Rotavator, tiller or cultivator? Whatever you call them, they all do essentially the same thing – churn and break up soil in preparation for planting, leveling, turfing and seeding. Like most power tools, they come in all shapes and sizes with a varying degrees of capability.
The three main types of cultivators are:
Front tine cultivators
These machines are mid range machines and will usually have the tines (the metal blades that actually churn the soil) mounted in front of the wheels. However, some medium duty cultivators have no wheels.
Rear tine cultivators
Bigger, self driven rotavators are rear tine machines and will have the digging apparatus mounted behind the wheels.
Mini cultivators often have no wheels and are designed for working smaller areas such as borders and vegetable beds.
Small electric cultivators
The smallest cultivators are electrically powered and are meant for light use in and around flower beds. They are essentially an electric blender on a pole and will till the soil to a depth of a few inches. They are not really capable of deep-digging vegetable beds or breaking up turf but they are great for aerating the soil, weeding, and mixing in compost.
One such machine is the ALKO GPH 250 which offers a working width of 16cm up to a depth of 18 cm. Powered by a 250watt motor, the ALKO GPH 250 weighs only 4.8kg making it easy to use for the vast majority of gardeners.
Medium duty petrol and electric cultivators
The middle of the road machines cater for the majority of users who have small plots of land requiring frequent cultivation such as vegetable beds. Cultivators in this market are either electric or petrol powered and are capable of a reasonable depth of tilth, normally around 6-10 inches. Models are available both with and without wheels for transportation.
Offering superb value for money at well under a hundred pounds, the Mowerland electric cultivator pictured below features a powerful 750 watt motor and is capable of cultivating to a depth of 9 inches. At only 7.5 kg, this Mowerland cultivator is lightweight enough for anyone to use, but powerful enough for the majority of digging tasks.
A hugely popular choice of cultivator is the Mantis tiller which is available in both petrol and electric versions and can accept a range of accessories such as a lawn scarifier, lawn edger, aerator and crevice cleaner. The Mantis tiller will cultivate to a depth of 10 inches producing a fine workable tilth in preparation for planting, seeding and leveling. Two petrol engines are offered with the Mantis, a 21cc two stroke and a 25cc Honda 4 stroke.
Cultivating larger areas.
If you’ve got a large area of heavy soil or an hard area of turf that needs breaking up, then a larger rear tine machine will be necessary. An engine size of at least 4.5hp and a working width of 500mm will make larger jobs a lot easier and quicker. A reverse gear is also essential with these heavier machines. Worth a look is this Husqvarna heavy duty rotavator and the MTD range of cultivators.
When using a rotavator to break up hard compacted ground, go over the area several times rather than trying to deep dig the ground on a single pass.
Rotavators with counter rotating tines
Counter rotating tines will help prevent ‘run away’ when using a self driven rotavator. Run away occurs when the tines dig into the ground and rather than churn the soil, they propel the machine forwards. This normally happens when the ground is hard and compacted. Counter rotating tines help to combat this by spinning in the opposite direction to the wheels.