What Is a Ground Tiller?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2019
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A ground tiller is a type of tool used in gardens or other landscaping areas that is used to turn the soil to prepare it for planting. The soil is aerated by the tiller, and rocks and roots are removed from the planting area by the tines or wheels attached to the ground tiller body. These tools come in two general varieties: engine-powered tillers and unpowered tillers. The unpowered versions can be pushed by hand, pulled by a tractor, or pulled behind a horse or other animal. The engine-powered versions often self-propel, and the user walks behind the unit while it is in use.

An unpowered tiller will feature teeth or tines that dig into the soil. The user will either press the ground tiller in a downward motion toward the soil, and the bent teeth of the device will turn the soil, or the user will drag the ground tiller over the soil, and straight teeth will dig into the dirt. As the soil is turned, rocks and roots will be forced toward the surface, clearing the way for new plants. Oxygen will also be allowed to seep into the dirt so new plants will thrive in the area.


Engine-powered ground tiller models are usually larger and able to till more ground more quickly. Instead of using bent or straight teeth, motorized tillers usually use a series of wheels with sharp teeth that rotate rapidly. These wheels will essentially sink into the soil as the machine moves forward; larger motorized tillers can dig deeper into the soil, while smaller ones are appropriate for edging or for navigating tight areas, such as between rows in a garden. Engine-powered ground tiller models usually run on gasoline, though some run on electricity instead. Gas-powered models tend to be heavier-duty and suitable for commercial use, while electric models are lighter, quieter, and cleaner.

Choosing a tiller is not difficult, but it will take some assessment of the job or jobs to be done. Larger areas will require the use of an engine-powered tiller, and the user will need to decide if a heavy-duty gas tiller is more appropriate, or if an electric tiller will do the job. The user will need to take into consideration the proximity of available electrical outlets if an electric tiller is to be used. For exceptionally small jobs, an unpowered tiller will be suitable.


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