Garden Tillers & Mulchers

Tillers and mulchers are available in a variety of styles from many reputable manufacturers. A small tiller may do a great job in established gardens with light soils, but for new gardens, heavy clay or soil filled with rocks or roots, you will need a tiller with more horsepower. The tiller you choose must fit in your gardening space; bigger is not always better. Garden mulchers are designed to chop up lightweight debris. For grass clippings and light yard debris such as fallen leaves, a mulching mower with a bag may be sufficient. Some leaf blowers have vacuum bag attachments that chop dry leaves and grass as you vacuum your yard. But for chopping up garden debris, a mulcher or chipper-shredder is the most efficient tool.

Compact Tillers

Small tillers were originally designed for landscapers, but soon were sought after by home gardeners. Compact tillers may be electric or powered by small two-cycle engines (such as those on string trimmers). Compact tillers are lightweight, easy to maneuver and simple to maintain. Many compact tillers have handles that fold so the tiller fits into the trunk of a car. Compact tillers make the most of tine design to allow good pulverization of the soil and good weeding ability during soil preparation and cultivation. Some small tillers can dig up to 10 inches deep, and their compact size allows them to be used in small areas. The operator controls the advance of the machine by holding back or allowing it to move forward.

Full-Sized Tillers

Full-sized garden tillers are for large gardens or establishing new gardens in heavy soil. Rear-tine tillers are for big jobs, and most are made with multiple forward and reverse speeds. Front-tine models are simpler machines and intended for small gardens. Rear-tine tillers come in varying widths (generally up to 20 inches) with adjustable tilling depths. They typically have pneumatic tires with tractor treads to improve traction in garden soil. Large garden tillers usually have four-cycle engines that deliver enough horsepower to drive the wheels as well as spin the tines. Even with their power and weight, the large tillers are designed for easy handling. Full-sized tillers need to be hauled on a trailer or in a truck.

Garden Mulchers

Garden mulchers are designed for light mulching work; most are powered by electric motors. Such garden mulchers use nylon cords to shred material and are not designed for twigs or sticks. Most will not handle wet material well. Some garden mulchers mount onto a typical trash can, which you can line with a bag held in place with a bungee band. Others have their own stand which accommodates a bag or allows you to place a wheelbarrow under the machine to gather the shredded material. Garden mulchers are equipped with many sizes of motors---a 6 or 8 amp motor will take care of most light mulching needs. For large amounts of debris including twigs and branches, consider a chipper-shredder instead. Chipper-shredders handle regular yard and garden debris, plus they have large hoppers and more powerful engines to handle larger debris. Chipper-shredders use sharp metal cutter blades that turn shrub or tree prunings, cornstalks and large volumes of garden debris into finely shredded organic material.

Keywords: compact tiller, rear-tine tiller, rototiller, mulcher, chipper-shredder

About this Author

Fern Fischer writes about quilting and sewing, and she professionally restores antique quilts to preserve these historical pieces of women's art. She also covers topics of organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family. For over 35 years, her work has been published in print and online.