Which kinds of rototillers are better: the large, heavy-duty equipment or the small garden-size machines? It really depends on the size of the space you are tilling and the condition of the soil. For small spaces, it is important that you can turn your machine around easily. For larger spaces, you want maximum tilling depth and width, enabling you to get the job done faster. But for most home gardeners, a small tiller offers a better balance of convenience and capability.
Small garden tillers, also called cultivators and mini-tillers, include both electric and gas-powered models and are ideal for small garden spaces. Gas-powered mini garden tillers may have a 1- or 2-horsepower engine. Electric models may be corded or cordless and can weigh as little as 11 pounds. The lightweight of small tillers makes them easy to handle and generally more user-friendly than larger machines. And in addition to maneuverability, small tillers are easier to store. Many models have folding handles for compact storage so they'll take up less space when they're not in use (which is most of the year).
Another great feature found on many small tillers is adjustable tine width. This allows you to change the digging path of the cultivator, typically from about 6 inches to about 10 inches. With the tines closer together, you can till in smaller spaces or between rows of plantings. It can also make the tiller easier to push around. Some small tillers also have an adjustable cultivator depth up to about 5 inches, but if adaptability isn't important to you, you can opt for a non-adjustable type that will dig even deeper.
The primary drawback of small garden tillers is that they aren't designed for working in large areas. Large tillers are much more powerful and can dig deeper and faster than small machines. They can provide twice the tilling width (making the job go quicker) and greater depth (doing the job more completely).
Small garden tillers are fairly durable but do not think you can carve a new planting bed out of untamed, native soil with electric models or any other of the small garden tillers on the market. They are designed to loosen ground that you have already dug into in the past. The idea is to further break down clumps of earth so that you have a friable soil in which to grow your plants.
Types of Cultivators
Lightweight electric cultivators are ideal for tight spots, where you do not want to have to worry about bumping into something every time you turn around. An example of a small rototiller is the Earthwise Cultivator, available on Amazon. This electric unit has a tilling width of 11 inches, and it cultivates down 8 inches deep. It does have a cord, though, which can be an inconvenience, especially if your garden is far from an electrical outlet.
For the ultimate in convenience, consider a cordless machine, such as the GreenWorks battery-powered rototiller. The GreenWorks product has an adjustable tilling width of up to 10 inches and a tilling depth of 5 inches. The same battery that powers the tiller can be used with many other GreenWorks garden tools.