What is a Tiler? (with photos)

Farmers can help break up clods of surface dirt and work on new organic matter.

The tiller, also known as a soil cultivator, is an agricultural tool used to prepare the soil for planting. Gardeners and farmers use this tool to break up hardened surface dirt and incorporate organic materials into the freshly turned soil. Early rudder models used human or animal power, but modern manufacturers use gas-powered engines to turn the blades or teeth.

Front Scarifiers have rotating blades mounted on the front of the unit.

It could be argued that the development of the tiller marked the beginning of commercial agriculture. Early humans may have relied on preexisting fruit and vegetable crops or tried to plant seeds directly in the hardened soil beneath their feet. By creating a simple tiller capable of softening the soil, early farmers could produce more crops per acre of land.

Rear tooth profilers have cutting teeth mounted behind the wheels.

Most casual gardeners today do not own commercial tillers, but rent them by the day or buy smaller models designed for home use. After the soil has sufficiently thawed in early spring, a farmer or gardener will use the tool to turn the soil over a predetermined area. Depending on the type of crop, the soil may have to be “corrected”, meaning acidic or basic fertilizers and organic materials are added to create an ideal balance for the vegetable or fruit being grown. A grower can mix these additives into the soil very evenly.

Farmers use large tillers to break up hardened soil or add organic nutrients to freshly turned soil.

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A modern plowman is not the same as a plow, although it performs similar tasks. A plow uses two opposing blades to essentially cut through the soil. A rotary rudder uses two sets of circular teeth turned by an engine to cut through the ground to a prescribed depth. These blades are mounted on the front or rear of the machine. Front blade tillers are recommended for smaller gardens and beginning gardeners. Using this tool can be like using a floor polisher or sander – it has a tendency to pull forward, taking the user with it.

A rear blade model is best for larger commercial gardens and experienced users. Different attachments can be used to mix the soil, create planting furrows, build potato hills or even clear snow in winter. The rear blade tillers are supposed to create more uniform results and are easier to control; however, they are often significantly more expensive than the front-blade versions. Either model can be rented for occasional use, but an amateur gardener may find that a front-blade tiller is more affordable and does an acceptable job of preparing the soil for planting.

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