The proper way to use a tiller? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Call me old fashioned, but I have always been hand tilling (shovel) the garden up until now. Heck, last year I finally got a hoe- up until then it was shovel work 100 percent. This past year I was given a front tine tiller. My question is: is this thing supposed to be able to break sodded ground? Is it supposed to move right along at like a little bit less than push mower speed or really bog down to snail speed (the tines are completely submerged)? And whats the deal with the adjustable spike on the back? Is the tiller jumping all over the darn place a normal part of operation?? The directions that came with the tiller deal only with upkeep and repair- stuff I already knew (I used to be a shop mechanic at a rental store) but not the obvious stuff like how to use the silly thing. Enlighten me, somebody- PLEASE!

-- Kevin in NC (, March 16, 2002


How many horse is it? I have a little 2 horse tiller with front tines and it is pretty easy to control. I wouldn't use it for breaking new ground though. My 5 horse is a rear tine with reversable tines and it practically pulls itself. It will till up sod, but you might want to go back over it once or twice to make it nice and smooth. My friend has a front tine tiller that is a 5 horse and you have to kind of pull it toward you and then let it go a bit and then pull it and roll it a bit so that it will get a good bite out of the ground. The tiller jumping is just a normal thing if it isn't biting into the ground. You kinda have to hold it in one spot until it gets a good bite going and then it will start tilling it up for you. If you hit a rock it will jump too. I have found that mine likes to crow hop especially when it sees a tomato cage! :~)! Hope some of this helps!

-- Nan (, March 16, 2002.

Oh..I was trying so hard to think of how to SAY how to use the thing that I forgot a few things......Yes it will go more of a snail speed after it starts tilling well. Before that it will just kinda skip along the ground if you don't hold it back a bit and let it dig down a little. The spike is for the depth of tilling and to start with you will want to put it down and then bring it up as you get deeper into the dirt on consecutive passes of the same spot.

-- Nan (, March 16, 2002.

They definately give youre arms a workout.I bought my front tine from my old neighbor and he showed me how he used it for years.One thing was after you go around the outskirts of you garden to be, only take half a row at a time so half of the tine is in the area you just tilled and the other half is in the new hard packed area.I find it alot easier and less of a wrestling match to hold the tiller back until it is digging pretty deep,then gently raise up on the handle bars when you want it to go forward.Dave

-- Dave (, March 16, 2002.

The spike in the back is like a "sea anchor", it is there to hold back the tillers fordward motion, adjust it deep enough that the first pass is at a snails pace, this gives the tiller time enough to chew up the sod and helps prevent hopping. Hopping means your moving too fast, the tiller is trying to climb up out of area because it is not yet sofened the soil enough. Later passes can be deeper and faster.

-- mitch hearn (, March 17, 2002.

In my younger days, I preferred a mattock to break sod and an old grape hoe to cultivate. Using these impelements you definitely werent going to plant more than you could care for, although once garden is established, the grape hoe will prepare beds pretty well and fairly fast the next year and you can then expand garden with the mattock. I then saw an ad in an ancient Organic Gardening for a Gravely with rotary plow attachment. I was sold. Bought a used one for $200 and fought with that cantankerous engine for years but loved that rotary plow attachment. Only small 'plowing machine' that can prepare a seedbed in one pass that I have ever seen. It can do more work in an hour than I can do in a day. One spring after I moved from Michigan to Arkansas the engine went and I rented a little Honda front tine as I couldnt find a rear tine for rent. It had heart I'll give it that(it was reason I got very impressed with Honda small engines), and I plowed sod with it(very slowly and many passes). Finally broke a tine on a rock, luckily I had welder by this time and just welded it back along with a little reinforcement before returning it. You will get real workout using a front tine tiller unless you have nice soft soil. You also need to keep tines sharp if you are wanting to till tough soil. Sharp tines and slow tine speed (run it at around half throttle) are the key. Running fast tine speed or tilling with blunt tines will just bounce the heck out of you as tines dont have time/ability to dig in. You can weld on sickle sections from sickle of an old hay mower to tines if tines on your tiller are very worn. Or use pieces cut from old leaf spring. Just dont make them take too big of a bite. Oh after my experiences with the Honda, I bought an old 5hp Briggs powered front tine tiller for $5 (Hondas are unfortunately not in my price range) and keep it to cultivate with as I dont have the rototiller-like cultivator attachment for my Gravely and rotary plow attachment would just bury stuff. Small tiller is also easier to manuever than Gravely or big rear tine tiller for cultivating.

-- HermitJohn (, March 17, 2002.

I love my tiller!!!!! Mind you, it's kind of hard work because I have to turn the durned thing and I'm a hair over 5'2", and it DOES buck when I hit a tree root or something, but it is still faster than a shovel. I'm looking foreward to trying it out as a weeder, also. I never did like digging the weeds out of the walkway. It did take me a few days to learn to use it, though. If you still have trouble with it after reading this and trying again, you might go down to a place that sells them and ask them about using them: I found they were VERY good at explaining their tillers to people who knew nothing about tillers: a very useful skill for a salesman.

-- Terri (, March 17, 2002.

You've got your answer, now the funny part.

The first time I used a front end tiller I had no idea it was supposed to have the drag stake. I tilled an entire garden, from sod, without the stake. It almost beat me to death, but I was 29 years old and thought I could take it. When the fellow at the rental place explained that the stake was supposed to go down, I felt like the chain saw buyer who asked "what't that noise?"


-- Jimmy S (, March 17, 2002.

When I was young and had the stregth I could use a front tined tiller sort of. Now I'm old and disabled. I dig my garden mit a round pionted shovle much easier.

-- Butch (, March 17, 2002.

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