If you’re planning on starting a garden, you know how difficult it is to break up hard ground. You’ll spend hours digging through the dirt trying to loosen the soil so that it can be cultivated and sowed.
But there is an easier way: rear tine tillers.
A rear tine tiller eliminates exhausting, long hours of work. You can quickly break through hard ground, and get to cultivating and sowing your soil.
Editor’s Note: Our writers research and recommend the best products for your home, farm, and garden. Links to these products are included in this article where you can learn more about each product. We may receive commissions on purchases made through these links.
Our Top Choices for 2021
Here is a sneak peek at the products that made our list. Click on the link to go directly to the review.
- Best Value for Power: EARTHQUAKE Victory 33970
- Best for Compact Soil: Troy-Bilt Super-Bronco
- Wider Tilling Width: YARDMAX YT4565
- Best Rotating Model: Craftsman 7021649
- Most Power for Existing Gardens: Troy Bilt Big Red
What You Need to Know About Rear Tine Tillers
When you’re working large plots of land, the rear tine tiller is the go-to choice. These tillers allow you to work heavy, hard, and rocky soil. If you have soil that has a lot of clay, you can use a tiller to quickly break through the soil.
You don’t need a tiller, but if you don’t use one, you’ll be spending weekend after weekend trying to break through hard ground.
Serious gardeners and farmers make their lives easier with a tiller, and you should, too.
Benefits of a Rear Tine Tiller
Why would you spend the money on a tiller when you can do most of the work by hand? Time. You’ll put a lot of physical labor into tilling the ground when you do everything by hand.
The benefits of using a tiller are:
- Speed. You’ll be able to till the soil much faster than if you did everything by hand.
- Aeration. Tilling is good for the soil. When you till the soil, you’ll be encouraging nutrients and oxygen to reach deep into the soil and hit its roots. The aeration allows for healthier soil that promotes plant growth rather than deterring plant growth.
- Weeds. Weeds start to grow over time, insects start to invade the soil, and the next thing you know, your plants are damaged. Tilling twice per year breaks these weeds down at the roots and helps prevent pests from making your garden their home.
- Balancing. Proper soil balance is key to allowing veggies, flowers and fruits the ability to thrive in your soil. You’ll be able to till the ground and add in fertilizer and organic material to balance the soil to promote growth.
There are two main types of rototillers: Front-tine and rear-tine tillers.
A front-tine model is less expensive, but they’re meant for tilling smaller patches of Earth rather than larger patches like the rear-time model. The rear-tine models have larger engines and require less manual force to push than their counterparts.
Rear models are heavier, so they will be able to stay firmer in the ground with fewer “jumps” compared to the front models.
When to Use a Garden Tiller
Tilling your garden should be done strategically. You’ll want to till the garden when temperatures are around 60F (15.5C). The location will play a big role in your decision, but in most locations, you’ll be tilling the soil any time between March and June.
It’s best to wait until the soil is dry to begin tilling.
Wet soil may become compacted, causing the soil to become drier when it is tilled. A quick soil test to determine if it’s a good time to till is:
- Make a ball out of the soil
- Poke the ball with your finger
Soil that is too damp will not cause the ball to fall apart. If the ball does fall apart, it’s a great time to till the soil.
Selecting the right tiller is key to being able to save time on tilling your soil. We’ve reviewed a few of the best rear tine tillers on the market today.
Our Reviews of the Best Rear Tine Tiller
1. Best Price for Power: EARTHQUAKE Victory 33970 Review
EARTHQUAKE’s Victory 33970 is the improved version of their previous model (29702) and is an even better value. This model has more power and the same great compact size that lets you maneuver those tighter spaces. Plus it tills up to 10 inches, and it’s balanced perfectly to make it easy to maneuver in a row.
The best feature is the instant reverse that allows you to change directions without having to downshift as some of the other tillers on the market do.
Compact in size, this model is smaller than some other models – so it takes up less room in your storage shed. The nice thing is that it still offers full-sized power.
Key features of the Victory 33970 are:
Standout Features and Benefits
- Cast iron design
- Self propelling wheels
- 212cc Viper engine
- Three height position options
- Forward and reverse options with instant reverse
- 16-inch tilling width
- 10-inch tilling depth
- 6 Tines
The Victory is easy to start, breaks through tougher ground easily, and starts up quickly. You can till through weed-filled soil with ease, and it offers a small size without power loss. Maneuvering is easy enough for older users to till small spaces quickly.
- Compact size
- Instant Reverse Option
- Tills up to 10 inches deep
- Assembly ad instruction manual could be more detailed
The Victory offers a good balance of size and power. If you have a small to medium size plot and need an easy-to-operate tiller, the Victory is a great choice.
This model is robust and will help anyone till their garden even if they’re on a budget. In 2021, the Earthquake’s newer model gets our vote for the perfect power-to-price ratio.
2. Best for Compact Soil: Troy-Bilt Super-Bronco Review
The Troy-Bilt Super Bronco is equipped with a four-cycle engine that has a cast-iron encased gear drive to thoroughly protect the unit’s transmission. Tilling width is 16 inches, and you’ll be able to back out of tight spaces with greater ease thanks to the reverse function.
High-quality carbon steel keeps the tiller durable even after years of use.
If you have extremely compact soil, Troy-Bilt will be able to till your soil with ease. This model, like all of the models on our list, has some assembly required. The features include:
Features and Benefits
- 208cc engine
- 16-inch tilling width
- 13-inch AG tires
- Forward and reverse options
- Offset angle to cut through tougher soil
- Two-year warranty
Troy-Bilt does a lot of things right with this rear tine tiller. Extremely well-built, you don’t have to worry about the transmission or engine dying out on you. The tires and tilling width are superb, but it is a little slow even at top speed.
If you have an even, flat ground, the Troy-Bilt will be able to work the soil more efficiently than competing models.
- The best model for flat ground
- Works clay soil fast and efficiently
- Starts easily
- Stalls when going up/down inclines
When you go up steeper inclines or down declines, the unit may stall. The stalling could be an issue if you have a hilly terrain to cultivate.
But if you have clay or more compact soil, the Troy-Bilt Super Bronco will be able to work it up better than most models on our list.
3. Wider Tilling Width: YARDMAX YT4565 Review
Yardmax puts years of engineering into the TY4565. The tiller is a rear tilling model that comes with dual rotation and seven depth adjustments to refine the soil depth of your garden. This feature-rich model boasts the following features and benefits:
Standout Features and Benefits
- 208cc Briggs & Stratton Engine
- Reverse speed
- Forward speed
- 18-inch tilling width
- 6.5-inch tilling depth
- 10 tiller tines
- 2 hammer tines
- Dual rotation
- 13-inch tire diameter
- 7 depth positions
- 190 RPM
- 2-year residential warranty; 90-day commercial warranty
Easy-to-use and offering dual-rotation, the YT4565 has 13-inch self-sharpening tines and a 208cc engine that is able to break up the toughest soil. The 18-inch width allows you to cover more ground with less work, and the depth adjustments allow you to till up to 6.5 inches in the ground.
The handling has been simplified, with a single-hand operation and a front counterweight that improves overall balancing and handling. Side safety shields are also present, and they allow for quick and easy adjustment.
- Easy enough for a 70-year-old to control
- Advanced depth adjustments
- Self-sharpening blades
- Engine oil filling can be difficult
Filling the engine oil is harder than some other models. The dipstick is extremely hard to reach, and you’ll need a certain size funnel to make filling the oil easy.
Aside from this one tiny complaint, this is a tiller that works exceptionally well on tough soil. The reverse feature is great, and the warranty covers the product against any breakage for two years.
The Yardmax tiller had the widest tilling width in our top 5 at a full 18 inches.
4. Best Rotating Model: Craftsman 7021649 Review
Craftsman is a well-known brand and has some of the best quality products in the world. The company’s rear counter-rotating tiller boasts a 208cc gas engine with a recoil start. The rear steel tines are 10 inches, so you’ll be able to cultivate larger areas quickly and easily.
The features are impressive, too.
Standout Features and Benefits
- 208cc engine
- 10-inch steel tines
- Counter-rotating tires
- 14-inch tilling width
- 6-inch tilling depth
- Front bumper for added safety
- 2-year limited warranty
Craftsman offers a two-year limited warranty, but there are also lifetime limited options for a few components. The company’s customer service is one of the best in the world, so if you have any issues, Craftsman will make sure they’re corrected quickly.
A Bronze Gear transmission is used to make sure that the tiller is able to till through the toughest ground possible. The unit is self-propelled and features a power reverse feature.
- Superb safety
- Ironclad warranty
- Counter-rotating tires for easy maneuverability
- Instructions are limited
- Handles may be too low for some
One of the previous complaints about the Craftsman series was that there is no reverse option available. This was included in their latest model. Reverse options are great when a unit gets stuck and you need to pull it out of a hole.
The front bumper on the Craftsman is a great safety feature and one of the reasons the brand has a solid reputation. The new power reverse feature and easy maneuvering make this model one of our top picks this year.
5. Most Powerful for Established Beds: Troy Bilt Big Red Review
The Big Red is the most expensive on our list, but it’s also the most powerful. At 306cc, the Briggs & Stratton engine is a powerhouse.
This model has forward rotating Bolo™ tines that have a 7-inch depth. Seven speeds are available for the most versatility in all the tillers on our list.
In addition to power, the Big Red garden tiller has several unique safety features. Full-sided tine shields provide extra protection while you are tilling and a front bumper helps protect the engine.
The additional features of this model include:
Features and Benefits
- 306cc engine
- 7-inch tilling depth
- Forward Rotating Tines
- 7 speeds to choose from: 4 Front, 2 Reverse and 1 Neutral
- Cast Iron transmission housing
- 16 inch treaded tires for advanced traction
- One Handed Operation
- Electric Start
- 2-year limited warranty from the date of purchase
The power and reliable performance of the Big Red Garden Tractor make it an excellent choice for medium to large plots.
If you have a previously tilled bed, this is where Bed Red shines. This powerhouse will till the soil and get it ready for planting quickly and efficiently.
- Largest tilling width (20 inches) and depth (7 inches) for big gardens
- Easy to Start
- Excellent safety features
- Not great for new beds
While it is great for tilling established beds, this may not be the best choice if you plan on breaking new ground. Churning up lawns or overgrown weedy areas is a better job for a rotating tine tiller.
But if you have previously tilled land and want a powerful, versatile machine, the Big Red Garden Tiller is a great choice.
With seven adjustable speeds and large agricultural size wheels, Big Red gets the job done quickly. It also has the widest and deepest tilling capabilities and is recommended for larger areas, over 2,500 square feet.
Top Features Used in Comparison
When writing each review, we had a lot to look at. We made sure that each product was thoroughly researched and examined based on:
- Pricing – Tillers can get very expensive.
- Quality – Tillers do a lot of grunt work, so they need to be able to withstand immense abuse.
- Warranty – A warranty helps ensure that your investment is safe.
We also looked at how well each model is able to be maneuvered and reverse/forward options.
Rear Tine Tillers FAQs
When Should I Use a Rear Tine Tiller?
You’ll want to use your tiller when the soil is not wet. The ideal temperature for tilling is 60F (15.5C), so early spring or right before spring is best.
How Often Should I Till My Soil?
Many gardeners and farmers recommend that you till your soil twice per year. Once before planting to get the soil ready for a new crop, then after the harvest to prepare your garden for winter.
Tilling allows you to clear out old roots and to fill the soil with nutrients and oxygen. However, it is important not to overdo it.
Can I Till Too Often?
Yes. If you till too frequently, you can actually harm the soil by not giving it enough rest time. Overtilling can lead to a breakdown in the soil structure and a compacting of the soil bed. Worms and other beneficial insects will not flourish in a garden bed that is tilled too frequently.
How Should I Till My Garden?
Rear tillers are best used in a straight line. You’ll want to till in long straight lines for your first pass. Additional passes will require you to till perpendicular to the first pass.
We’ve provided tiller reviews for every budget. Which one is best?
We recommend the Troy Bilt Super Bronco because it’s feature-rich, works well, and is highly reviewed by consumers around the world. It’s the best rear tine tiller on our list this year.
The Earthquake Victory 33970 is a close second. It is easy to steer and has a slightly deeper till depth of up 10 inches. So this model may be a better choice for new beds that require a more thorough tilling. The compact size and powerful viper engine are a great choice for a medium plot that is being prepped for the upcoming growing season.