How to Operate an Electric Tiller

Small rototiller image by S.F. Heron


Tillers offer the gardener a quick way to prepare a garden for planting. This handy garden tool saves the backbreaking labor of turning over a garden bed by hand. In addition, tillers also help the gardener work in compost or garden soil additives easily into the garden bed. Electric tillers simply plug into an outlet and eliminate the need for specially mixed gasoline or gasoline storage.

Step 1

Arrange your extension cord and locate an available outlet. Your biggest concern in using an electric tiller lies in making sure you don't run over the electric cord with the blades of the rototiller. If you have the cordless variety, make sure the battery is fully charged and properly installed before attempting to till your garden.

Step 2

Set the tiller speed to its lower setting for your first use of the machine. Tillers require upper-arm strength to control the blades as they rip into the ground. Although electric tillers tend to be smaller than gas-operated tillers, you'll still need enough strength to control the forward motion of the machine.

Step 3

Roll the tiller to the proper location in your garden bed. Soil should not be muddy or damp. Decide on your pattern of turning over the garden to make sure you reach all areas. You'll be working the soil to improve aeration and break up hard clumps. Tilling helps all gardens thrive with increased drainage. Include additives such as compost or manure to benefit the soil even more.

Step 4

Make sure the extension cord isn't crossing part of the garden and can't be run over by the blades. Tossing the cord over your shoulder should help you keep track of where it is to prevent cutting the cord.

Step 5

Pull your gloves on to protect your hands from blisters and turn the electric tiller on. You'll feel the blades grab and dig into the soil. Some individuals prefer to push the tiller forward while others work from the back of the garden to the front. This decision is entirely your own based on your own ability to handle the tiller.

Step 6

Rake the soil flat after tilling to smooth the garden surface. Tilling can really make a mess, so avoid running the tiller along garden edges to prevent soil from spilling onto the grass.

Step 7

Unplug the tiller's cord after you complete turning over the garden. Rinse the tiller blades completely with a garden hose to remove any soil and debris. Oil the blades with light oil (WD-40) to prevent rust.

Things You'll Need

  • Long outdoor extension cord
  • Gloves
  • Rake
  • WD-40


  • Alabama Cooperative Extension Service
  • Louisiana State University
Keywords: electric tiller, rototillers, operating a tiller

About this Author

S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with over three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various websites and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.

Photo by: S.F. Heron