By Nikki Tiley
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)
With the onset of another garden season comes the topic of tilling. By definition, “tilling is a means of cultivating soil, or getting it ready for planting.” But there’s more to tilling than just digging up sod.
Why Use a Tiller?
Ok, so when it comes to tilling the earth, for many of us this is a personal choice. Not everyone thinks using a tiller is a good idea. That being said, in many cases and used appropriately, tilling the soil does have its benefits. Not only can it speed up the decomposition of organic matter, releasing much needed nutrients into the soil, the practice of using tillers for the garden can make cultivation easier and less backbreaking, especially in new areas with hard, compacted soil.
Tillers, as well as cultivators, can be useful tools for turning soil – whether starting a new garden or simply tilling an existing one, you can easily loosen hard dirt clods, break up unwanted roots, or mix in compost and fertilizer. So the question shouldn’t be why use a tiller, but rather why not? Or, more importantly, in what other ways can tillers for the garden be used?
Ways to Use Tillers for the Garden
Most of us know the key use of any garden tiller is for breaking up the soil. But different tillers can do different things, especially those that come equipped with various attachments. Generally, there are three main types of tillers: front tine, rear tine, and cultivators.
Front-tine tiller – This tiller has blades, or tines, in the front and is a good choice for weeding between rows.
Rear-tine tiller – The tines on this tiller can be found in the back and the engine in the front. Since it is normally bigger, heavier and more powerful, you’ll find it useful for turning over large areas and those which have never been cultivated.
Cultivator – This is lightweight tiller used similar to that of a garden hoe by mixing loose soil and weeding between plants, only more efficiently.
Some of the ways to use tillers may include:
“¢ Preparing soil for planting seeds or transplanting vegetables and flowers
“¢ Aerating soil around growing plants
“¢ Mixing nutrients by incorporating manure/fertilizer/compost/cover crops
“¢ Weeding between plants and vegetable rows
“¢ Creating trenches or planting furrows
“¢ Shredding, grinding or chopping small sized roots and plant debris
“¢ Turning up yards for grass seeding
“¢ Breaking up compacted dirt
“¢ Building potato hills
“¢ Clearing snow in the winter
As you can see, there are many uses for tillers in the landscape depending on what type you have. Tilling gardens need not be limited to one season and one purpose – with multiple functions and appropriate accessories, you can use your tiller year round.