Who can tell me what I need to know about tillers?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Torch, Feb 22, 2005.

  1. Torch

    Torch Well-Known Member

    May 25, 2004
    In the piney woods of the great state of Texas.
    I'm in the market for a tiller and need some help. I don't want to buy a $200 machine that I never use because it is underpowered or too hard to use. What features should I be looking for? Here are some areas that I'm unsure of.

    • Horsepower
    • Rear or front tines
    • Any particular brand better than others?
    • Other considerations?
    fwiw, I want to do general landscaping around the house and also to till up the soil before adding raised beds for a 10 X 50 foot vegetable garden. Our soil type here is clay.

  2. mtman

    mtman Well-Known Member

    Sep 2, 2004
    i would go with rear tines the front ones beat you up tend to fight you all the way

  3. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

    May 22, 2003
    Zone 7
    I use a tiller here in the NC red clay from time to time. I have owned a rear tine walk beside high dollar tiller and I sold it. The reason is that that type of tiller does a beautiful appearing job but when it rains the finely worked clay runs together and turns to clods. I find that for my soil the front tine belt drive Merry tiller is adequate. Yes this design tiller will tire the operator but it is results that I am after. The coarser tilled red clay will remain workable even after a hard rain. Avoid gear and worm drive tillers and they are less efficient; for a front tine one stick with the chain/belt drive setups.
  4. bethlaf

    bethlaf Homegrown Family

    May 26, 2004
    i like the merry tiller rear tine 10 hp model , its a bit mroe pricey, but it works great,
    however, that being said, remember though you need this tiller every year, you only need it for a day or two,
    this year wediscussed buying one, we have a one acre garden ,plus other beds, but with the price from the local store to rent it was only 40.00 for the weekend, we went with renting instead ....
    theres something to be said for not having the other 160 bucks sittign in the garage ......
    total cost for renting with tax was 44.00 and change, and we bought 2 gallons of gas, we went over the garden about 3 times, plus broke a bunch of new seed beds as well.....
    thats a lot of work out of that money.
  5. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2004
    I bought an 8 hp Troy Built Rear Tine tiller about 15 years ago. It engages in a self propelled mode that is easier on the handler as you guide it. The depth controls make it handy to bust sod through to the finished deep bed tilling.
    I like it's strenght in being able to till under green manure. I've even tilled under standing corn stalks and squash vines (that's where the sharpening of tines comes in as a handy 'secret'...for me anyway). I had one repair job in all those years and with seasonal tuneups and replacement of a transmission belt once and a set of tines it has done me a lot of work! Not cheap, but cost it out over time, and I figure it's good value. It will probably be good for years to come. A solid machine.
    Saying all that, I have heard that Troy Builts now are different since being bought out by another company, so I can't say about the new models. In any case, I suggest for sure to go with a rear tine model and the most horsepower you can afford if you have Big garden space like about 1/2 an acre to cover, or more.
  6. Darren

    Darren Still an :censored:

    May 10, 2002
    Back in the USA
    At the other end of the scale, you can spend $6,000 to $8,000 and get a 12-14 hp diesel powered tiller that's versatille enough, with attachments, to mow your yard, cut brush, run a snow blower and even cut, rake and bale hay. For large garden plots it's like the Ever Ready Easter bunny. You'll never stall it. Probably one of the most underestimated tillers is the tiny Mantis. For raised beds and lots of smaller cultivated areas it works fine. It will dig as deep as you want.

    If you have a problem with a soil that hardens up like concrete, it's lacking organic material.
  7. mary,tx

    mary,tx Well-Known Member Supporter

    Dec 4, 2002
    We had a big rear tine tiller for awhile which did nice work, but I could not start it myself. So unless dh was available to start it, I couldn't do anything with it. We do still actually have it, but now it won't start for him either. :rolleyes:

    I prefer the $300-400 front tine. My current tiller is a Sears. It starts for me every time without trouble, even after sitting up for several months.

    As far as hard dirt goes, you gotta learn to pick your time. We have heavy clay soil, so if it has been hot and dry for an extended period of time, it's not going to break up easily. But if you wait til it rains, then count a few days for it not to be too wet, it doesn't take a lot of horsepower.
  8. 3girls

    3girls Well-Known Member

    Aug 18, 2004
    SE PA, zone 6b
    Based on my experience I would not till clay wet or dry. Remember, potters knead their clay to make it more pliable. I would not use a tiller, and don't here.

    If you pile on the organic material, the earthworms will come. They will plow for you and make drainage easier thanks to their tunnels.

    See the books, Lasagna Gardening, by Pat Lanza, and Weedless Gardening by Lee Reich. Happy Gardening. Save your money for a greenhouse.
  9. Okie-Dokie

    Okie-Dokie Well-Known Member

    May 12, 2002
    Just got a new Troy Built Super Bronco :worship: . So far so good. Got our garden tilled up and ready to plant in a couple hours instead of a couple days. Raining out right now, so in a few days we will be able to see what the finer textured dirt will look like. Struggled with a Sears front tine for a long enough time that we were concidering just not gardening any longer, now gardening is a pleasure again. If money wasn't a factor, I would have bought one of those 3 pt., 6ft. tillers that work off the pto of the tractor, and the troy built to cultivate between the rows.
  10. WisJim

    WisJim Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 13, 2004
    We have an Ariens 6 or 7 hp rear tine, that we bought new in the mid 1970s. We borrowed a neighbor's Troybilt once, and didn't like it compared to our tiller. The Troy bilt was harder to manage, heavier, more awkward.
    I would look at a BCS or Mainline if I was buying a new one now, as they have mower attachments, and lots of other attachments to allow use of the engine to do more jobs.