Healthy and loose soil is an unquestionable necessity in any type of garden. Unfortunately, most gardens don’t spontaneously produce these ideal soil conditions for planting, and transforming hard, compacted soil into the lush growing environment that plants crave often requires a herculean manual effort—especially if it’s a brand-new garden plot that’s never been graced by a gardener’s loving touch. That is, unless you use a rototiller.
A rototiller (also called a “tiller”) uses a series of blades to loosen and aerate hard soil, allowing for proper drainage to keep the soil moist and plants hydrated, in addition to creating a favorable environment for symbiotic organisms like beneficial bacteria and worms.
As opposed to a garden cultivator, a tiller is specifically designed to dig deep into soil that has never been worked (also called “breaking ground”) to prepare a new or neglected garden for planting. However, it can often be used in place of a cultivator for seasonal soil preparation, for mixing in soil amendments (like fertilizer), and for weed control.
Tillers were previously available only as loud, heavy, and expensive gas-powered units that contributed to greenhouse gas emissions. Nowadays, there are lighter, quieter, greener, and more affordable electric tillers on the market.
If you’re interested in taking advantage of all the benefits these versatile gardening tools have to offer, read on to discover how to choose the best electric tiller for your gardening needs and then explore some of the top-performing products on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Sun Joe TJ602E 12-Inch 8-Amp Electric Garden Tiller
- RUNNER-UP: Greenworks 8 Amp 10-Inch Corded Tiller, 27072
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Earthwise TC70025 7.5-Inch 2.5-Amp Corded Electric
- UPGRADE PICK: TACKLIFE Electric Tiller/Cultivator, 16-Inch Tilling
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: TACKLIFE Advanced Tiller, 18-Inch Electric Tiller
- BEST CULTIVATOR: Sun Joe TJ599E Aardvark 2.5-Amp Electric
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Electric Tiller
There are several factors that can impact the overall performance of an electric tiller, and there is no one-size-fits-all tiller for every type of garden. A tiller’s size, power and speed capabilities, power source, ease of use, and other factors play a large role in how well it operates in certain conditions. As a result, it’s important to keep the following considerations in mind when choosing the best electric tiller for your garden.
Corded vs. Cordless
Electric tillers are available in either corded or cordless (battery-powered) options. Corded tillers are more common, more powerful, and typically more affordable than their battery-powered counterparts. They also offer virtually unlimited run time as opposed to cordless tillers whose run times are limited by their battery capacity.
The primary disadvantage of corded tillers is that they can only operate in areas the power cord can reach—and having to drag a cumbersome electrical cord around the work space can be a nuisance. To combat these limitations, corded tillers have retention hooks that keep the cord away from the tiller’s wheels and blades.
Cordless tillers offer the greatest amount of portability and maneuverability, despite coming with the limitations of less run time and power—and a higher price tag. A cordless tiller’s run time usually only lasts from 30 to 60 minutes, but there’s the option to acquire multiple batteries to extend that time.
A tiller’s tines are the set of blades responsible for churning the soil as they rotate. While tillers can be equipped with two, four, or six individual tines, tillers with four tines are the most common. These tines are located either at the rear of the tiller (“real-tine” tiller), the front of the tiller (“front-tine” tiller), or the center of the tiller directly under the motor (“mid-tine tiller”).
Rear-tine tillers are usually the most powerful and are capable of cutting deep into the soil. This makes them the ideal choice for tilling heavier and more compacted soils. Front-tine tillers aren’t as powerful as rear-line tillers, but they’re typically easier to push and maneuver. They are also the most common type of electric tiller.
Mid-tine tillers offer a combination of the power of a rear-tine tiller and the ease of use of a front-tine tiller, making them a popular general-purpose option. However, mid-tine electric tillers are rare.
A tiller’s size refers to the width of the cutting tines and the depth these tines are capable of penetrating the ground. As a general rule, the wider the tiller, the fewer passes you’ll need to make to till the desired area of soil. The width of electric tillers is typically between 6 and 20 inches, and some tillers offer width adjustments that allow for even greater versatility.
Although wider tillers can cover more ground, the bulkier size makes them more difficult to maneuver in small and narrow spaces. Narrower tillers are particularly useful for tilling raised beds and between rows of plants.
The maximum depth an electric tiller can penetrate into the soil is mostly determined by the size of the tines. Larger tines are capable of deeper penetration, but these make the tiller more difficult to maneuver.
An electrical tiller’s maximum working depth is often between 6 and 8 inches, with greater depths being more ideal for initial groundbreaking of soil. Shallower depths are usually best for seasonal soil maintenance and garden preparation in ground that has been previously tilled to greater depths.
Power and Speed
An electric tiller’s power is determined by its amps (for corded tillers) or volts (for cordless tillers). Corded tillers usually have power ratings between 2.5 and 14 amps, and cordless tillers are usually rated at either 20 or 40 volts. Naturally, larger tillers require more power to accommodate the greater demand.
An electric tiller’s speed is determined by how many revolutions per minute (RPM) the tines turn when tilling the soil. Higher RPM allows the tines to more rapidly and effectively churn the soil. An electric tiller’s tines can produce between 150 and 400 RPM, and it’s generally recommended to use a tiller that generates at least 180 RPM to till most soil types.
Ease of Use
Naturally, a larger and heavier tiller will be more difficult and cumbersome to use than a smaller and lighter tiller. As already mentioned, a larger tiller is capable of covering more ground more quickly but at the cost of requiring more effort. As a result, tillers with adjustable tines can allow you to find the ideal middle ground between performance and ease of use.
In addition, many electric tillers are equipped with sturdy wheels that assist with maneuverability over hard surfaces and ergonomic handles that are comfortable to hold during extended use. Some tillers also feature adjustable handles that allow you to set the length with which you are most comfortable. Many handles are also collapsible, so the tiller is easier to store when not in use.
Any piece of equipment with exposed, fast-spinning blades requires special safety considerations. Some electric tillers are equipped with safety features like buttons that need to be depressed for the tiller to operate and metal guards behind the tines that prevent rocks and other foreign objects from being kicked up and causing injury or property damage.
Regardless of a tiller’s safety features, make sure to prepare the area you plan to till by first removing stones, sticks, and other foreign objects. You should also be mindful of any gas, electric, or water lines that might be buried in the area to avoid damaging them.
When using the tiller, ensure that you’re wearing the appropriate safety gear, like safety glasses, safety shoes (closed-toe and nonslip), long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and earplugs. Read the provided user manual to become familiar with all the controls and operating procedures before using the tiller for the first time. Also, be sure you know how to quickly shut off the motor in case of an emergency.
Our Top Picks
Keeping the above factors in mind, the top picks feature some of the best electric tillers on the market in a variety of categories to accommodate practically any gardener’s tilling needs.
Sun Joe’s corded electric tiller offers an 8-amp motor capable of rotating its four durable steel tines at 300 RPM for maximum performance. This tiller is 12 inches wide and can penetrate 8 inches into the soil. It also features two durable wheels for optimal maneuverability and a three-position wheel adjustment for customizing the tilling depth.
Sun Joe incorporated a collapsible handle to make this tiller easier to store when not in use. Considering the size and power this tiller boasts for the price, it provides a good value that can accommodate most any gardener’s budget.
This corded electric tiller from Greenworks has an 8-amp motor that powers its four tines. It features an adjustable width between 8.25 and 10 inches and an adjustable depth up to 5 inches. The ability to customize the width and depth allows for optimal versatility, making this tiller useful for both wide and open sections and narrow and confined spaces.
Greenworks crafted a cushioned handle for maximum comfort when the tiller is in use and made the handle collapsible for easy storage when it’s not. The main disadvantage of this tiller is that its width and depth are slightly lower than comparably priced tillers.
For tilling small sections of soil without breaking the bank, Earthwise’s corded electric tiller offers an incredible value that can satisfy practically any gardener’s budget. This tiller is equipped with a 2.5-amp motor that propels its four tines at 280 RPM at a depth of 6 inches and a width of 7.5 inches.
The lightweight tiller features an ergonomic handle for comfortable and extended use with minimal fatigue. The disadvantages are that this tiller is likely too small and underpowered for tilling large sections of soil, and it doesn’t include wheels that would make it easier to use.
Boasting a powerful 12-amp motor, Tacklife’s corded electric tiller can spin its six hardened-steel tines at 400 RPM. It can till 16 inches wide and 8 inches deep and offers height-adjustable wheels for customized depth settings. The handle is both adjustable and collapsible, making it easy to customize the length for optimal comfort when the tiller is in use and more convenient storage.
This model includes upgraded safety features, as well. A safety switch needs to be depressed along with the on/off trigger for the tiller to run. Additionally, a steel shield behind the tines prevents rocks and other foreign objects from causing injury or property damage.
This corded electric tiller from Tacklife boasts some of the most powerful and largest specifications available on the market today. It features a 13.5-amp motor that can propel its six hardened-steel tines up to 380 RPM to till 18 inches wide and 8 inches deep. The width can be adjusted between 12.5 inches and 18 inches, and this model features wheels with two height adjustments for customized depth.
Although this tiller is fairly large, it’s relatively lightweight for extended use with minimal fatigue. The ergonomically designed handle also includes an anti-vibration system to make the work easier on your hands. Finally, Tacklife incorporated safety buttons and brake switches to help ensure safe operation.
Sun Joe’s corded electric cultivator is equipped with a 2.5-amp motor that can cultivate 6.3 inches wide and 6 inches deep. Although its smaller size and lower power rating are designed primarily for cultivating, this cultivator is also useful for tilling small sections of soil.
It’s equipped with a telescoping shaft that allows for a customized length adjustment and an ergonomic handle for comfortable operation. Unfortunately, this tool doesn’t include rolling wheels, but the lightweight body makes it easy to handle with minimal effort.
FAQs About Electric Tillers
Still have questions about electric tillers? Discover answers to several of the most frequently asked questions about electric tillers below.
Q. What is the difference between a tiller and a cultivator?
Cultivators are usually smaller than tillers and are primarily designed to mix and loosen shallow sections of soil that have previously been tilled. Tillers, on the other hand, are designed to break up larger sections of harder soil. Tillers are usually used for creating new garden beds, while cultivators are mostly used for preparing existing beds for planting.
Q. What is a tiller’s tilling capacity?
A tiller’s tilling capacity refers to how deep and wide it can till. As a result, the tilling capacity is determined by the tiller’s width, depth, and power rating.
Q. Can you use a tiller to remove grass?
A tiller can remove grass by freeing the roots from the soil and breaking large sections of sod into smaller chunks. Unfortunately, the smaller chunks usually still need to be manually removed, either with a rake or a shovel.
Q. Do I push or pull a tiller?
For optimal ease of use, push smaller, manually operated tillers, and pull larger tillers behind tractors, mowers, and ATVs.