Your lawn needs air, water, and essential nutrients to thrive. As you move towards getting your soil ready for planting, you’ll have to plough the land well! Sure, you could go by the old school way and use the manual handheld tiller but that way you’ll be just paving way for the drudgery and donkey-work to get the best of you. So how do you get your soil bed ready for planting? You act smart, invest in a good garden tiller, and get equipped to cultivate even larger areas – in a matter of minutes! Lucky for you, we went ahead and did the dirty work ourselves. We’ve put together a list of the best garden tillers for 2021 – so you can choose the one that suits you best and utilize it for weeding and cultivating your garden!
Your lawn, farm, or garden needs adequate preparation and regular maintenance to flourish well. A tiller, also known as a rototiller, is used in order to effectively prepare the soil bed, scratching it open and paving way for water and nutrients. A tiller has tines, or sharp rotating metal blades, similar to that of a fork or rake.
Typically, there are 4 curved tines in opposing directions; blades 1 and 3 are curved towards the tiller, while blades 2 and 4 are curved away from the tiller. This design prevents debris from accumulating between the tines. Since blades 2 and 4 are heavy cutters, they dig into the soil aggressively. A tiller’s function is to break up the soil into smaller pieces so that it is easier to throw seeds or plants in there, as well as pave way for water so it's reaching the roots. Another function of a garden tiller is to mulch and evenly distribute organic matter. You can think of a garden tiller as a tool that helps to blend organic matter and fertilizer with the existing soil. Ultimately helping to prevent weeds from growing and improving drainage and water retention.
The Pre-Tilling Preparations: How Do You Prepare For Tilling?
Debris such as stones, weeds, grass, and shrubs should be completely removed from the soil before using a tiller. Make sure the soil is semi-dry so it's easier for you to till. Check for water and other utility lines for safety purposes and make sure there's nothing below - it'll be useless to cry over spilled milk once your tiller ends up blowing up the water line.
Evaluating the soil
In order for plants to thrive properly, soil type and pH should be tested. In order to test soil type, soak a small section of the soil with water. Form handfuls of soil into balls and let it dry overnight. If the ball is tight and well-formed, the soil is clay. And if the ball crumbles, the soil is sand. What you should be looking for is loam and you can identify it if the ball is crumbly but still able to hold its shape. Loam provides for effective drainage and retention of moisture and nutrients due to its compact yet crumbly state.
When it comes to pH, the ideal pH of the soil should be between 6.2 and 7.2 pH. Values below 6.2 are acidic soils, while values beyond 7.2 are alkaline soil. In order to lower the alkalinity of the soil, pine needles, composted leaves, and peat moss may be added. For soil below 6.2 pH, limestone may be added in tiny doses. Plants require different pH levels, so it is best to do the research beforehand. For a pH test, a local sample may be taken and submitted to the nearby agricultural office for thorough testing. The unit may also test for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels. Several testing kits or strips are also readily available.
Proper attire should be observed while using a tiller. Protective clothing such as goggles, pants, boots, and gloves is required. It's always better to be on the safe side of things, doesn't matter how skilled you are.
Finally, Let's Get You Tilling
An average of two passes should be made on the desired section to dig and agitate the soil well. Try to use a medium-speed setting for a soil bed that has been tilled before. For hard and compact soil, use a shallower setting, and for soft ground, the speed should be slow-to-medium. And how do you find out you're done? The ideal depth at the end of your session should be around 8-inches.
What Are The Primary Types of Tillers?
Before you go out and choose a garden tiller, it's important that you have the required information about the primary types of tillers or you'll just end up getting confused. Let's get you hooked up!
Rear tine tiller
Ideal for large gardens, this type of tiller has a gas engine and is the most powerful. It is ideal for land that hasn’t been tilled before. Because of its power, the machine is heavy, which is good for minimizing vibrations. Certain brands also have a rear shield to protect your feet and legs. They're often cord-ignited so you may have to struggle a bit with the start. A rear tine tiller has front wheels that let you maneuver this tiller easily!
Front tine tiller
For this type of tiller, the wheels are in front of the machine, similar to that of a car. The front tine tiller is usually more budget-friendly, has a smaller gas engine, and the width of the tines is adjustable if you want to till smaller rows. The tines are often self-sharpening, decreasing the need for regular maintenance.
A cultivator is the smallest option and is usually motor-powered. It can only work for a small space in the garden and is the least expensive option compared to the other two. Even though it can dig up to 8 inches deep, it cannot penetrate hard compacted soil, so the topsoil has to be disturbed first.
What You Need To Know About Garden Tiller Maintenance
Be sure to regularly inspect your tiller to ensure that all the debris has been removed from the tines. When the tine stops slicing through the dirt at its maximum depth, then perhaps it's time to sharpen your tines or get them replaced. Sharpening tines may be done by washing the blade carefully with mild detergent and water and then using a mill file to sharpen each individually. Depending on the brand, the oil and air filter should also be changed at the start of each gardening season - usually in spring.
A: Well, in theory, tilling helps you get rid of the unnecessary weeds as well as pave way for water and nutrients to quickly reach the plants and enhance growth. However, it's also true that tilling doesn't play the long game. Unless it is done with calculated intervals, tilling can destroy the soil life. And the soil life directly correlates to long-term fertility. As a result, your land becomes prone to wind and water erosion. Therefore, it's important to do your homework on tilling before you decide to begin the practice.
Q: Can I plant my garden without tilling?
A: The no-till method is ideal if you want to take the long route for seeing your garden flourish. If the land is not tilled, it'll become spongy over time, eventually leading the plants and grass to grow and flourish well. So, to answer your question, yes you can plant your garden without tilling and the results will be better. But you'll have to work harder and be patient.
Q: When is it the best time to till your garden?
A: The best time would be right during the spring when the soil warms up (around 60°F). Ideally, you should be going about the tilling when the soil is semi-dry. If the soil crumbles when you squeeze it, that's a good indication for you to begin.
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