What is a Rotary Cultivator?

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  • Written By: R. Anacan
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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A rotary cultivator is a tool that is used to loosen, aerate, and prepare soil for new planting or to enhance the condition of soil for existing plantings. A rotary cultivator, often known as a rototiller or rotocultivator, consists of sharp rotating tines or blades that are typically made of steel or aluminum. The rotating tines dig into the soil, loosening and aerating the soil in a process known as cultivation.

Cultivating soil is important because over a period of time, soil tends to compact and harden. This can make it more difficult for plants to receive the proper levels of water and nutrients. Breaking up and loosening compacted soil makes it easier for water and nutrients to flow through the soil and into plantings. The rotating blades of a cultivator are also effective at digging up and removing weeds present in the soil.

There are several different types and sizes of rotary cultivators. For small garden applications, a handheld rotary cultivator is often used. Many of these are no larger than a common garden spade and the small size makes it easier for to maneuver in and around gardens and flower beds.


A self-propelled rotary cultivator may be a suitable choice for those who have lawns larger than a small flower bed, but who may not need a powered cultivator. The rotating tines of a self-propelled cultivator are attached to a pole that is similar to a broom stick and the user simply pushes it to cultivate a lawn or garden. Some self-propelled cultivators feature adjustable handle lengths to accommodate users of differing heights.

It should be noted that reviews of self-propelled cultivators are often mixed. This is often due to the fact that many self-propelled cultivators have aluminum tines which some users have found to be too lightweight for anything more than light garden use. This may reduce some of the desired functionality of a self-propelled rotary cultivator. There are self-propelled cultivators on the market that utilize a heavier weight metal for the rotating tines, which many find to be more effective. However the heavier weight of these tools may make it more difficult to use for an extended period of time.

A motorized cultivator is powered by a small gasoline or electric motor and may look much like a powered lawn mower or lawn edging tool. A motorized cultivator is often used on larger lawns and gardens. For larger-scale applications such as commercial or agricultural purposes, rotary cultivators may also be attached to the front or rear of a tractor or other types of motorized vehicles.


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