How to Properly Use a Garden Tiller


The garden tiller is a small but powerful tool that functions in a manner similar to that of a plow, turning soil under and digging it up in preparation for planting. Breaking the ground with a series of spinning tines, tillers make compacted, hard earth soft, loose and easy to work with. Compact models can even be used to weed between rows once the garden is established.

Step 1

Prepare the area by removing any rocks, debris or weed saplings. Mark the cleared area with posts of small yard flags and double check to be sure the location has no power or water lines passing through it.

Step 2

Don protective work clothing: closed-toed shoes, long-sleeved shirt, long pants, safety glasses and work gloves. Tillers can send pieces of unseen yard waste flying. By wearing protective clothing, you can reduce or eliminate your risk of injury.

Step 3

Examine the tiller prior to use. Inspect the tines to be sure they are clear of dirt and rubbish. Make sure the machine rolls easily and is set at the appropriate height for ease of use, and double check that all guards and safety shields are in place and undamaged.

Step 4

Set the tiller to "Neutral" and adjust the machine so that the tines are set above ground level. Fill the fuel tank and then start the engine

Step 5

Roll the tiller to the corner of the desired area, get a firm grip on the handles and lower the tines.

Step 6

Walk slowly, keeping the tiller straight, and move along the edge of the designated area. The tiller will naturally pull forward. To control the depth of the blades, use physical force to oppose this movement.

Step 7

Place the tiller in neutral and raise the tines when you reach the end of the first row. Turn around, lower the tines and return to the other end of the target area. Repeat as needed.

Step 8

Make multiple passes if necessary to break up dirt clods and vegetation. Once the soil has obtained an even texture, add soil amendments and till one more time, moving in a diagonal direction to ensure complete and thorough mixing.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never leave a tiller unattended, particularly if there are children nearby. If at any point you feel you are unable to control the tiller, turn it off and find someone to help you. An out of control garden tiller can cause serious injury.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Garden posts or flags
  • Protective clothing
  • Tiller
  • Fuel
  • Soil amendments


  • Mantis Tiller Instruction Manual
  • Using Power Tillers Safely
Keywords: garden tiller, rototiller, cultivator

About this Author

Lisa Parris writes on a wide variety of topics, but focuses on health and wellness. First published in Stone Soup at the age of 7, Parris's work has also appeared in the Journal of Comparative Parasitology and The Monterey County Herald. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in biology and attended medical school for one year before admitting she "didn't have the stomach for it".