How to Choose Your Tractor or Tiller
Summary: The garden tractor or tiller come in many shapes, horsepower ranges, sizes from push type rototillers to self-propelled and a dazzling array of attachments, but what is best for your needs a rototiller or lawn tractor?
Garden tractors and rototillers come in a bewildering range of sizes, horsepower ratings and with assorted mechanical features.
Which one is best for you?
The best way to decide: see as many as you can in the flesh, ask friends, read reviews and send for catalogs. Then weigh the points of each. Ask yourself what sort of service you expect and what you need. What’s good for your neighbor may not be right for you, and vice versa.
Judge by performance, not price. You will get what you pay for. You can, perhaps, find a “cheaper” machine than the ones you see advertised in magazines. But will it do as good a job as the product of a trustworthy manufacturer? Will it be as good a buy in the long run? The chances are not.
Differences In Tractor and Rototiller
What’s the difference between a tractor and a rototiller? It’s a good question and the answer is: Not very much. Both can prepare the soil and with both there are now so many attachments available that they overlap substantially. Originally the tractor was a mechanized horse-plus-plow, horse-plus-harrow, cultivator, etc. It broke up the soil. The tiller, operating on an entirely different principle, churned the soil by rotary action, readying it for planting all in one operation. But today they both prepare the soil and attachments, are much the same.
But there are big differences between tillers. For convenience let’s separate them into three categories: small, medium, and large. Machines start at a little over 100 and run on up – cheaper if you snatch one up off craigslist.
Small roto tillers come in both rotor-propelled and self or wheel-propelled models. Having no drive to its wheels and being lightweight, the rotor-propelled tiller is generally pushed (by you) to the scene of operation. When you start it tilling, the rotor, to which tines are fastened, takes over and pulls the machine ahead. Properly made, this tiller does a very creditable job, for a modest outlay, and is ideal for a small place.
The self-propelled tiller usually costs a little more and is intended for slightly larger areas. Beside transporting itself to the job, it is generally steadier and easier to handle when the tines strike obstructions and difficult soil conditions. Still, it is only fair to say that it does not necessarily turn out a better piece of work than the simpler machine in the hands of an experienced operator.
Both types are intended primarily for the small property owner. Both can give long and good service if handled properly and well cared for. In my own case, one of these, which now sells for under 130 (off craigslist), turned out a superlative job year in and year out for home owners who rented it from me, one of the severest tests a piece of equipment can be put to.
Narrow cultivation in flower gardens has been a nagging problem for most gardeners. The machines were too cumbersome to maneuver in close quarters. But today you can find just what you need in some of the small, simple, tillers (check out Mantis rototillers) and tractors.
Medium Sized Self-Propelled Tillers
Medium-sized tillers are self-propelled in almost all cases, either the tiller being self-driven or attached to a walking-type tractor. As it is larger, heavier and more powerful than a smaller machine, it naturally accomplishes a given amount of work in less time. This means that the greater cost is justified if your place is fairly large, if you have a small commercial garden or a situation that calls for fairly heavy power.
The large walking types are, of course, almost entirely for commercial operators, large estates, and parks. But, again, put to such uses, their higher cost is entirely justified.
If tillers are a little more expensive than they were a dozen years ago, there’s a good reason: they’re better. The biggest improvement in them is that the rotor speed has been slowed down. This reduces wear and tear on both the machine and the operator. But the biggest benefit is that this slower action produces a proper degree of tilth without needlessly disturbing the soil structure and leaving it unduly fluffy.
Another big improvement is the almost universal adoption of the hoe-type tine which can handle almost every kind of job – you no longer need a different set of tines for each kind of work.
For doing any number of jobs well, few machines equal the walking-type garden tractor, whether it is small, medium or large. Whatever chore you give it, there is an attachment that will handle it – snow removal, grading, pulling carts, spraying, generating electricity or sawing wood, as well (of course) as soil preparation and handling.
But one word of warning: don’t get horsepower happy – some people do – and use a very powerful machine where you don’t need it. What you may gain if you do is more than offset by the inconvenience of greater size and weight and lesser maneuverability. A machine grossly overpowered for a given task is as big a nuisance as one that’s underpowered.
Before you buy, ask for a demonstration of various machines, different makes, different models. Pick the one that fits your needs, and your book. If you notice that wheels spin when it tackles your kind of job, it’s a pretty sure sign that you won’t cash in on the power that has been built into the motor. Find out why.
But don’t be leary of high-powered machines. There are some things that cannot be done without their horsepower and weight. For instance: heavy pulling or pushing, operating a circular saw or an electric generator (the more horsepower the better).
For Lawn Only
Though there are a few jobs which are easier to do walking behind a tractor, by and large most of them are easier with a riding tractor. This costs more. Some riding tractors are admirably adapted to both lawn and garden work; others are intended for lawns only. If you plan to use one for general garden work, make sure your weight is so placed that it gives the machine the necessary traction, that the wheels are placed so they will easily pass down rows of the width you contemplate having, that you have room to turn at the ends of rows, and that attachments and steering are easy to control in rough ground.
One of the most important ways to get the best from your tractor or tiller is to familiarize yourself with its mechanics and care. Every reputable manufacturer provides his customers with full operating directions. He does this to protect you and it would be foolhardy to disregard his instructions. At the end of the season it is wise practice to have your machine checked out by a competent mechanic. Even if it seems in fine condition, the motor probably can stand tuning up, etc.
The final decision as to which machine you buy rests with you alone. There is no single best model for all situations. Each and every machine offered by a dependable manufacturer has some big or small advantage, peculiarly its own. I sell and repair many kinds but even I can’t decide which of these features you need.
If you dig gardens, here’s how to get the right machine for the job.
By Mark Wolfe | Updated Oct 23, 2021 10:06 AM
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Tiller or cultivator? Gardeners often use the two words as if they mean the same thing, but they are actually different tools. The machines look similar, although tillers are usually larger than cultivators, but each is built to perform a unique function in the garden, and they aren’t really interchangeable. A rototiller, or tiller, is the heavier and more powerful of the two. Tillers are made for digging deeply and aggressively to break open the soil—for instance, when you’re creating a brand-new garden bed or to getting started at the beginning of the season. Different models offer a range of configurations and functionality, such as rear or front tines, variable depth settings, forward and counter-rotating tine operation, and more.
Cultivators, however, are built for finesse. They are made to stir up the already loose soil to incorporate fertilizer, break up crusted soil ahead of irrigation, or assist with weeding. They are compact and lightweight but still powerful, with a smaller working area for greater precision. If you’re not quite sure whether the task at hand requires a cultivator vs. tiller, read on to learn more about these two important gardening machines.
Cultivators mix the soil, while tillers break up hard soil into pieces.
A garden cultivator is designed for regular maintenance tasks on already loosened soil and for working around growing plants. Think of it as a hoe with a motor. The power source and tines are built to fit into tight spaces, and the lightweight frame does not dig aggressively into the root zone. Cultivator tines are designed to grind the soil to a fine texture, which makes this tool the superior choice for final bed preparation before sowing seeds.
A tiller, on the other hand, is big and heavy, with a relatively large tine diameter. The hand tools it replaces are the mattock and shovel, and like those tools it is meant to dig deeply and break up hard soil in the earliest stage of bed preparation. Tillers also do a great job of incorporating leftover plant material into the soil at the end of the gardening season.
Cultivators often have less power than tillers.
The smallest garden cultivators are actually people-powered. They look like a cross between a hoe and a rake, with a narrow head and short, curved teeth. The motorized versions are slightly larger and heavier, driven by small 2-cycle or 4-cycle gas engines, cordless electric motors, or plug-in electric. Their power, comparable to that of a string trimmer or cordless drill, is sufficient for stirring the soil and light enough for comfortable operation. Cultivators can go where tillers simply can’t: Their small size and lightweight motor make them easy to maneuver around growing plants.
Tillers are bigger and can be harder to manipulate than cultivators.
Even the most compact front-tine rototiller rivals the size of a gas-powered push mower. Larger rear-tine tillers boast engine sizes comparable to some riding mowers. These machines are designed for use on ground that has no obstacles, where they can travel in long, fairly straight lines. They are capable of cleaning up the space between vegetable rows, but they’re not ideal for detailed work. Forget using one of these to prepare beds smaller than about 20 feet long; they’re just too big and bulky to be practical. Front-tine tillers have the best mobility of the group, but even they are heavy and have a limited range of movement.
Cultivators are used primarily for preparing an existing garden bed, while tillers are equipped to create new beds.
When you want to break ground for a new garden bed, or deeply till heavy clay soil in an existing bed, a tiller is the right tool for the job. It digs deep, kicks out large stones, and breaks up stubborn clods with ease. The lighter size and articulation capabilities of power cultivators, on the other hand, make them the better candidates for working in established beds. They excel at seed bed preparation and loosening the surface of soil that is already soft. Cultivators also make quick work of weeds without endangering the roots of garden plants.
Tillers are better for larger jobs.
Tillers have the power and weight to do the difficult digging on big jobs. Their tines are large enough to dig deeply and are designed to kick out rocks. Their wider working surfaces cover more ground per pass. Many models are self-propelled to greatly reduce operator fatigue. Plus, many offer useful features, such as forward or counter tine rotation, adjustable tine width, adjustable wheel width, a depth gauge, and a drag stake, to customize the machine for the job.
Cultivators can also be used for weed removal.
Because of their shallow working depth and small size, cultivators are great for removing weeds in beds and around plants easily, safely, and quickly. Regular cultivation around garden plants stimulates deeper root development for better drought resistance, with virtually no plant damage from the machine. Cultivators are convenient for regular use throughout the season. They don’t take up much storage space, and they do the work more quickly than a garden hoe.
Most tillers come with gas engines, but electric is on the way.
When you’re shopping for tillers and cultivators, the lines get blurry pretty fast. Some manufacturers label cultivators as tillers, and they have been doing so for a long time. The best tillers, those with long runtime, heavy-duty tines, and sufficient power to break new ground, have gasoline engines. That said, there are many hybrid tiller/cultivators that approach the capabilities of small gas-powered front-tine tillers. In this hybrid category, electric power continues to improve but is still limited.
The Best Pull Behind Tiller for Lawn Tractor (Top 4 Picks)
We tested 4 of the most popular brands, and here’s our recommendation:
Guide Gear Plow Attachment For Lawn Tractors and ATVs
A Guide Gear Plow Attachment for Lawn Tracts and ATVs is an essential tool for homeowners who want to improve their yard and landscape.
It is the perfect attachment for tilling, raking, and seeding. Its steel blade whips the soil into perfect shapes for the garden, food plot, and landscape planting.
Best of all, it is durable and will last season after season.
The steel-framed Guide Gear plow attachment is made of spring steel. It has six curved tines that furrow soil evenly. This plow attachment is compatible with a variety of vehicles, including ATVs and UTVs. It features a 3-point lift system that makes it easy to install and disassemble. It can be attached to a lawn tractor or ATV.
The steel-frame construction of the Guide Gear Plow Attachment for Lawn ATV is durable and corrosion-resistant. It can easily be attached to any type of vehicle, including ATV and UTVs. This plow has large, 7″ wheels that are perfect for plowing and planting. The wheels are heavy so they can penetrate the soil. This plow is a great addition to any lawn tractor or ATV.
The Guide Gear Plow Attachment is a versatile tool. The steel frame allows it to be secured on a tractor or ATV with ease. The plow has six curved tines that make it ideal for tilling and raking applications. The Plow’s heavy steel design will not bend or rust and will last for seasons to come. It’s an excellent addition to any ATV or Lawn Tractor.
This Plow Attachment for Lawn Tractors and ATVs is a versatile piece of farm equipment that can be easily attached to a tractor. The steel frame is corrosion-resistant and designed to last for years. It can be easily attached to a tractor, ATV, or heavy-duty truck. In addition to a lawn tractor, it can also be attached to a UTV.
The Guide Gear Plow Attachment for Lawn and ATV is a great way to make the most of your lawn tractor. Its heavy-duty steel frame is corrosion-resistant, and the plow can be mounted to any tractor or ATV. It can be attached to a UTV or ATV with a 3-point lift system, making it flexible and durable.
This snow plow is a universal pin-style hitch attachment that connects to a lawn tractor or UTV. Its heavy-duty 1/2-inch square steel frame is corrosion-resistant and is compatible with all models of ATV and lawn tractors. Its large 7-inch wheels are lockable and provide maximum stability. The cement block tray adds weight to the unit, which helps it penetrate soil.
Brinly Sleeve Hitch Adjustable Tow-Behind Cultivator
The Brinly tow-behind Cultivator is an efficient way to aerate the soil and discourage weeds. It is operated from the seat of a garden tractor. It is easy to operate and requires no experience to use. It is a good choice for larger gardens, as it is suitable for most terrains. This tool is also easy to store, which is a plus when transporting it.
The Brinly Tow-Behind Cultivators are designed to work on all types of soil, including hard and soft soil. The tool has 7 curved shanks that promote healthy plant growth. They are constructed from rigid solid steel. This cultivator has depth control skids, which allow it to fit in different garden sizes. The adjustable working width helps to break up the soil between rows. The device is equipped with a sleeve hitch for a variety of attachments, including a blade.
The Brinly Tow-Behind Cultivators come with a variety of accessories, including an adjustable sleeve for blade attachment. The tow-behind Cultivator can be adjusted from 18 to 40 inches. It is ideal for large gardens, as it enables the user to easily aerate the soil. It prevents weeds from taking root and helps plants grow faster. It is also designed to fit a garden tractor’s front-end gear.
The Brinly tow-behind Cultivator is designed for gardens and lawns. It is the easiest and most effective way to aerate the soil. The adjustable sleeve helps you control the width from 18 inches to 40 inches. By simply pulling the handle, you can adjust the sleeve height. Using sleeve-hitch-attached tow-behind Cultivators, you can aerate your soil effortlessly and get the most out of your garden.
Aside from its adjustable sleeve, this tow-behind Cultivator can also be used for smaller gardens. It is a lightweight tool that can be attached to a garden tractor. Its sleeve hitch allows it to be adjusted between 18 inches and 40 inches. It also has a 1/4″ angle steel frame.
With a sleeve hitch, you can easily attach the machine to your garden tractor and start cultivating your garden in minutes. Then, the Brinly sleeve-hitch cultivator is ready to work on any terrain, and it can be adjusted from 18 to 40 inches. This adjustable tow-behind cultivator has a sleeve-hitch attachment and is also ideal for use in larger gardens.
The 1/4″ angle steel frame can be used to add extra weight to the machine. The adjustable sleeve hitch is also necessary for the attachment of a blade. The adjustable sleeve hitches provide a safe, secure way to attach the machine’s blade. When you install the sleeve-hitch, you’ll be able to cultivate your garden in no time.
Field Tuff FTF-811DHSH 39″ Sleeve Hitch Disc
The tow-behind disc harrow from Field Tuff is the perfect tool for transforming the uneven ground into uniform soil.
With eight angled 11-inch blades, it easily turns the rough ground into even, level soil. The adjustable ten- to fifteen-degree sleeve helps you turn your soil to the desired depth. The Field Tuff FTF-811DHSH has a 39-inch row width.
This field-tow harrow features eight 11-inch disc blades with an adjustable working width of 39 inches.
This harrow is designed to be attached to a tractor’s sleeve hitch for easy mounting and detaching. The adjustable sleeve allows for easy adjustment, allowing the user to adjust the width of the sleeve to the desired level.
The Field Tuff FTF-811DHSH 39″ Sleeve Hitch Disc is made of durable steel. It can easily attach to a sleeve hitch and adjust its working width from 10 to 15 degrees.
The sleeve is adjustable so that you can work on the width of the sleeve while pulling it. It can easily be detached from the tractor when you are finished with the project.
The 39″ Sleeve Hitch Disc is adjustable in working width and works with a 37-inch tractor. It features eight 11-inch disc blades for even breaking of uneven soil. Its sleeve hitch attachment allows it to be easily attached to the tractor’s sleeve hitch and can be used in a variety of tasks.
The blades and is adjustable up to 39 inches. Its working width can be adjusted between ten and fifteen degrees and is easily attached to a tractor sleeve hitch. It is easy to install and can be attached to a sleeve hitch on a tractor.
The sleeve hitch is a must for the Field Tuff.
The Field Tuff FTF-811DHSH features adjustable working widths to fit various garden sizes. The stainless steel blades can be adjusted to ten or fifteen degrees, according to the needs of the user.
The steel discs can be easily adjusted to the required force. The sturdy frame of the Field Tuff disc enables it to hook easily to any sleeve hitch.
Agri-Fab 40-Inch Tine Tow DeThatcher
The Agri-Fab 40-Inch Tine Tow Dethatcher is ideal for larger lawns and gardens. Its 20 heat-treated tines are approximately 3/16 inches in diameter. The dethatcher has a cantilever handle to raise and lower the rake. The 20 heat-treated tines are easily replaced for improved performance. Agri-Fab offers several models of this mower.
The Agri-Fab 40-Inch Tine Tow Dethatcher is a durable, easy-to-use tool. The machine is equipped with semi-pneumatic tires to glide easily over rough terrain. A cantilever handle makes for a comfortable ride. The unit is made of steel and comes with a five-year warranty. The Agri-Fab 45-0294 is a good choice for farmers with large fields.
The Agri-Fab 40-Inch Tine Tow Dethatcher has a working width of 40 inches and can attach to any tractor. With proper care, it will last for years and is backed by a three-year limited warranty. There is also an optional weight tray for more detaching pressure. You can use the Agri-Fab 45-0294 for a variety of tasks around your farm.
The Agri-Fab 40-Inch Tine Tow Dethatcher is a great choice for those looking to improve the health of their lawn. Its easy-to-use design and 40-inch working width will make it an easy task for any farmer. It is easy to assemble and uses no tools. over, it is space-saving and aesthetically pleasing, which is an added bonus.
Designed for larger yards, the Agri-Fab 45-0294 40-Inch Tine Tow DeThatcher features a 40-inch working-width and cantilevered handles. Its steel frame is durable, with its 20 tines measuring 3/16 inches. It is a great option for lawn maintenance and is perfect for those with large yard-sized yards.
The Agri-Fab 40-Inch Tine Tow Dethatcher has a 40-inch working width and has a universal link pin that enables you to adjust the height. It is designed to be space-saving and durable, and it comes with a three-year warranty. There are a lot of benefits to this product, and it will help you maintain your lawn in the future.
The Yard Commander 40-Inch Tow Dethatcher is built with rust-resistant steel that is durable and lightweight.
It is compatible with most ATVs and lawn tractors, and its weight is 31 pounds. This is a great option for people who don’t want to spend a lot of money on a dethatcher but are on a tight budget.
The Agri-Fab 40-Inch Tine Tow Dethatcher has nine heat-treated tines that are ideal for small to middle-sized lawns.
The Precision Dethatcher is ideal for small to medium-sized lawns and has a 100-pound collection capacity. Its 1080mm blades can dig up more than one-inch thick soil.
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Tow-Behind vs. Walk-Behind Rototiller
Spring is on its way, folks. It may be hard to believe up here in New England where the temperature is still fluttering around the zero degree mark, but it’s on its way. And if you’re thinking about purchasing a rototiller for the first time, or replacing an old one, you may be wondering whether to choose a walk-behind or tow-behind model. And if you think a walk-behind is for you, you may have wondered about whether to go for a tiller or a cultivator. Here are some key things to consider:
How big is your garden?
Walk-behind rototillers are better suited to smaller gardens, while tow-behind rototillers are best for larger gardens. For particularly small gardens, a garden cultivator may be all the machine you need. And remember that to use a tow-behind rototiller, you’ll need some space around your garden plot for making turns.
How much can you handle?
Walk-behind rototillers are pretty difficult to use. If you’ve never used one, it’s analogous to wrestling a tiger in a pit of dirt. Which may be do-able for a small garden, but you’ll certainly feel the strain in your arms and back if you attempt to do too large a plot. Tow-behind rototillers are much easier on your body, as all you have to to is ride your lawn tractor and operate the controls. Even if it takes a couple passes to get the result you’re looking for, it’s easy as pie.
What other projects will you use it for?
While the main purpose of your rototiller will likely be to till at the beginning and end of the growing season, think about other projects that you may use it for. Say you decide to put in a new flower bed and need to break new ground in your lawn. Most walk-behinds won’t be up to this task, but a powerful tow-behind will be up to the task. Or, you may decide to make a food plot for the wildlife on your property. Again, you’d need to break through sod to put the plot in, and then a reliable machine to maintain it throughout the season.
Tow-behind rototillers are also great for varied soil conditions and doing a variety of tilling projects because they allow you to adjust the tilling depth easily. For example, you can till more deeply at the beginning of the season to aerate and prepare for planting, and more shallowly in the fall to till weeds under.
And if you choose a DR Roto-Hog Power Tiller, there is a great assortment of attachments available that allow you to do even more projects with your machine. Use the Spreader attachment to spread seeds and fertilizers, use the Hiller attachment to make perfect raised rows, and use the Culti-Packer attachment after planting to ensure maximum contact between seeds and soil.
Tractor Rotary Tillers | Tractor Rotavators
One of the most common uses of PTO power on a tractor is to power a rotary tiller or rotavator. Rotavators and tillers have been in use for many years, making quick work of breaking up soil for planting a vegetable garden. Farmers have always needed a way to till the soil for their garden that was better than a hand held tiller, and the first PTO powered tools to do the job were called rotovators. Large farming operations would not be possible without rotavators, some PTO tillers even run 8 hours a day tilling soil. Everything Attachments carries some of the best brands of rotovators and tillers in the world, and stands behind every tillage attachment that leaves our warehouse.
Sicma/Phoenix Rotary Tillers
Italy’s finest tillers have been a big hit here in America. Phoenix tillers have been a top trusted brand here for many years, and have given great service to countless farmers.
We have been selling tractor Rotary Tillers PTO Driven for more than 40 years. We have sold many brands over the years. With all of our experience, we have been selling only the Sigma Brand made in Italy for the last 15 years for two reasons. It is the best Tiller on the market and it also has the most options.
Like a PTO Slip Clutch comes standard that will keep you tilling instead of replacing shear bolts every time you hit a large rock or root under the ground. There is nothing worse than having to stop on a hot day get out the tools and hope you have the right shear bolt to replace it and till a little bit more, then have to do it all over again. With a slip clutch it will simply slip until the root or rock is clear then continue to work like nothing ever happened.
It comes standard with six blade per Rotor instead of four reducing your wear and leaving a better consistency of the soil. Bush Hog Brand also uses Sigma Tillers, but they are different from the Deluxe Tillers you see at everything attachments. They will have only four blades per rotor and do not come with the ability to remove the whole torque tube assembly so that you can easily change the tines. Sigma Tillers are sold under many different names, but why pay more for a name brand and get less for your money.
We stock all the popular warranty parts when you need them at the best prices. It is the little things like having a kick stand to hold you tiller up while you hook up your three point hitch and PTO. The adjustable clevis hitch for your tractor lift arms and the ability to offset your tiller to be able to cut your tire tracks out so you leave no hard spots in your ground. All Sigma tillers come with powder coat paint, adjust slides for best control and a Site glass to be able to check your oil level at the simple glance.
So simply put, This is your best user friendly tiller on the market.
A rear-blade rotary tiller is best for larger commercial gardens and experienced users. Tractor rotary tillers reputedly create more even results and are easier to control. These simply connect to the pto, and 3 point hitch of your tractor.
A modern tiller design is a rotary tiller, which uses two sets of circular tines turned by an engine to cut into the soil to a prescribed depth. These blades are mounted on the shaft of the tiller. Tractor Rotary Tillers are built to turn hardened soil and produce more productive crops. Get Free Shipping on our powerful selection of tractor rotary tillers!