.
  • This type of tilling also helps mix nutrients, organic matter and other harvest residue evenly into the soil.
  • As stated earlier, secondary tilling is a preferred method for destroying weeds. Remember, if left uncontrolled, weeds can compete with the crops for water and nutrients and this can destroy the entire planted batch.
  • It is seen that secondary tilling helps in keeping the soil drier before seeding especially in wet climates.
  • Secondary tillage when done in autumn helps soil get over the horrible winter effects. Mechanical manipulation of the soil helps prepare a smooth surface for plating crops during spring.
Big red tiller used on land.

Does Secondary Tilling Have Any Disadvantages?

  • Because secondary tilling dries the soil before seeding, the soil can lose a great deal of vital nutrients like nitrogen. Not to forget, tilling also reduces the ability of the soil to store water.
  • It is important to remember that manipulating the soil can result in erosion. Because the soil particles are dislodged and there’s not much cohesiveness, the soil absorbs water at a much slower rate than before.
  • In addition to soil erosion and loss of nutrients, secondary tilling can also reduce the amount of organic matter in the soil. The process also reduces soil friendly microbial population as well as the number of earthworms and ants.
  • Secondary tillage is also believed to cause a chemical runoff, nutrients at times also runoff into the nearest water source. What’s worse is that it can sometimes attract slugs and other harmful insects.
  • Sometimes secondary tillage can cause crop diseases to be locked in surface residues.

The bottom line is that the way secondary tillage is implemented makes the most difference. When done correctly, secondary tilling can improve soil condition and result in healthier crops.

You need to closely monitor the speed of the tilling equipment during use – remember that using greater speeds can lead to more intensive tillage, which can be harmful in the long run.

What Are The Different Types Of Tillers?

Tilling in simplest terms is turning over soil with a shovel or other supportive tool such as a garden spade. Specialized tilling tools help lift, flip, turn large portions of soil, and help break the larger particles into smaller ones.

As stated earlier tilling can improve conditions of the soil as well as drainage. After successful tilling, you can add organic matter, compost and mulch depending on the specific requirements. You would come across a number of tools that are especially designed for tilling or flipping and breaking soil particles.

Either known as tillers and cultivators, these tools can be gas, electric or battery powered.

Hand Tillers

Hand tillers are simple tools where a claw like metal head is attached to long or short straight handles. Interestingly hand tillers closely resemble the back-scratching tool you have at home. If you want to use hand tillers for flipping and turning soil, all you have to do is insert the metal claws into the soil until the desired depth and then slowly flip large amounts of soil.

Hand Cultivator

Hand cultivators are also pretty common. The metal head has straight claws, which turn at various angles to help with the soil flipping process. Because the claws form a sharp web, you can easily plunge them into the soil to break the larger particles.

Like hand tillers, hand cultivators can have long or short handles. Remember longer handles are convenient if you will work for long hours in a standing position. Cultivators with shorter handles are a better choice if you want to work really close to the ground.

Hand cultivator close-up.

Power Cultivator

Well power cultivators have a similar arrangement of claws like hand cultivators, however the only difference is that these tools are not manual. Power cultivators can be powered by gas or electricity depending on the model.

As you can guess, power cultivators have powerful claws or blades, which rotate with the help of gas or electric power. You would notice that power cultivators look quite similar to string trimmers. If you want to use the power cultivator, hold the equipment waist high and make sure you have a tight grip at the handle. Pull the trigger and the prongs would start rotating.

Rotary Tiller

Rotary tillers are preferred by both amateurs and professionals. A Rototiller has a set of rotating blades that are powered by gas. The wheels alongside the engine allow you to push the equipment as you walk along the harvested area.

It is easy to operate a rotary tiller considering the equipment has a waist high handle. The blades of Rototiller are about 2 or 3 feet wide and can be plunged several feet deep into the soil. Presently rotary tillers are one of the most expensive tilling tools.

What You Should Look For In A Tiller

Even the earliest civilizations knew that loose soil can result in healthy crops and beautiful gardens. Modern day agriculture experts utilize the same principles. However they prefer to replace the more traditional shovels and spades with advanced and specialized tilling tools.

Gas powered cultivator.

Gas powered as well as electric tilling tools can significantly reduce the fatigue and physical stress associated with digging a garden or crop area. The choice of tilling tools depends on the kind of results you’re looking to accomplish.

Simple tilling equipment helps dig new gardens but cultivators are preferred by garden owners for an obvious reason. Cultivators not only help you break larger soil particles but you can mix and blend the soil with other critical ingredients such as mulch and compost.

There are two main types of tillers – cultivators and garden tillers.


Cultivators or mini tillers as they are known are lightweight and portable tools that can handle all the manicure needs of your lawn and gardens. These tools are ideal for removing weeds and cleaning those difficult areas between established beds.

Mini tillers can be powered by gas or electricity. The small, powerful cutting tines rip quickly through dirt and soil. Remember that mini tillers can be your best bet if you have a small garden.

Most garden owners prefer to invest in a gas powered mini tiller to maintain a stunning garden. After all these tools can help you eliminate major chunk of the pain staking. Both gas powered and electric mini tillers are versatile tools and you can use them to remove weeds, breakdown soil particles, improve soil aeration and clean between rows.

Electric cultivators are perfect for small garden jobs. They are also good choice if you have a power outlet close to where you are working or you don’t want to disturb your neighbors.

Mini cultivator used in garden.

The reason people go for small electric cultivators is that they no longer have to worry about mixing gas and oil.

When compared with gas powered models, electric cultivators are relatively lighter, compact and most importantly simple to use. Because the tool is small and compact, you can store it with relative ease.

Gas-Powered cultivators are also popular among garden owners and the reason isn’t difficult to guess. These models are quite powerful than their electric powered cousins. Both gas and electric cultivators are lighter than garden tillers and help you accomplish a variety of tasks.

The tines you find push the cultivator as they continue to break the coil particles, so you can expect a fair bit of forearm workout while controlling the equipment.

If you're going to be tilling soil, cleaning garden beds or removing weed away from a power source, a gas-powered unit can be a better choice. Remember that gas and electric cultivators can help you get the garden jobs done much faster than a manual shovel.

Yes, even the toughest jobs of removing weed and aerating soil can be accomplished in a matter of minutes. You can enhance your gardening abilities and keep your garden soil in top shape by investing in a cultivator that is right for you.

Should I Buy A Corded Cultivator Or A Cordless One?

Corded Cultivators are a good choice if you have a power source in your garden. All you have to do is plug your equipment and you’ll be good to go. Perhaps the greatest advantage of corded cultivators is that you can remove weeds and aerate soil by adjusting tilling width.

Because the tines offer several inches of variation, you can take on a variety of garden tasks without changing your garden tool.

If you want to use the cultivator in an area that’s more than 100 feet away from a power source, you can go for a cordless or battery powered electric cultivator.

Cordless or battery powered cultivators are relatively new but they are becoming quite popular.

Simply charge the battery, attach it to the cultivator and you will be able to take on gardening tasks for about 45 minutes.

Cordless green cultivator.

Another huge advantage of working with cordless cultivators is that they are really quiet and exceptionally easy to maintain. If you are buying a cordless model, make sure you buy one powered by lithium ion battery. Lithium batteries maintain consistent power and your unit will show the same performance even when the battery is draining.

If you have a large garden area or your gardening task is expected to take longer than 45 minutes, you would want to switch to a corded electric cultivator model. Similarly if you have lots of hard soil to break, or you want to prepare a large garden area in shortest possible time, you can think about investing in a high quality gas cultivator.

More About Gas Cultivators

A gas-powered cultivator is well equipped to handle the tougher and more daunting gardening tasks. Interestingly if you are tackling a big garden or you hate the hassle of charging batteries or connecting your cultivator to a power source, a gas-powered cultivator can be your best friend.

Gas powered tiller used in garden.

The only decision you have to make at this point is that whether you want a 2-cycle cultivator or you prefer a heavy-duty 4-cycle cultivator.

Some gas cultivators have a useful feature called reversible tines. When operating normally, these tines help cultivate the soil. However if you reverse them, the equipment will start tilling the soil. Tines in tilling mode break the larger soil particles and flip the soil so that your ground is creating for plating.

If you want to aerate the garden bed or remove weeds from your garden, you can switch the tines to normal mode and keep your garden in top shape.

2-Cycle Gas Powered Cultivators

As the name suggests, these gas cultivators require a mixture of gas and oil to fuel their 2-cycle engine. Two cycle gas cultivators are lightweight and most importantly easier to maintain than 4 cycle gas cultivators.

The good thing about 2 cycle gas powered cultivators is that their engines have better power-to-weight ratio compared to many 4-cycle engine. The perfect combination of power and performance gives 2 cycle cultivators an edge over 4 cycle models.

4-Cycle Gas Cultivators

4 cycle engines work in a similar fashion to car engines. Because these engines are more fuel efficient, you are guaranteed to get more mileage when using your 4-cycle cultivator.

Overall 4 cycle gas cultivators have the capability to produce more power, which is good if you have to take care of a large garden area. However this advantage comes with a price. Gas powered cultivators with 4 cycle engines are huge and bulky and this can be disadvantage if you are carrying the cultivator all day.

Break New Grounds With Garden Tillers

Instead of investing in old-fashioned, manual tools, you can invest in garden tillers to break new ground. Garden tillers basically come in three different styles. They can be:

  • Front-tine
  • Mid-tine
  • Rear-tines

Front tine garden tillers are the cheapest models and are most frequently used for removing weeds or cleaning established garden beds. Rear-tine tillers, especially ones with dual rotating tines, are a popular choice for breaking up clay or hard soil.

Front tine rototiller used on land.

Cultivators are no match for the power and heavy-duty construction of a garden tiller. Garden tillers have great power to till a new garden as well as to break through the hard ground. You can get your new planting space ready in less time when you let garden tillers do the work for you.

Front-Tine Tillers as stated earlier are the simplest garden tillers and they closely resemble their popular rivals, cultivators. You can use front-tine tillers for tilling loose soil and clean established garden beds. A smart thing to do is buy a front tine tiller with adjustable tine width. This will help you optimize machine performance and tackle tougher jobs quickly.

Rear-Tine Tillers can break up the most compact and hardest soil. These models have large rugged tires to help you work through the toughest soils. What makes rear-tine tillers different from other models is the exciting variety of rotation directions you can use.

Finding the best garden tiller depends on several factors such as the type of soil, your garden layout, the size of your garden and most importantly, whether you will work on a new garden or you want to improve the existing garden space.

Remember that rear-tine tillers are an excellent choice for creating new gardens up to 10, 000 square feet in size. Front tillers can be your best bet if you want to maintain smaller gardens, i.e. less than 5,000 square feet.

Cultivator Care & Maintenance – What You Need To Know

Garden cultivators and tillers help maintain garden areas and these tools can be gas powered, electric or battery operated. It’s not surprising that garden cultivators and tillers are better than manual rakes and shovels.

However, if you don’t good take good care, your garden tools can become non-functional.

Tiller maintenance of gas container.

If you don’t want to face a disappointment, it is important that you follow the following care and maintenance routine throughout the gardening season.

Always Use Your Equipment As Instructed By The Manufacturer

Well, this step shouldn’t be difficult to understand. If you don’t use your garden tiller or cultivator as directed by the manufacturer, you would only shorten the life span of your equipment. When shopping around for cultivators and tillers, make sure you purchase models that have sturdy construction especially handles.

On the other hand, you should always hold the cultivators and tillers in your hand to check whether or not the handle has the best fit. Needless to say you should pick equipment that’s easy to operate. After all, the last thing you want to happen is buy a tiller that weighs more than you and handle slips off your hand halfway during operation.

Cleaning The Machine

Cultivators and tillers should be cleaned thoroughly after every use. Remember, soil particles, dirt and other debris if left unattended can erode metal surface. Some garden owners prefer to use the garden hose and a wire brush to remove dirt and debris that is stuck to the blades.

Metal components of garden tillers and cultivators need to remain free of debris and dirt to prevent damage caused by corrosion.

The schedule of cleaning your unit applies to all kinds of tillers and cultivators regardless of their size, weight and type. The handles of your equipment need to be cleaned so that your grip is not compromised. Make sure you dust off the handle properly after every use to keep it in good shape.

Cleaning the tiller.

Storing Garden Tillers And Cultivators

Once you have remove dirt, debris and cleaned the tools, you need to store your machines carefully. It is recommended that you store cultivators off the floor. If your tool has a long handle, you can hang it securely on your garage wall. Similarly if your favorite cultivator has a short handle, you can store it in a drawer that is clean.


The bottom line is that maintaining a garden and starting a new one is easy when you chuck the rake for a cultivator or a garden tiller. When you choose the right tiller or cultivator, you can turn your garden space into a dream landscape. Don’t forget to check out our buying guide to know how you should choose a cultivator or tiller that best suits your needs.

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