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How to Use a Garden Tiller

By S.F. Heron ; Updated September 21, 2017

Garden tillers offer the homeowner an easy way to prepare a flower or vegetable garden. These handy tools can be either gas- or electric-powered. Tillers turn over the soil of a garden bed, preparing the top 6 to 8 inches of soil for planting. This saves immeasurable time in the backbreaking labor of turning the garden dirt over with a shovel. Using a garden tiller requires safety precautions as well as care when tilling around existing plants.

Take a walk through the area where you plan to use your garden tiller. Remove any weeds with a hand trowel or shovel, and discard with the yard waste. Tillers will simply chop up the weeds as well as the rhizomes (underground runner-type roots) and make a multitude of weeds that you'll need to battle in the future.

Remove any rocks, and break up any large clods of dirt with a shovel. This will make the project of tilling your garden go much faster.

Connect your garden tiller to the power supply or fill the tiller with gasoline. Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying dust and debris.

Begin at the front corner of the garden. Turn the tiller on, and slowly move forward as the blades dig into the earth with a chopping motion. Avoid any nearby plants by a wide berth (2 feet or more) to prevent damage to spreading roots. Also stay about 1 to 2 feet away from the edge of the garden bed to prevent dumping dirt onto any grass areas.

Work your way from front to back through the garden using a grid pattern. Make sure to break up any large clods with a shovel if necessary.

Level the garden using the rake after you finish tilling.


Things You Will Need

  • Safety glasses
  • Shovel
  • Rake


  • Using a garden tiller to turn over a wet garden should be avoided. Let the ground dry first to make the job considerably easier and less messy.
  • Tillers work beautifully to mix in soil additives that have been dumped onto the top of a tilled garden. Simply turn on the tiller, and plow through the garden to blend the compost, humus or peat moss into the already loosened dirt.