What kind of tiller should I get?

tinylady1(7)February 9, 2009

I am in the market for a tiller. I find that as I get older the digging is hard on my back and I need to redo almost all my gardens. The soil is bad and needs some compost worked in.

Home Depot has one called EARTH QUAKE. Is this a good one. I dont have the money to spend 6-$700 on a tiller.

My max is 300.00

Also I am only 4ft 9.


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If it's a one-time or very occasional deal, why don't you rent? You can rent a tiller for a day for around 40 bucks around here. If you're really lucky, you have a local guy like me who'll bring his tiller over and do it for you for a little more than rental price! With the joy of ownership comes the hassle as well. Oil needs to be changed and gas needs to be kept fresh either by you or by a dealership, and they'll want their pound of flesh.

Your price range is gonna get you a little mantis type tiller, a front tine tiller, or a used big tiller. A little tiller isn't gonna do a good job incorporating compost without beating you to death, a front tine will be almost unmanageable unless you're fairly strong, and used is always a craps shoot. I bought both my BCS 850 and 730 used at huge savings over new, but I like to tinker. Both machines needed some mechanical work once I got them.

If I were you, I'd look into renting a machine or go on craigslist and find someone who's willing to do it for you.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 8:34AM
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Someone else mentioned renting. But since I do work outside the home.I want something of my own that I can do the job at my own pace and not have to go back and forth renting it. My husband sujested borrowing from a friend, but then again I am the mercy of that person when they are not using it. He also is into gardening.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 9:23AM
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Around here you can rent a mantis tiller from Home Depot.
I would suggest you rent something; try it and if you like it buy new or find one used. The mantis is fun to run; small, light and surprisingly capable.
I bought mine used for less than $200.00
and have enjoyed using it since. (Wife likes to use it too.)
Good Luck.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 1:04PM
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Well if renting is not an option you're willing to consider, you'll need to increase your price range or buy used. Your price range covers only the small mantis type machines and front tine MTD units. The mantis would be the better bet but will take a long time to do any amount of area. Front tine units require a considerable amount of strength to use and will still wear you out. If you cruise Craigslist long enough, you'll find a good, used rear tine tiller for 300 or less. As with anything used, you'll need to look it over real well and determine if it's well maintained or beat to death.

By the way, how big an area are we talking?

Good luck in your decision

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 6:16PM
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dmullen(Southern CA)

I have a large tiller (8 hp front tine) and a Mantis.

Even though it takes longer, I am doing my 30 X 30 garden with the Mantis because it is so much easier than with the large tiller. These are only about 9 inches wide so it does take a while.

If I was breaking new ground though, I would use the large one for that.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 7:23PM
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IMO a 17" rear tine tiller would probably work the best. I say this cause you can stand to one side and the tiller will till with little guidenance once you get the gound broke up. Doing the intial breakup you only have to apply slight downward pressure and the counter rotating tines do the work and the foward gearing of the tiller pulls it fwd.

You can catch these on sale just a tad over your price range usually 469 or maybe alittle less. Cheaper if you can find used on craiglist or in the local paper. But, you have to know what your looking at. IMO if you don't have a clue if something is good or bad, then a new one with warranty might be the best route. Those little tillers work if you got alot of time on your hands and patience.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 10:44PM
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I have a front tine tiller same as what Sears is selling for $329. I got it in the name of Poulan on Amazon for $299 free shipping and no tax. But I don't see it anymore. I also have the Mantis with Honda engine and dethatcher tine.

For soil that has not been broken, the Mantis is not going to work. I have Tried and it just don't go down. Don't get me wrong, The Mantis is about the most useful piece of equipment I have. The dethatcher works beautiful and the cultivator works great. You just need a bigger tiller to do it the first time. Either you rent or buy or hire someone to do it the first time. Then you can use the Mantis to go over it once a year and it will work very well. Just not the first time.

Now I hardly use the big tiller anymore, the Mantis can take over.

Bottom line, you have to find a way to till it the first time. The front tine tiller need strength to till. I don't know how strong you are. Front tine tiller is cheaper, the one in Sears like mine is perfect. Rear tine tiller don't go into tight space that well. If you are pro, a rear tine is a must. If you are just doing it occationally, front tine is plenty.

You might consider an electric Mantis because unless you know how to take care of it, electric will last longer because you don't have to worry about old gas, mix oil, clean filters and all.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 4:04AM
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For soil that has not been broken, the Mantis is not going to work. I have Tried and it just don't go down.

I disagree.
I broke new ground with mine last spring without any problems.
I imagine we have differing soils.

btw- Any tiller (including my troybilt) will take more time in new ground. They advise watering the soil the night before. This makes a big difference.

Try one out Tiny gal.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 9:20AM
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Look for a good used Troy Bilt Pony or Jr. They're far superior to these Mantis type of tillers.

The Mantis type tillers are only really good for cultivating already loose soil vs. tilling. (especially if you have high clay content)

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 9:43AM
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Maybe you should give a thought to not tilling. One school of thought is tilling is disruptive to the soil. We've done several lasagna / forest type gardens without ever breaking ground that turned out wonderful. Our veggie gardens won't be tilled this year either. That being said, I've tilled a lot in the past. Everything from breaking sod, sculpting landscape the poor man's way by using a tiller. We still have our Mantis that is certainly a capable tiller. In my world if I had to break new ground, I'd set aside a day and get a capable rental unit. Till, till, till between 2 people and get the hard stuff done. If you want a tiller on hand to do the rest at your leisure, the Mantis is a great way to go.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 12:30PM
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Tom what is a lasagna/forest garden?

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 8:04PM
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B/R- This is how we did the gardens in the back yard. From the bottom up: Grass / cardboard / chicken pucky/ straw / chicken pucky /composted alder. Everything is focused on building the soil. Gradually it breaks down and feeds the soil. This made beautiful gardens that we planted everything from fruit trees to strawberries in last year. The book Gaia's garden is one good resource. The year prior we had re-done the side yard into a rain garden, which was significant trenching and sculpting. This was much easier.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 9:02PM
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If the ground had never been tilled before, The Mantis do not work well. Of cause if you keep at it, eventually you can dig deep enough. But in my case, I did 5 to 6 pass and still cannot get to 8 or 9 inches deep. The big front tine can do it a lot faster. After that, the Mantis will work just fine.
The Mantis is a very nice mechine. It does a very nice job as dethatcher. Just not for breaking new grounds.
Her budget is $300, it really boil down to the Sears front tine or the Mantis. If she has a lot of time, then I guess the Mantis will eventually get the job done.....I hope!!!

All the big tillers are not very useful for home owner. Mine just sit there, used once a year just to keep it alive. I mainly use the Mantis now.

One other one is the Stihl Yard Boss. I have no experience with this one. The difference is you can add weight onto it. That is the main issue of the Mantis, too light, you need some weight to dig down, or else it just keep turning and don't do much. If you can just add another 10lb onto the Mantis, it should make a day and night difference.

The Honda FG110 is a few pound heavier, wonder whether that will make a difference.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 11:03PM
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I want to say thank ou to everyone. You all have given me something to think about. I watched the Mantis video and I beleive it is good fro already tilled soil. I do not beleive after watching the video that it would do the job I need.I do have heavy soil that needs to be turned and compost added. The soil is mainly fill dirt right now.
I will look into the Seras brand and the others that were mentioned. That is my goal tomorrow, to find a tiller that is right for me.
Once again I thank you all for your responces. Keep them coming if you have more to add. It is very educational.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 11:21PM
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I think for about $300, the Sears front tine tiller is you best bet. Not as big as the rear tine and a whole lot cheaper. I am by no means endorcing Craftsman, but this tiller is really not bad for the price. I have the Poulan version which is the same. I verify to engine also. I look up the serial number of the Sears and compare with mine, is exactly the same. It is a medium duty engine, not like the cheap Craftsman mower's engine which is rated for moderate( shortest live!!).

YOu might want to get some kids to help you the first time, it does bounce on hard soil. After the first time, next year you do it yourself, it is pretty tame. Just the first time is the hard one.

Make sure you put StaBil in the gas to keep it fresh for longer time and follow the storage instruction to make the tiller last for a long time. For me, if I am going to store it for the rest of the year, I actually disconnect the gas line and drain the gas out into a container before I store it.

Anyway, good luck and come back to tell us what you end up buying.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 4:24AM
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DrynDusty(z8 AZ)

I agree with all the previous posters: the first crack at tilling ground is best left to someone with a larger rear tined tiller. I have both the Mantis and a smaller Troybilt rear tined tiller. Even with the TB, the ground has to be moist before the tiller will dent it. The first year the TB almost launched into orbit when it hit the ground. After I soaked the area, no problem. The Mantis is only used for turning the compost pile, for which it works well. I'll probably sell it, when I get it cleaned up.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 10:01PM
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Give the Mantis a chance, it is very good to get into narrow area where the big guys cannot. I found it very useful for weeding and dethatching. I actually don't find the big tiller that useful anymore after the first time. I am just using it once or twice a year to keep it alive!!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 3:50AM
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All very good advice here! And, in a month or so--out will come the suckers bait ads for those miracle hand operated tillers that will dig up hardened soil that has never been tilled, just by running the miracle tiller over it!!! OOOHHH, YAHHH!!
Like old P.T. Barnum said:---------Aww, you all know what he said!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 11:01AM
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I don't know what yungman's problem is with the Mantis. I live in Arkansas hill country, (hard red clay and rocks) and have no problem at all breaking new ground with my Mantis. Fire it up, slight back pressure on the machine until it gets to the depth I want and then continue to pull it backwards slowly to till. Granted it's not the fastest, but it does the job and I wouldn't trade it for any of the others I've owned over the years. A rear tine tiller with counter rotating tines will break new groung the easiest, but I never had much luck with them after the garden starts to grow. Rear tine with forward rotating tines does a great job of tilling after the ground is broken, but can take several passes in new ground. I'm 70 years old and pretty crippled up, but I can still operate the little Mantis by taking my time.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 1:21PM
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I got a small electric tiller from Lowes and I love it.. we have a nice size garden and in the spring my son will rent a big tiller and he usually will rent it on the weekend so he can til it one day.. let it sit over night and then goes back and redoes it the next day.. then before we plant.. I will use my small tiller to work in some addtives that I want to add to the soil..and it works great.. then I just use it the rest of the growing season. I am going to try a few new things this year.. mulching around the tomatoe plants etc. we use horse----- one year and my gosh.. we have had a lot of trouble with weeds ever since.. someone told me to get some sheep or goat as they desolve the seeds of the weeds and grass they eat.. where as the horse and cows do not.. so when you put the horse ---- in the garden.. you are adding seeds. so I may try some of that this year.. our soil is rich.. but maybe too rich because it grows everything..
We live in Northern Kentucky and we are on Ohio River so every once in a blue moon our garden will get flooded and that makes the soil really rich..

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 2:58PM
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"I don't know what yungman's problem is with the Mantis."

What makes you think yungman has a problem with the Mantis?


    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 3:27PM
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I love my Mantis!!! That is one of the most useful tool. I just said it is not effecient to break new ground. Of cause if you have a lot of time, it'll get done, just take a looooooooong time!!! After the first time, I don't even need the big tiller hardly. I just use the little Mantis to re-till the ground every few months and it work just fine. You guys have to try the dethatcher tine, it work so well, I can't repeat this enough, it's sweet.

Actually a good friend of mine in the guy was just asking me about breaking the ground for a flower bed. I told him don't buy the big tiller, just use my big front tine for the first time and go buy the Mantis for up keeping. Mantis is a lot more useful in the long run!!!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 4:13PM
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I would agree that Mantis is the top selling small garden tiller for a reason. That said these smaller tillers are probably not the best for breaking up sod or firmly packed clay. You will need to move up to a mid-sized or larger tiller with more horsepower - probably a gas powered engine.

Here is a link that might be useful: Small Garden Tiller

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 8:58PM
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Has anyone had any experiense with a white brand rear tine tiller...I just bought one because it was on the cheap!! Any info you have woul be great!!! Thanks James

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 9:24PM
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Jamie : I have a White Outdoors Lawnmower , much like what Cub Cadet puts out c/w B&S Quantum XTE Engine. Very well made mower for the price . I would think your Tiller is a Clone of a Toro or Husky Model ? Do you have the Tiller Model Number or the Engine Model etc. Some White Products are Made in Peterborough Canada and others in Illinois .

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 3:06PM
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