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How to Use a Mantis Tiller

By Fern Fischer ; Updated September 21, 2017

A Mantis tiller/cultivator is a lightweight little workhorse. Models range from 20 to 24 pounds. Carry it anywhere easily. The handles fold over so it stores in a small space or fits in the trunk of your car. Optional attachments allow a Mantis to help with other gardening and landscaping chores besides tilling and cultivating. Whether your garden is large or small, a Mantis tiller/cultivator will break new ground, till beds, weed, cultivate and more.

Before operating the tiller, fill the gas tank with the proper two-cycle fuel mix, or with high octane gasoline for the four-cycle model. Use a clean rag to wipe any fuel spills off the gas tank or tiller housing. Fill the tiller in the driveway or an area away from the garden to avoid possible soil contamination from spilled fuel.

Set the tines on the tiller for tilling or cultivating. For tilling, the tines should point forward, in the direction they rotate. For weeding/cultivating, the tines should point toward the rear of the tiller, or in the opposite direction from the rotation. To reset the tines, remove the cotter pin that holds the wheel of tines in place. Pull the tines off the axle, reverse them, and slide them back on the axle. Replace the cotter pin. No tools are needed.

Start the Mantis tiller. Set the kill switch to the “on” position. Pull out the choke to close it, and pull the recoil starter two or three times until the engine begins to start. Then open the choke by pushing it in. Pull the starter again, and it will start and run. Allow the tiller to warm up for two or three minutes before digging with it.

“Walk” the tiller to the area where you will work by allowing the tines to pull the machine across the yard. Let the tiller lightly walk across the top of the yard as you walk behind it.

If you do not want to "walk" the tiller across your lawn, you can also carry the tiller. Carry it before starting the engine. Use the carrying handle and the non-throttle hand bar to carry the tiller to the garden site.

Hold the throttle in to turn the tines, and move the tiller back and forth slowly, as you would use a vacuum cleaner. To till deeper, pull the tiller backwards, then allow the tines to pull it forward. Repeat this gentle rocking motion until the desired depth is reached, and then move the tiller along to the next area.

Use the tines in the cultivating position for shallow tilling and weeding. Rock the tiller backwards and forwards as with tilling, but the reversed tines will not dig as deeply.

Move the tiller over weedy areas several times to chop weeds and turn them under the soil surface. For a tough weed or root, move the tiller back and forth repeatedly, allowing it to cut deeper until the weed or root is chopped.


Things You Will Need

  • Mantis tiller/cultivator
  • Gasoline


  • The Mantis tiller works best when you pull it backwards, walking backwards with it in front of you. One great advantage to this is that you do not walk on the finely tilled ground. It remains fluffy and ready to plant without compacted footprints.

About the Author


Fern Fischer's print and online work has appeared in publications such as Midwest Gardening, Dolls, Workbasket, Quilts for Today and Cooking Fresh. With a broader focus on organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family articles, she specializes in topics involving antique and modern quilting, sewing and needlework techniques.