Cultivator or Tiller? What’s the Difference?

ROTFeatureWhat is the difference between a cultivator and a tiller? This time of year, you may see products advertised that use both terms and wonder if they are the same thing. They’re not! Rototillers and garden cultivators have distinctly different purposes and both can be very useful to the serious gardener.


Rototillers are used at the beginning and end of the growing season to break up hard-packed soil and make it a consistency that is ideal for plants to take root in. Roots can’t break through tough, crusty soil, but they will love fluffy, moist soil. At the beginning of the season, a walk-behind rototiller or a tow-behind rototiller will get the garden ready for planting. At the end of the season, it will till in all the leftover plant life, allowing it to decompose naturally. Rototillers will till deeply into the soil, as deep as 7-1/2″ on some models, such as the DR Roto-Hog Power Tiller.


Garden cultivators are usually smaller than rototillers, and are not available in tow-behind models. They are used for tilling in weeds between garden rows during the growing season. It’s an easy way to maintain your raised-row garden without weeding on your hands and knees. For small gardens, they can replace the rototiller entirely, as the larger machine may not be necessary. They often till more shallowly than a large rototiller, though, as you only need to cultivate the top few inches to take out weeds during the growing season. The DR Roto-Hog Mini Tiller is a fantastic cultivator in that it tills to a depth of 10″, making it great for both cultivating between rows or tilling smaller gardens.

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