Whether your customer is a homeowner planting a flower bed or a contractor renovating a large lawn, there is a tiller to suit his or her needs.
Types of tillers
To start with, there are three main categories of tillers: cultivators, front- or mid-tine, and rear-tine.
Cultivators are lightweight and easy to manipulate for light-duty work. They're usually powered by a two-cycle engine to cultivate or till raised bed gardens or small flower beds, explains Anne Fisackerly, marketing executive with Maxim Manufacturing. The cultivator is not suitable for breaking new ground or for large-scale gardening. While they are definitely the little brother in the tiller family, cultivators are easy to use and versatile.
Sometimes confused with cultivators, but a different animal altogether, is the mini-tiller. According to Linda Beattie, commercial public relations and marketing & sales support at Schiller Grounds Care, the distinction is in the working depth. "A tiller is a tool that can exceed a digging depth of six or more inches," she says. "A cultivator is a digging tool that achieves a depth of up to six inches. Unit and tine design also play a role in the classification."
Beattie explains that Mantis introduced the first hand-held tiller nearly 30 years ago and met with a certain degree of skepticism in the market. "It was a lightweight, hand-held tiller/cultivator that could till up to 10 inches deep with tines that were reversible to also shallow cultivate and weed," she says. "It's the same design utilized today."
The patented S-shaped tines are able to slice through sod, penetrate hard clay and bring rocks to the surface for easy removal. "You can trench, plant trees, remove stumps, fence posts and more with a hand-held tiller. They are an extremely popular rental because they are easy to use, nearly effortless to transport and multi-capable, offering the rental dealer additional rental applications."
She continues, "Bigger does not always mean better for the customer. There's transport, trailers, training and customer apprehension when it comes to larger equipment."
Front- or mid-tine tillers are the most common in rental inventories. This type of tiller has the tines at the front of the machine and a set of wheels and a drag bar in the rear at the operator's position. The wheels are only used to transport the tiller to the work; once ready to till it is important to pivot the wheels up and lower the drag bar to a comfortable height. This allows the operator to control the forward motion of the tiller by applying more or less downward pressure on the drag bar.
Front-tine tillers have a wide range of uses, says Fisackerly. "They can be used to break ground, till, mix in soil amendments and dig holes. With accessories they can cultivate, plow, aerate, thatch, harvest and plow snow."
As useful as they are, Larry Seymour, national sales manager at BCS America, says they aren't the most user-friendly, as they depend on the operator and gravity to be productive. "The reality is they require some technique and effort," he says.
Rear-tine tillers are typically used for large-scale jobs. "The biggest and strongest of the walk-behind tillers, rear-tines are the tiller of choice when breaking sod for the first time or for tilling a very large garden," says Steve Matson, sales manager with MacKissic.
They have a set of powered wheels up front and tines in the rear, making it more stable and easier to operate because the wheels are powering the tiller along, rather than the tines pulling it forward. "It takes some of the work off the operator," Seymour says, adding that there's an old saying that goes like this, "You know you have the right tool when it's your job to keep it company."
That being said, Seymour notes that for rental businesses, rear-tine tillers are more expensive and harder to transport and load/unload. "It's a bigger investment," he says.