If you would like to do some planting in your garden or perhaps even bring an old plant bed back to life, you may need to till the soil first. Tilling is the breaking up of hard compact soil and dirt so the soil becomes aerated and can drain well. Tilling the soil will also make it easier for the roots to get to the nutrients that are required for healthy growth and it is also good for the fertility of the soil.
A tiller or rototiller is an engine driven machine that will till the soil for you. This is accomplished by using blades also known as tines that cut through and turn the soil a lot quicker and more efficiently than you could do manually. The tines on the rototill can be adjusted according to the depth required.
A Tiller or a Cultivator?
Many people and even professionals confuse a tiller with a cultivator, and therefore it is important to mention the difference. A tiller is a bigger more robust machine with a lot more power, and it will also be heavier. A cultivator, on the other hand, is a smaller machine that is easier to maneuver. If you have a smaller existing garden bed, a cultivator would be used to loosen the soil so that fertilizer and other nutrients can get to the plants.
Front tine tiller or Rear Tine
Front tine tillers will have the tines at the front, and the wheels at the rear and are best suited to small to medium areas. They tend to be small and are easy to move around in different directions. Front tine tillers are good for breaking new soil that is medium to hard, although if the soil is extremely hard and the area large, you may struggle.
Rear tine tillers will have the tines at the rear and the wheels in front which will make it easier to move than front tine tillers. They are also bigger and heavier machines ideal for hard soil over larger areas.
How to Use a Tiller
The first thing to do before tilling is to check the weather forecast so that you can till in ideal conditions. If the soil is wet and you use a tiller, the soil will clump together, and when it dries, it will be difficult for the nutrients and fertilizer to get to the roots. Basically, the clumpy soil is not so good.
If you attempt to till the soil when it is too hard, the tiller may start to jump around as the tines will be unable to break new ground. An ideal temperature would be around 60f.
As you are planting new plants, it is important that you check the soil for any dead plants and weeds and that these are removed. You can do so by manually digging them up. You might also want to manually loosen any hard patches of ground as well as removing any debris or lumps of rock.
Always use safety equipment when using your tiller and perform a visual inspection to ensure the blades or tines are not damaged and that you have enough gasoline in the machine.
Depth of the Tines
You should adjust the tines according to how hard your soil is. If the soil is hard, then a shallow setting is recommended to start with. This will more easily break up the soil on the first pass. It can then be further adjusted to a deeper setting on the second pass. You are now ready to begin.
Tilling Your Garden
Switch the tiller on, adjust the accelerator and start the engine. For the tines to start moving, you will need to pull on a lever located under the handlebars. On a front tine tiller, the engine will control the tines which will pull you forward. To control this, you will need to pull back on the handle and down on the tiller so that the tines embed within the soil.
Continue lifting the tiller to move forward and moving the tines down to till the soil. After a while, you will feel more comfortable with it.
It is recommended to work in complete rows and not to try to till as you are turning the machine around at the end of a row. Once the rows are completed a second pass should be carried but in the opposite direction of the first pass. When complete, turn off the tiller machine.