If your customer is preparing a garden for planting or renovating their lawn, they'll need a tiller to get started. There are several varieties available; which makes the most sense for your inventory?
Tine is of the essence
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. “Usually cultivators have a two-cycle engine with power enough 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.”
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. “With a mid-tine tiller, the tines are more directly under the engine,” notes Mike Smollock with MacKissic. “This provides better balance and control and it also makes it easier to turn... The wheels on this tiller 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 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.”
Rear-tine tillers are typically used for large-scale jobs or for breaking hard ground that has not been worked before. It has 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.
According to Larry Seymour, national sales manager at BCS America, there are different types of rear-tine tillers. They include belt-driven, hydraulic and all-gear-driven. Each has its advantages. For example, belt-driven units are simple to operate, hydraulic tillers offer flexibility of use while all-gear-driven machines are very durable. In addition, tillers can offer standard rotation, where the wheels rotate in the same direction as the tines, or they can operate with counter rotation, where the wheels go in the opposite direction of the tines.
“Counter rotation is designed to give maximum depth of till on the first pass,” explains Seymour, noting that this is due to the uppercut motion of the tines. The negative is that wheel traction is a problem when making the second pass.
“This is not a problem for standard-rotating tines, which have the added advantage of being able to chop organic matter without the tines getting wrapped with plant material,” says Seymour.
“A rear-tine will not dig as deep as a mid-tine,” adds Smollock. “Seven to eight inches vs. 10 to 12, but it’s sufficient for most applications.”
Selecting for Rental
When considering a tiller for your rental fleet, there are several things to keep in mind. At the top of the list is your customer base. “You must match your tiller to the clients in your rental area,” says Fisackerly. “Consider what the typical jobs will be, whether you have commercial users (landscapers and contractors) or homeowners, how large the spaces to be tilled are and whether you are in a rural, suburban or urban setting.”
Smollock adds, “Demographics show that most new houses are on much smaller lots than in the past. This means that the mid-tine [tiller] will be the most versatile in these areas. We generally see a store owning four or more mid--tines to every rear-tine tiller. In more rural areas, there are more rear-tines in use.”
Durability is another important consideration. Fisackerly advises looking for a tiller with all-steel construction, a commercial engine with engine guard and a braced frame.
She adds, “A rental tiller must be easy to repair and maintain so you can have faster turnaround times. Look for replaceable tine blades, a repairable transmission, a simple design with few gadgets and quick turnaround on parts orders.”