Skip to comments.Vanity: Garden Tillers: Advice & Opinions Needed
Posted on 02/09/2012 7:47:29 AM PST by Jed Eckert
Good morning fellow gardening Freepers. I'm in need of a good affordable garden tiller and was wondering what you folks think. I used to simply rent one but that option is pretty much out now since nearly all the rental places quit carrying tillers. The one place left that does rent tillers is prohibitively expensive.
So, I'm considering just buying a smaller one. The Mantis XP fits my budget and they make a convincing sales pitch (good warranty, free shipping, Honda Engine) but I don't have a clue if they're any good. I'm open to any and all suggestions.
I'm working a 30' x 30' plot. I'm in East Central Florida so my soil is sandy, no rocks, but can have a pretty tough, nasty layer of sod/weeds whenever I break new ground. I usually plant twice during a year, Spring and Fall, so the tiller will probably get about double the use that Northern gardeners would give it.
In my 54 years on this earth there are few products I have purchased that I have been as satisfied with as the Mantis tiller I bought.
I love it, and am very glad I bought it. I use it all the time (I bought all the fancy attachments and use them- they all work as advertised)
Good question and I’ll be interested in the posts.
My Troy Built 4 Cycle blower/edger had a tiller/trimmer attachment which I bought. I tilled my entire yard with it. Sure a $3,000 would have been nice but this did the job if you’d stop every 20 minutes or so and clear the knotted roots of the blades. Just about all tillers need that. This attachment was under $120 at Lowes. Good luck.
of s/b off
FR has a weekly garden meet every Friday. You might want to ask your question there and join us. Can’t remember who has the ping list now.
Troybilt has historically made great products. I think most any tiller with a direct/gear drive transmission would work, preferrably with a rear mounted tiller. Arians had some good ones too.
I'm looking at an electric model because I'm a pretty fair hobby electrician. But I'm not confident that any of the electrical models on the market will withstand the rigors of a fairly heavy and slightly rocky clay soil which is prevalent in SW Pennsylvania. In addition, even trees far away from the garden area send out runners during the off-season which magically appear with every tilling.
I have about the same size garden as you (only 20'x 45'') but am also considering that hiring someone to till it might be worth eliminating the footprint of keeping a piece of equipment or (in case of the electrical model), having the rotating tilling parts give out before the motor.
That’s a toy in my opinion but it may be all you need in FL. If it’s comparable to what you rented and in your budget then have at it. Personally, I like cast iron gear boxes on tillers and tines that weigh almost as much as the entine weight of the unit you’re looking at.
1-800 Dial A Hoe...
Have a Sears 5hp 24in tiller bought about 4 years ago.
Have to guess at price, maybe around $250. Never tuned up and runs great. 100ft by 100ft garden tilled twice a year.
I take the outside tines off and use it for hoeing between the rows all summer.
Which model did you get?
In Florida our sand (some call it soil) doens’t need to be broken up. There are no rocks to deal with, and no clay that needs to be dealt with. Your chore isn’t actually what most would call “tilling the soil.” All you need to do is break up the weed and grass roots and you’re basically done. The Mantis will work fine. For heavier (real) dirt in a garden that size I like the Troy-Bilt Pony. But that much tiller would be far more than you’ll ever need.
We tried the Mantis here in kentucky, a lot of clay in the soil when we first started gardening. The only thing it is good for is weeding after the hard work has been done. The Mantis makes a very narrow row and takes a long time to do that in hard soil.
We got a Troy Built, it makes a two foot wide row instead of 6 inches. It is very heavy. One nice thing about it is that it goes deep. To start a new plot it will take a few times through but once the ground is broken up the first time it goes right through it. I always make two passes one in slow speed and one in fast to break up any clods. When I get done my feet will sink in about 6 inches or so walking on the tilled soil. Plants come up from seeds quickly in the soft dirt.
Because a tiller is used so infrequently they will last forever. Buy a used one at a yard sale or on Craigs list.
My Troy built starts on the first pull every time.
I have two large plots. I like being able to till the ground in a matter of minutes instead of fighting for hours.
Good luck and happy gardening, home grown food is much better than the salty store bought junk.
Another 54 year old chiming in here: the only time I’ve ever used a tiller it was a rented Mantis (here in KS the rental yards still have them) and I was quite satisfied.
(To Mr. K re your tag-line: no. At least not in the last generation: the moment the Soviet Union fell, Pravda immediately turned into an honest news organization, even if it’s a bit of a sensationalistic tabloid.)
One can purchase a MF 135 or a 600-800 Series diesel Ford Tractor for less than $3000 and plow up a large field, bush hog, and have a means of transportation if the SHTF. With a storage of 250 gallons of diesel one can live a couple of years comfortably after the SHTF. The tillers are gasoline and if the SHTF gas is going to be real hard to come by.
I believe that mine is a Troy Built. It has a 5 hp motor with 12”dia tines with 24” witdth. The motor sit directly on top of the tines. It cranks on 1 pull and works just fine. It chewed up 3”diameter roots when I intially broke the ground in my garden. My garden is only 12 X 16, but my friend uses it on his garden which is about 40 x 50. It was bought from a pawn shop for $100 in like new condition. A comparable one at Lowes is about $325. This is the minimun size unit that I would recomend purchasing.
My sister is big into gardening, she has had a Mantis for years. She loves it.
She Says: “it is mad as hell at the weeds”.
Yep, I’ve had this one for only 4 years but it does a great job in the garden. I suspect I’ll have it a long time if I keep the ethanol out of it.
I misspelled Troybilt earlier. Being able to type 100 wpm has its drawbacks.
Mantis makes a good product that works as advertised from what I have seen. I use a 6ft rototiller behind a tractor and am trying to get away from tilling on established garden space through composting, vermicomposting, and building tilth. We are trying to arrive at woodchip gardening heaven (see backtoeden film) for our primary garden space.
I also think you would be satisfied with a good deal on a tiller from craigslist or you might consider getting bids from a few lawncare services that might offer tilling if it’s an annual activity. You don’t have to store or maintain a tiller that way and it would probably take a long time before you would save money with your own rototiller. It’s easier on the back too!
For a small, sandy plot look no further than the Mantis. Make sure that whoever assembled it at the dealer got everything snugged down good and then go gardening.
No fancy attatchments, just spinning tiller blades and you can actually till, albeit shallowly, your garden.
I planted potatos for the first time last year (just one 12 or so foot row) for the fun of it, and the Mantis loosened soil off to the side that I easily shovelled on the growing plants to keep them buried.
I put a throw-away pool up last year (one of those - you blow up a ring and fill the pool up, the ring keeping the top rim stabalized and whatever (I don't know how to describe it .. ), and after the initial leveling of a 12ft spot, I found the Mantis perfect for tweaking the absolute levelness of that spot.
My only criticism (and may be a BIG factor) is the Mantis is used in a way that pulls you along, your lower back muscles taking almost all of that pressure.
I eat naproxen sodium like candy when I use it.
Neat little machine for relatively small jobs.
My garden in SW Pennsylvania is approx 50 X 50
you make a GREAT point!!
Actually I'm already on that list. Don't know why I didn't ask there although it looks like a good number of gardeners are chiming in anyway. Thanks hoosiermama.
Have used 10% ethanol in everything for 15years, would not
use anything else. Three lawn tractors, tiller, chain saws,
weed trimmers .... everything including vehicles. Never a engine problem. Never need gasoline antifreeze even at 20
below. Hate ethanol mandates and subsidies but the product is good. 15% ethanol - not so good.
You need more power than the Mantis (which is a fine machine).
The Bronco might do the job. Tines behind the engine so you aren’t wrasslin’ with the tiller as much. Or just hire a nursery to do it each spring and use a Mantis for cultivation/weed control.
Ethanol here is Florida is a problem. During most of the year heat causes the underground tanks to pump mixtures up to 40% ethanol. You never know what you’re getting. I go to a marina and get pure gasoline for my small engines. Glad you’re not having a problem. When you do, it is quite expensive. Trust me.
I hear ya, that’s why mandates instead of common sense are stupid. Have a great day.
Worked great but the bags of soil would last two seasons at best, then fill up with roots and weeds or the plastic would start to break down. It was so impressive that I even got a visit from the DEA and Sheriff who spotted my garden from their helicopter, came over and asked to see what I was growing (Surprise! tomatoes, peppers, eggplants. LOL) But that's another story.
If possible, cover up the new areas about 6 weeks ahead of time with a single layer of news paper and several inches of mulch and compost.
The lack of sun will kill off most of the root structure of the grass. The news paper for the most part will have decomposed.
Just till in the whole mix at once.
You’re ready to plant.
My Mantis is awesome but I would solarize your plot first.
Once you get it solarized the Mantis will fit the bill!
You’re right on how to kill weeds or prevent them from sprouting.
Cover the planting area with newspaper and mulch to hold the paper in place. Voila; no weeds.
LOL, Now that creature would just wilt all my plants and probably poison my soil.
Then rent a large garden tiller. Till in both directions in your garden plot so as to break up sod, roots, and expose rocks. Then return tiller. Come home and rake out rocks, sticks,etc. Then use the Mantis. It will reduce soil to a fine mixture. Almost like one buys in a bag.
Always best to test soil-most State Ag Depts. can do this for you.
I had a Honda generator once. The only knock I have against Honda engines is their initial cost and later the cost to repair. I have always preferred tools powered by Briggs & Stratton engines.
Thank you all for the excellent suggestions and comments. I really appreciate it.
We used to use methyl bromide under plastic to kill
weeds for plant beds...went to black plastic after mb
was outlawed...we use the black plastic for the garden
as well..the grass comes up and dies from heat/no light
Have cleaned up tobacco fields with a Troy tiller,great
machine,tho one must be very,very careful when backing
it up with the tines turning.
I’m a day late and haven’t read the replies but I question why you would need a tiller for 900 square feet. My wife and I are in our 70s and turn our large garden with a pair of shovels, all 4,000 square feet of it. I have had 3 big Troybilts, a piece of crap Sears and I still have a small Troy Salad Mixer that I haven’t started it in 3 years. We were gardening on about 7,500 sf in 3 locations in those days.
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