The 7 Best Hand Tillers To Make Soil Prep Easier

Updated July 17, 2021 by Joe

Looking for the best hand tiller for your garden this year? Hand tillers are one of those essential tools in every gardener’s toolshed. They can be used for removing weeds, cultivating and aerating the soil, pulling out old roots, and pretty much everything else you need to do to prepare your soil for planting.

Handheld tillers and cultivators are great for smaller areas when you have an established garden and need to prepare the soil between other plants. 

One of the nice things about using a hand tiller instead of a larger motorized tiller is you can take a targeted approach. Garden tillers are great for cultivating big garden plots quickly. But they will also churn up everything in their path.

Hand tillers, by comparison, let you till only the area you need without damaging the root systems of nearby plants. This makes it easier to clean up in between rows or around other plants.

using a hoe cultivator combo tool between garden sprouts

The Different Types of Hand Tillers

Before we look at the most popular hand tillers on the market, it’s a good idea to walk through the different categories of hand tillers and find which is suited for your garden job.

Manual Tillers – A manual garden tiller is the most intense and is designed to break the soil up at depths up to six inches. These not only make it possible to plant seeds or transplant plants but also aerate the soil, removing large rocks or loosening weeds with deeper roots. Generally, these require the most physical exertion.

Weeders – The next category is implements designed to destroy weeds. Weeders generally work by cutting weeds like a hoe or by spiking weeds and pulling their roots from the soil. Which weeds you have will determine which is better for you.

Garden Cultivators – Cultivators are the final category and are usually smaller, handheld implements. By scratching the soil with spikes, you can remove surface weeds, aerate the soil, or prepare the soil for shallower planting.

Find The Best Hand Tiller For Your Garden Project

Tilling soil between the rows with a hand tiller - Title Overlay Our favorite hand tillers for preparing the soil

We’ve selected seven of the more popular hand tillers on the market. The one you need will depend on several factors including the garden task you need to tackle.

We’ve also divided them by the type of tool since some folks prefer to remain upright when working the soil and others like to get up close and use these tools in combination with their hands for planting.

My personal preference is to use the standup tillers when clearing a larger space, then I finish up with a handheld tool to work on problem spots. When working in crowded garden beds, I use handheld tools exclusively. But every gardener finds their own unique way of prepping the soil for planting.

Click the link on the product name to jump to more information about each tiller.

ProductTypeBest Use
Garden Weasel CultivatorStandup CultivatorPreparing soil for seeds
Garden Weasel Claw ProStandup WeederRemoving weeds with deep roots like Dandelions
Yard ButlerStandup Weeder/CultivatorLoosening soil for weeding and planting in larger beds
Grandpas WeederStandup WeederPulling weeds from the lawn
Nisaku Claw by Sun JoeHandheld TillerPulling up weeds & preparing garden beds. Best in class construction
Edward Tools Hand Tiller Handheld Tiller/HoeNice combo tool to remove weeds and turn over the soil.
Ame’ Hand CultivatorHandheld CultivatorPreparing soil for seeding, loosening surface weeds.

1. Garden Weasel Cultivator

Bright Red Garden Weasel Cultivator

Tool Type: Standup Cultivator

  • Manufactuer: Garden Weasel Cultivator
  • Model: 90206
  • Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Size: 8 x 54 x 9 inches
  • Materials: Plastic & Metal

Best Use: Preparing Garden Bed or Lawn for Seeding

The Garden Weasel Cultivator makes quick work of small weeds and aerates the soil. With spiked wheels to work the soil, this standup tiller mimics larger agricultural equipment.

For anyone looking for a cultivator that is easier on the body, the Garden Weasel Cultivator is a lightweight alternative. The handle length is most ergonomic for shorter individuals, but tall people can use it as well. 

As a cultivator, it is not meant for heavy-duty tillage jobs. However, if your soil is already worked or is something other than impenetrable clay, this cultivator may be just right to refresh your area. Too many fibrous roots or taller weeds tend to choke this cultivator, but it will chop up small weeds and break down clumpy soil.

Why We Like It

  • Lightweight
  • Keeps well-maintained soil in good shape
  • Ergonomic for shorter users

Our Verdict

Ideal for keeping cultivated soil in tip-top shape, the Garden Weasel Cultivator is an easy-to-handle option that makes cultivating the soil in seedbeds a breeze.

2. Garden Weasel Garden Claw Pro

Closeup of the tines on the garden weasel pro tool
Close up of the tines on the Garden Weasel Pro Claw

Tool Type: Stand-up Weeder

  • Manufactuer: Garden Weasel
  • Model: 91334
  • Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Size: 5.5 x 12 x 38 inches
  • Materials: Plastic & Metal

Best Use: Loosening soil for individual weed removal; Cultivating in between established plants.

A versatile manual garden tiller, the Garden Weasel Garden Claw Pro features adjustable tines that you can reposition for different jobs. With settings for weeding, cultivating, and tilling, the Garden Claw Pro offers a lot of bang for your buck.

However, like any hand tiller, it does require a good amount of upper body strength to twist into tougher roots or the hardest clay soil. This tool works much better on light to medium density soil.

The Garden Claw Pro also features a foot platform so that your body weight can help you get more done.  

While this is a versatile tool, one of the more popular uses is to remove weeds with long taproot-like dandelions, ferns, or nut tree saplings from your lawn.

The shape of the tines loosens the soil around the weeds without ripping up your lawn. Then you can pull up the weeds easier and get the whole root since as you know if you only pull off the tops, these types of weeds will just grow right back and you’ll be doing the same thing in a month or so.

 Why We Like It

  • Adjustable carbon steel tines
  • Foot platform for extra leverage
  • Great for removing dandelions from your lawn

Our Verdict: We like this tool for its adjustable tines and the option to use your body weight as leverage. Better for use in light to medium soil density as the tines are said to break with heavier use.

3. Yard Butler Twist Tiller

Garden Butler Twist Tiller

Tool Type: Standup Tiller

  • Manufactuer: Yard Butler
  • Model: 100049491
  • Weight: 4.5 pounds
  • Size: 6 x 14 x 37 inches
  • Materials: Steel with Rubber handle

Best Use: Loosening soil for weeding or seeding in bigger garden beds.

With an uncomplicated design, the Yard Butler Twist Tiller is a loyal companion for simple soil-amending tasks. Because the Yard Butler Twist Tiller combines no moving parts and a weatherproof finish, it will hold up for years to come. 

A step plate in the middle of the tool just above the tines makes it easy to use your body weight as leverage. This is an improvement over some of the other tillers with a step on the outside. As soon as you have mastered the rocking motion needed to work the soil, the Yard Butler will become an indispensable part of your soil-working routine.

Why We Like It:

  • Steel construction
  • Straightforward design with few moving parts
  • Weatherproof Coating
  • 6-Inch tines

Our Verdict: Yard Butler’s Twist Tiller combines simplicity with useful features like extra-long tines and a weatherproof coating to create a durable and reliable tool.

4. Grampa’s Weeder

wooden weeder

Tool Type: Standup Weeder

  • Manufactuer: Grampa’s Gardenware,
  • Model: CW-01
  • Weight: 1 pound
  • Size: 46 x 8 x 1.5 inches
  • Materials: Wood & Steel

Best Use: Pulling Weeds from the Lawn

Sometimes, the old-fashioned solutions work the best. Grampa’s Weeder showcases over 100 years old technology, but that works as well now as it did in 1913. A sturdy wooden handle and solid steel claws mean this tool is durable and reliable.

This tool is best used to remove weeds from the soil as a weeder and is not a very effective tiller. However, this tool will make it possible to remove pesky weeds from your cultivated area without getting down on your hands and knees. 

Why We Like It:

  • Simple design and construction
  • If it breaks, it is easy to fix
  • Bamboo handle and solid steel claws

Our Verdict: We like the old-fashioned design. Grampa’s Weeder is an ergonomic way to win your battle with weeds.

5. Nisaku Claw Rake

wooden handheld claw type rake

Tool Type: Handheld Soil Rake

  • Manufactuer: Nisaku by Sun Joe
  • Model: NJP555
  • Weight: 13.1 ounces
  • Size: 10 x 4.5 x 4.5 inches
  • Materials: Wood & Steel

Best Use: Digging up weeds when you are on the ground; Working in heavy or clay soil.

Handheld cultivators are helpful tools, and the Nisaku Claw Rake is the best available. The claws are forged from a single piece of stainless steel and riveted to a hardwood handle. This cultivator will be around as long as you are. 

The Nisaku Claw Rake’s five claws give it more power than other handheld cultivators. The two extra claws make it better for weeding, aerating, and cultivating the soil. You can also use it to mix fertilizers into the soil. 

Why We Like It:

  • Designed with durability in mind
  • High-quality materials ensure longevity
  • Five claws instead of three

Our Verdict: As far as handheld cultivators go, the Nisaku Claw Rake’s solid construction, additional two claws, and elegant design make it one of the best on the market.

6. Edward Tools Hand Tiller

Wood and steel handheld cultivator and hoe combo tool by Edward Tools

Tool Type: Handheld Hoe & Cultivator

  • Manufacturer: Edward Tools
  • Model: 123ABC
  • Weight: 13.6 Ounces
  • Size: 15.12 x 10.63 x 4.92 inches
  • Materials: Wood & Steel; Rubber Handle

Best Use: Breaking up harder soil in small areas

Well-balanced and made from durable materials, the Edward Tools Hand Tiller gives you all the flexibility of a handheld hoe and cultivator in a single tool. As well as providing better traction, an ergonomic grip makes this tool a great choice for those with arthritis.

A solid oak handle and carbon steel implements make for a durable tool. Because the hoe portion comes pre-sharpened, this tool can help slice weeds and break up harder ground with ease. 

Why We Like It

  • Includes both hoe and cultivator implements
  • Lightweight at just over 1 pound
  • Ergonomic handle grip
  • Perfectly balanced

Our Verdict: Strong enough to chop through difficult soil but lightweight enough to be swung all day long, this Edward Tools Hand Tiller delivers the best of both. 

7. AMES Hand Cultivator

Small handheld 3 prong cultivator by Ames

Tool Type: Handheld cultivator

  • Manufactuer: AMES
  • Model: 2446300
  • Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Size: 2.6 x 3.5 x 11.02 inches
  • Materials: Wood & Steel

Best Use: Digging up surface garden weeds.

A classic three-tined design, the AMES Hand Cultivator does everything you would expect from a handheld cultivator. Tines made from tempered steel pair with a quality wood handle to create a durable tool. 

To make storage easy, the handle even features a hole. When it comes to cultivating, weeding, and aerating, the AMES Hand Cultivator can help get the job done.

 Why We Like It:

  • Tempered steel tines
  • Wooden handle
  • Hanger hole to make storage a breeze

Our Verdict: The AMES Hand Cultivator is a well-made example of the classic three-tined handheld cultivator.

Frequently Asked Questions

Standup Vs. Handheld Cultivators – Which Is Better?

Which type of manual tiller is right for you can depend on your space and your workload.

If you plan on ripping up a larger patch of soil, a standup tiller or even a rototiller is a better choice. This gets down to physics: a longer lever can move more soil. 

For smaller soil-amending tasks, a handheld cultivator is sufficient. After that, it gets down to how close you like to (or are able to) work the soil. Using a standup cultivator means that you do not have to bend down, but often these are optimized for users under six feet tall. If you are taller than six feet, you may still need to stoop to use a standup cultivator. Handheld cultivators may be easier on your back but can be harder on your knees. 

When are Twist Tillers Used?

Twist tillers use long, curved spikes to penetrate the soil. A twisting (and sometimes rocking) motion then churns the soil to prime it for planting. Because these tillers get down deeper than cultivators, they make it easier for freshly transplanted roots to thrive. 

Like most soil-amending tools, twist tillers work best in loamy soil. These can be used successfully in soil types except hard, rocky, rooty, unmanageable clay soil that has never been worked.

Tips for Using a Hand Tiller

The best way to succeed is to choose your tool to match the job (and soil type). 

It is also important to practice good ergonomics while tilling, cultivating, weeding, fertilizing, and aerating so that you can continue doing those things painlessly in the future. 

Although there is a great deal of variety and versatility in hand tiller types, the one piece of advice that applies to all of them is to wear a good set of gloves

hand with white gloves using a 3 pronged garden tiller

Which Hand Tiller is Best?

Manual tillers are an inexpensive way to achieve tillage without compacting the soil. With a bit of effort, you and your plants can enjoy soft loamy soil.

Selecting the best manual tiller for your job and your garden is a personal choice based on your climate, type of soil, and work style. Any one of the tillers on our list will help you get that garden bed ready for planting!