Rototillers are interesting implements. Like just about any other tool, they often reveal themselves to help in many ways which were not necessarily in their original prospectus. I’ve used them to loosen packed gravel, for example, for applying base material to the sub bases of patios and driveways. But generally speaking, rototillers are the “tractors” of the landscaping art. They fulfill the function of not only loosening soil, but of combining amendments together in specific gardens and underneath lawns. Of all the features one can picture a rototilller offering, these two stand out.
Now, not all rototillers are the same. For soils which are already loose – maybe sandy at their base or loam-rich and merely needing some mixing, the front-tined tillers such as the one pictured below might be best.
These guys have a tendency to do some serious bouncing around, however, in more seriously dense and harder-packed soils. Especially if one is opening soil for the first time, hoping to loosen it and thence to amend later, this tiller might do the trick but it is often at the expense of some very serious bouncing around and maneuvering. These are perfect for “medium” soils, with a touch of clay content. They – like almost all tillers, have a depth setting, subject to adjustment with a bar that sticks into the ground behind the business end. They are heavy but they are nice and wide and, in the right circumstances, these original tillers – design-wise – have much to offer.
Now the monster pictured above costs about 8 times more than the other two pictured. This one can cut through just about anything. Self-propelled and extremely weighty, this is pretty much the state of the Gargantuan Roto Tiller art. This one can take down a small mountain. These cut through the toughest soils and do plenty of hard work. Wrestling them can sometimes be a chore – rocks and roots can destroy a guy’s arms as they get caught up in the tines and toss you forward. In fact, it is a literal hazard, owing to the sheer power of these units. Like all bigger machinery, they require alertness and lots of getting used to.
Now we come to the junior sets of roto tillers – items which were not even on the horizon 15 years ago. The “Mantis” – so named, much like the generic “Bobcat”, owing to its initial providers.
Now, these guys are relatively tiny. The one pictured here weighs about 20 pounds and is actually one of the larger versions. These little machines have gone through quite a few adaptations. Their primary downside has always been the integrity of the metals comprising the tines themselves. Easily bendable originally, they would get so out of shape as to render the machine useless unless used in the most delicate of soils. Now, however, they have evolved a bit and have a far more durable tine. These things a truly perfect for working a home garden. I confess to having used them brutally for years myself in preparing beds in tight locations. Easily stored, one man operable and packable, they have much to recommend them. They also do an awful lot of work, let me add. I have a real “thing” for them.