Last Updated on September 2, 2022
When it comes to choosing the best small garden tiller for your small garden you have 5 options:
Garden Tiller Types
- Handheld tiller
- Twist tiller (upright hand tiller with a long handle)
- Electric corded tiller (rototiller)
- Electric cordless tiller (rototiller)
- Gas tiller (rototiller)
In this article we’ll review 10 small garden tillers: two top choices for each type of tiller.
You’ll also find out what you can do with a garden tiller, and learn about the difference between a tiller and a cultivator.
As a result, you’ll gain enough knowledge to be able to pick the best mini tiller for your small garden.
*This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase any of the products I have recommended, I may receive a commission at no cost to you.
Let’s get started!
Best Hand Tillers
If your garden is tiny, a hand tiller might be all that you need, because it gives you precision where soil is disturbed, especially if you use it for weeding between plants, or in tight places.
There are two basic hand tiller varieties on the market: handheld and upright (long handled).
What is a garden tiller for?
A tiller is used for:
- preparing garden beds for planting
- loosening compacted soil to allow water, air, and nutrients to reach plant roots
- breaking up roots
- mixing compost, fertilizer, peat moss, perlite, and other amendments with soil
A hand-held tiller with a short handle will be perfect to use in a planter or small raised bed.
Usually hand tillers have a hoe like side for breaking soil, and a side with 3 prongs for cultivating.
The advantage of these tools is that they can manage an accurate strike for precise cutting and turning of soil just where you need it.
(Read more about high end HACHIEMON hand tiller in my 11 Best Japanese Gardening Tools article).
- length of the blade: 2.3 – 2.7 inches x 9.4 inches;
- total length: 16.1 inches;
- weight: 1.5 pounds
- 15.3 inches oak handle
- hand forged
- Made in Japan.
- a hoe and a cultivator in one tool
- well made high end tool
- will last for many years
- reliable sharp edge
- pleasure to use
- works great for loosening up ground, weeding, removing deep rooted clumps of crabgrass, digging up sprinkler heads, transplanting plants, digging trenches for edging installation, creating furrows, cutting roots.
Verdict: HACHIEMON Japanese hand tiller is well made, tough and gets the job done. This high end tiller is great for digging, weeding, and transplanting in your small garden.
- Length: 14 inches
- Weight: 1.85 pounds
- Double injected fiberglass handle with grip guarantees no splinters and comfort
- Head of the tool made of forged heavy steel
- Made in Mexico
- can tear through heavy red clay-
- lightweight but very sturdy and well-balanced
- good for prepping a small garden for planting, breaking up soil clumps, getting stuff out from the cracks in sidewalks and between bricks, perfect for planting bulbs.
- unlike most cultivators where tines (claws) are round and pointy, this handheld tiller has square and flat tines. As a result, the claws are not that sharp and do not penetrate the soil deeply
- wet soil and small pebbles get stuck between flat tines often, which requires frequent clearing of debris caught in between.
Verdict: Truper Rapid Tiller is great for digging, not so much for cultivating.
Tiller vs Cultivator
What is the difference between a cultivator and a tiller?
A cultivator is generally used to penetrate soil 3-4 inches deep. It’s good for maintaining an existing garden.
A tiller penetrates soil 8-10 inches deep. It’s good for digging soil deeper in the autumn after the harvest and mixing it up with compost, and in the early spring to prepare a garden bed for planting.
Twist Tillers (Long-handled Hand Tillers)
The benefit of upright long handled tillers is that they require no kneeling or bending over.
This kind of tiller is better suited for in ground beds and slightly raised bed gardens, or tight spaces under bushes, shrubs, fences. They are perfect for heavy soils, including clay.
- has a foot plate that helps to drive claws deeper in the soil with less effort
- well made and sturdy
- breaks hard compacted soil with ease
- can be used for turning compost, mixing amendments with soil, weeding, aerating.
- rubber covers slip off the handles which can be annoying
- spikes might bend
- some customers reported poor welding
- hard to twist after prongs are driven firmly into the ground.
Verdict: Yard Butler tiller is a hand garden tiller that really works and offers exceptional quality and value for the money.
- Length: 38 inches
- Weight: near 2 pounds
- Made from carbon steel
- Four inch long spikes
- Comfort grip handles
- will work with clay soil
- lightweight yet sturdy
- loosens soil 4-6″ deep
- good for prepping small garden for planting early in spring
- can be used for turning compost
- perfect for hard to reach places – under shrubs, in raised beds.
- doesn’t have a foot bar
- some customers report that the tool broke due to weak welding
- claws can bend after prolonged use
Verdict: Garden Weasel Claw is great for cultivating, loosening, aerating soil, and weeding your small garden.
How to use a long handled hand tiller ?
- Place twist tiller in desired position
- Place foot on the foot bar to push spikes deep in the ground
- Grip the handle and twist
- If the soil is too compacted, rock side-to-side to loosen soil.
It’s better to wait a day or two after heavy rain before using a tiller, so the soil is not waterlogged. If you till soil that is too wet, it will dry into hard to break clumps.
Electric corded mini tillers
Electric mini tillers require less effort on your part and are great for small in ground gardens, and for weeding under shrubs.
An electric corded tiller requires no oil, gas, or regular maintenance if to compare with a gas mini tiller. It is also environmentally cleaner – no emissions.
The advantage of mini electric corded tillers in comparison with cordless tillers is that there is no electric battery which might run out of charge while you are working in the garden.
But pulling a long extension cord while using a tool, and watching carefully not to damage it while tilling can be a clear disadvantage of electric corded tillers.
- easy to assemble
- instant start
- lightweight and easy to use
- powerful and effective, gets the job done easily
- praised by users and highly rated
- no variable speed
Verdict: Sun Joe TJ604E is a robust and attractively priced electric corded tiller with excellent performance.
a motor-driven machine with rotating blades for breaking up or tilling the soil.
- sturdy and well made
- easy to assemble
- easy to start
- easy to operate – has wheels, which makes it easy to maneuver
- has ergonomic handle with safety switch and cord retention hook
- convenient to store
- easy to hold lever down
- should be careful to not run over the cord
- replacement tines are not readily available
- some customers reported issues with transmission fluid.
Verdict: Earthwise TC70001 Tiller provides quality performance and is great for prepping your garden for planting, and maintaining garden soil throughout the year.
Check out this YouTube video to see Earthwise TC70001 tiller performance.
Offered on Amazon in 2 lengths: 30 feet and 50 feet.
If you do not own a heavy-duty extension cord at home, you will need to get one for your electric corded rototiller.
According to Askthebuilder.com, “the size of your extension cord is very important. If you undersize one you can start a fire or ruin an expensive tool.”
Any 16-gauge cord between 0 and 100 feet long should adequately handle tool loads up to 10 amps.
Always wear eye, and ear protection, and work shoes or boots while using power tillers.
Before you start tilling, remove rocks, sticks, and pull large and thick weeds that might get tangled in tiller tines.
Electric cordless small garden tillers
An electric cordless tiller is a clear winner for small garden maintenance. It doesn’t require gas or power cord extension. It’s easy on your back – no need to kneel or bend.
The only thing to keep in mind – do not expect cordless electric tillers to be able to break virgin ground, you will need tougher machines for this task.
I know that people complain about the battery running out of charge in the middle of gardening work. But you can get a spare battery and keep it charged for swapping when needed. And, usually the battery will fit to other power tools of the same manufacturer.
- 20 volt MAX lithium-ion battery
- Energy Star qualified charger
- lightweight: 8.1 pounds
- compatible with Black & Decker 20-volt MAX line of tools
- dual tines
- warranty: 2 year limited
- tines don’t rotate 360 degrees, they move back and forth. Counter-oscillating tines prevent weeds from tangling
- takes 3 -9 hours to recharge a battery
- you can cultivate near 400 square feet on one battery charge
- your hands are going to vibrate for a while after using this tool
- does not work very well on hard ground. It won’t work on previously-unworked soil
- has trouble going around the roots of grass.
Verdict: Black & Decker 20V Max electric cordless tiller is great for maintaining an already established garden. An excellent weeder.
Watch Black & Decker mini tiller in action in the YouTube video
- 20 volt 2.0Ah lithium-ion battery
- fast charger Included
- 4 durable steel tine
- flip-down rear wheels
- lightweight: 9 pounds
- manufacturer: American
- 2 year limited warranty
- battery run-time of approximately 45 minutes, depending on the soil conditions
- flip-down rear wheels allow you to easily walk this tiller through your garden, yard, or flower bed
- Cuts through the roots with ease. Strong enough for tilling in cover crops
- does not have a rock guard
- If you’re hitting rocks and roots it can grab and bounce pretty hard
Verdict: Earthwise TC70020 electric cordless tiller is lightweight and versatile. A perfect combination of power and convenience.
Mini gas rototillers
If you need a tiller for tougher jobs, then a gas tiller is your best choice.
The drawback of gas mini tillers is required maintenance: you will need to fill them with gas (Mantis) or gas and oil (for Earthquake and Tazz tillers).
You will need to drain gas to prepare them for winter storage.
Unpleasant fumes are another issue with this type of garden tiller. When I think of gas rototillers, the phrase “powerful, yet stinky” comes to my mind. 😊
The best models in the gas small garden tillers category are Earthquake mini tiller and Mantis mini rototiller. You also can consider Tazz gas mini tiller/cultivator as a less costly alternative to Earthquake gas tiller.
Mantis 7949 tiller, according to a consumer representative, is able to break sod and is suitable for starting a new garden.
As a Mantis gas tiller owner, I can tell from my experience that it will not be an easy task, especially if you are a slender woman-gardener. It will be hard to control this “bouncy beast” when you are breaking virgin ground.
- cutting width: 10” for tilling and 6” width for cultivating
- cutting depth: 6-8 inches
- 33cc 2-cycle Viper engine
- gear drive transmission
- height adjustable wheels
- 5 year warranty
- US based support
- available in wheeled and nonwheeled versions
- height adjustable wheels allow for depth control
- tines are removable, offering a larger 10” width for tilling and smaller 6” width for cultivating
- forward and backward operation makes it easy to maneuver between established plants
- wheeled version provides ease of operation which makes this tiller suitable for female gardeners
- need to mix oil and gas requires more time for maintenance
- need to drain fuel tank to store the tiller for winter
- not good for breaking sod for establishing garden
- difficult to start
- tine replacements are very expensive
Verdict: Earthquake gas mini tiller, especially wheeled model, offers ease of operation, but for starting a new garden, look for another option in the gas mini tillers category.
- cutting width: 9”
- cutting depth:10 inches
- weight: 24 pounds
- 25 cc 4-cycle engine powered by Honda
- gas only, no fuel mix required
- folding handlebars
- variable speed
- made in USA
- 2 year warranty
- will till through sod
- no need to mix oil with fuel
- reversible tines can be used to till down 10 inches deep
- turning tines around will let you shallow cultivate the top 2 to 3 inches of soil
- finger controlled throttle
- solid worm-gear transmission
- motor is fairly quiet
- has a kickstand that provides easy refueling
- no wheels make it hard to operate, especially for women
- it bounces a lot, which is a problem if you cultivate close to plants
- uses a lot of gas in comparison with Earthquake gas tiller
- tines jam easily on shallow roots
Verdict: Mantis gas mini tiller is the best option on the market for a small tiller that will till deeply and can break virgin ground.
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Final thoughts on the best small garden tiller
A garden tiller is a handy tool for every gardener to own to be able to cultivate, loosen, aerate, and weed the garden soil.
So, what’s the best small tiller for the money? Which one should you get?
It depends on the size of your small garden.
For a container or flower bed a hand tiller may be all you need. Hand tillers cost less, but require more muscle power on your part.
Pin for later reference!
Electric and gas mini tillers, though more costly, will save your time and effort.
Remember that most small garden tillers on the market are suitable for light garden/yard work. Only gas-powered and electric corded Mantis tillers are able to till grass (which should be mowed before tilling) and are suitable for starting a new garden.
Another option for starting a garden will be to kill weeds and grass by covering the soil with heavy dark plastic or cardboard for a month and then use any of the electric or gas tillers to break the soil.
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