If you're gardening on a budget or with tight space constraints, buying your own tiller may not be an option. But even if you choose to rent, you'll still need to do the research because not all tillers are created equal; the right tiller for you depends on the application you're using it for, your soil type, and more. Here are three things to take into consideration when calculating what size and variety of tiller to bring home from the rental shop.
1. The size and type of area you're planning to till
If you want a tiller to keep down weeds between the rows of plants in your garden, you don't need nearly as much power as is required for plowing up a patch of lawn for a new garden bed. There's a continuum of sizes in the tiller world, and the larger and more undisturbed the patch of ground is that you're planning to work on, the larger your chosen machine will need to be. For example, small tillers (sometimes known as "cultivators" or "mini-tillers") are light, easy to handle, and great for weeding between rows, but not heavy-duty enough to handle undisturbed ground.
2. The type and condition of the soil
Tiller engines come in a range of sizes, and the type and condition of the soil in your garden will affect the size of tiller you need. For example, a mini-tiller has an engine of less than 5 horsepower, which is why it's not strong enough to turn new ground reliably. However, it can handle an established garden that's not over 1,500 square feet as long as your soil isn't parched and hard-packed or especially rocky. A medium-sized tiller that will work for most gardens (except the largest or most difficult ones) should be around 5 to 6 horsepower.
3. Type, placement, and rotation of tines
Size isn't everything, though. In addition to deciding on the ideal size of engine for the type of soil you have, you'll also need to factor in the variables introduced by the tiller's tines. Differently shaped tines are designed to optimize a tiller for a certain type of soil; for example, pick and chisel tines improve tiller function in rocky soil. Placement is important, too; heavy-duty tillers have their tines in the back rather than the front, allowing them to dig deeper into the ground. And finally, a tine rotation that doesn't follow the wheels but rather spins in the opposite direction gives your tiller another power boost.
These three things are all important factors to consider when you're in the market to rent a tiller. If you're unsure about which tiller would be best for your soil, ask the personnel at the garden rental facility and describe your garden bed as accurately as you can so they can help you find the ideal machine for you.