johanna_h(Z5 SW MI)February 11, 2008

OK, I feel like once again I am being tempted by a fairytale of happy gardening. But could it be true?

Does anyone use a Mantis? Is there any shred of truth to the claim that it will break sod, pulverize hard clay soil, etc. etc. etc.?

Increasing aches and pains make opening up new space for my vegetable garden manually more and more difficult (it's currently about 25 x 30 but I'd like to double it). Could this be the answer to my prayers, or should I just face the fact that I'll need more power?


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A friend has 1 and loves it, for cultivating. I wouldnt think it would be a lot of use as a sod buster, my troy bilt isnt either w/o about 4 passes or more.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2008 at 9:07PM
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I used a rototiller before (not a mantis) and it did the job but it was hard to control (gas powered monster!). It churned the soil up good. BUT, I don't use them anymore, I've read that they destroy the soil structure, let weed seeds germinate like crazy and kill all the worms. I just do the newspaper layering technique, and build up the soil slowly.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2008 at 9:27PM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

The trick with the little machines is that they only go down a little ways. I have a little tiny tiller, it did a nice job, is nice to handle and use at about 20 pounds. However it can only what the wheels and blades will reach with small motor. It just IS NOT as powerful as the bigger tillers. Even a small tiller with the full sized blades is going to do a better job than the Mantis. My old mother has a lovely little tiller, weighs about 40 pounds. Does a great job, a much more thorough job of digging up the garden soil, tearing up old yard, hard dirt. All the parts of it are heavier, stronger built, than the little tillers are, yet still small enough for her to manage around the yard. Usually starts with just two pulls, great machine.

I have clay type soil, can be very heavy or hard in the summer season. I use the tiller from mom, get everything done in two passes, once up and down, then crossways. Soil is worked up deeply, any soil additions spread well thru dirt. Soil is light and fluffy deeply, so roots of plants can easily spread out. Same area took a much longer time to do, with more effort on my part, with my small tiller. Leaves would choke the tiny tiller tines, stay clotted in the dirt instead of being spread out.

My soil stays structured with ammendments, additions that add organic matter, aid in keeping the soil particles from clotting into heavy clay dirt. I don't work the soil very early in spring when it is too wet, turn it into a slurry. I save fall leaves to shred as mulch for keeping weeds down. If you weed as quick as they appear, it is pretty easy to remove the problems before they get difficult. The newspapers work well with mulch over them around perennials. Keeps the moisture in soil, weeds gone.

You can rent machinery at a rental center. Check to see if they have a roto-tiller. The Troy-built was wonderful the year I rented it, did a great job on the garden soil, light and fluffy. But just using it showed me that size machine was way too big for me and my garden to invest in buying one. Machine was heavy to get around the yard, I was whipped fom handling it when not tilling! Did only take an hour to do everything I needed doing!! Now they have more sizes to choose from, still larger than my mother's little work horse. Her's is just a very basic machine, one slow speed. Just powers thru whatever you aim it at, may need an extra couple passes if ground is really hard or packed. The depth adjuster for digging in, is about the only choice option on it. Then you pick it up and put it away, or load in truck to take it back to her house. Only takes me to move it. She doesn't lift it, but can easily push it to where she wants to use it.

I do tomatoes, a large bed of scattered annual seeds or bedding plants each year. I need a loose soil worked up to make these beds usable for planting. I think the rototiller is a needed tool for these kinds of beds. The little tiller just was not as easy to use, took longer, did not get the depth plants wanted for roots. They look better after preparing the beds with the slightly bigger tiller, that dug deeper, worked the soil better.

Little tiny tillers can have a place, but doesn't seem to be in my garden anymore.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2008 at 12:16AM
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johanna_h(Z5 SW MI)

Thanks for the responses! They were as I expected, but it's nice to have actual human experiences rather than the company's hype or my skeptical notions.

I think I'll ask around and see if I can find someone who might do the tilling for hire. That way a more appropriate sized machine could be used, but I wouldn't have to run it. Or, if I can't find someone to do it, then I'll check the rental center for a small rototiller.

Now to start the seeds!!! Yes, it will be spring!!!


    Bookmark   February 12, 2008 at 6:57AM
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zootjs(zone 5 MA)

I really like mine. It's small, and really great for small jobs. It's easy to carry, and it tries really hard. :) And it's easy to start.

It's not a miracle. But I did have an old tiller about four times the size, and I found that the Mantis out-performed it. Likely, a better quality newer large tiller would out-perform the Mantis in some ways, but the small size makes it really perfect for a lot of chores. I'd buy it again in a heartbeat.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2008 at 3:48PM
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We've enjoyed our Mantis tiller for almost 15 years. We used to live in Atlanta and our garden was hard red clay. That didn't even slow the Mantis down. Of course, now that we are in the sandhills of SC, it thinks it has died and gone to heaven.

As for depth of tilling, if you hold the machine in one spot it will dig down and bury itself. Wouldn't really want to do that but you can certainly dig down 8 inches or so with very little effort.

You might not want to rely on it to break up a large garden just because it is not very wide. It would take a lot of time to cover a really large area. Actually, before I'd take on a big, unwieldy tiller for a job like that I probably would use the Mantis. It might take a while but at least it doesn't beat you to death. It's very lightweight and easy to control. No liniment required. For flower beds it is great. It also works as a very good edger and can be used for weeding although I don't because I prefer weeding by hand.

It has been an amazingly reliable and useful tool all these years...I wouldn't expect or ask for more.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2008 at 4:34PM
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Miss_Kitty(6a KY)

I have a craftsman, just a little bit bigger than the Mantis, and I have loved it since the day I got it.

My little tiller will bury itself in Kentucky clay like a gopher. Only dry soil stops it. It is perfect for me. I also use it to dig up paths to put in stone/concrete slabs.

I should say that I garden in 8'x4' beds, not a huge garden. I use the tiller to mix composted horse bedding into the beds. It really works well for me, mostly because I don't have to cage somebody else into tilling for me, and because it fits well into small spaces.

I'm only 5'4" so my DD's whitehouse rear-tine tiller kills me. I can use it, but I hate to.

It all depends on what your garden style is.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2008 at 6:21PM
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hotzcatz(Hamakua, Hawaii)

The little Mantis gets borrowed more often than the bigger tillers. The front tine 5 HP tiller is the least used and borrowed one since it is a nasty tempered beast. Good for tilling new soil but not much else around here. The rear tine 5 HP tiller is a good general purpose tiller and we use it for starting gardens and if we are going to add a lot of amendments or seed a large area. For small areas or for cultivating the little Mantis gets grabbed.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 5:40AM
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michgirl(z6 MI)

I was very excited to try my mantis when I bought it --5 yrs ago but I never used it again after the 1st experience because I did not think about the trees and bushes surrounding my gardens and the problem I ran into was the roots! I thought I would hurt the trees and bushes if I hacked up the root systems so my mantis has sat there until now. I guess I will take it in to a small engine repair place to get it started if I ever use it again. Does anyone else have the root problem? How do you cultivate without cutting through them?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 10:47PM
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I have a big Pony Troybilt that I use in the spring and again in the fall. In between the rows during the summer, I use the Mantis. It works great. The worst thing it does is bounce if it hits a rock, but I'm always prepared. I tried to use it according to the instructions(walking backward as you would a vaccuum cleaner),and that was too hard for me, so I use it like a regular tiller and go forward with it. Its easy to start and that was an important feature for me. Merry

    Bookmark   July 5, 2008 at 9:34AM
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