advice re tillers please

Madison, WI

I'm thinking of getting one of the 4-cycle tiller/cultivators, like Craftsman 26cc cultivator/edger sold by Sears. Any advice? (I have big bed areas to turn over..)Thanks!

Hughesville, MO(Zone 5a)

It matters not the size of the machine but how well it performs and if you can handle it without suffering pain and stiffness afterward. Can you get it to and from the storage shed & gardening area? We too have large area to till and often rip out heavy sod that is a mat of roots. Our ground is sometimes stoney or just plain big rocks or old pieces of harnesses or pieces of machinery or tools left there by a previous generation. What do we use? If the area is really big and I can get the guys to hook up the big 5' field tiller to the tractor I'll let them do it for me. Otherwise I get out the Mantis and go to work. The Mantis does a wonderful job no matter what I am trying to do. At 27 lbs. it isn't too heavy for me to handle either. The sharp tines tear and rip sod, mix mulch, flip out rocks and buried trash, and leaves the soil in good condition for planting.

Madison, WI

Thank you Leaflady! I have since found out more about the Mantis- and it seems the right one for me. I was interested though that you list yours as weighing 27 lbs, but the Mantis website makes the point of its 20lb weight- possibley without fuel?

Madison, WI

Thank you Leaflady! I have since found out more about the Mantis- and it seems the right one for me. I was interested though that you list yours as weighing 27 lbs, but the Mantis website makes the point of its 20lb weight- possibley without fuel?

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

I don't know much about brands of tillers, bit I DO know that I'll never buy a front-tine tiller! They will just about kill you when tilling. I used to have a Troy-built, years ago... the old one with the cast iron engine.... and I loved it.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

my vote is for the mantis

Belfield, ND(Zone 4a)

I have had the tiller on the back of our garden tractor for years, and while it works great, it's a pain in the neck to get DH to switch it from mower to tiller when I need it. This last spring he bought me a mantis and I have not had to ask him to put the tiller on the garden tractor all summer. Both of us are more than happy with the mantis. I can till where ever I want when ever I want and I can start it myself, and he is happy that I'm not constantly asking him to switch from mower to tiller or visa versa.

My veggie garden is almost a 1/2 acre, (working on reducing that by putting in raised beds), and I have many flower gardens started. With the mantis, I can till a little bit each day and keep up rather than letting the weeds get out of hand while begging for the tiller to be put on the tractor. I can chew up a lot of area in a short while with it too. With 5 acres to mow, mowing is also a never ending job and one that we work on all summer long. So now, with the mantis, I can till a bit each day and keep up, and the mower can stay on the tractor and whichever kid is handy for a while can mow a bit. No hassles of changing equipment.

So, to make a long story short...I vote for the mantis too!

Allen Park, MI(Zone 6a)

I was going to buy a Mantis until I discovered the Honda Mini-Tiller.
Its the same size as the Mantis but its a 4 cycle no mixing oil with gas.

I've had mine for 4 years and I love it. It starts the first pull and really gets the job done.


Jacksonville, IL(Zone 5a)

I also have the little Mantis tiller and just love it! I'm not a strong person and can easily start this tiller with just a few pulls. (as opposed to pulling the lawn mower cord about 60 times!) I don't have much of a garden or beds but I sure love how it is so easy to work. And I have used the edging wheel to edge my driveway and sidewalks with success. Rose

Temple, GA(Zone 7b)

I adore my Mantis, even in this red Ga clay, it tears it up. It has been a lifesaver. I also looked at the honda, but you didn't get as many accessories and was a little more costly! But I'm sure it is a great machine and almost bought it, but had my heart set on a Mantis!!! Mantis is my Favorite Gardening tool!

Traci S (God Luck)

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

i have a problem with my mantis-i keep piling the dirt up to much on the plants-my iris rhimzones are under the ground now-i have root rot on some plants -so becareful! I do luv my lil mantis though

rural, WY(Zone 3a)

Notmarha, it is not normal cultivating practice to till within actively growing/planted perennial beds. If you do have space to till, you will most certainly have to rake the soil afterwords not to get the problems you have. I fine a strap hoe very effective in those spotes, even in large gardens.

Jacksonville, IL(Zone 5a)

I love my mantis! Light weight and easy to start. Does a great job.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi all,

My favorite tiller is the mid-tined triple-reduction Merry Tiller. Actually, the Mantis is just a very small mid-tined tiller because the weight of its engine is also balanced over the tines. You could think of the Merry Tiller as a very large Mantis that runs in slow motion.

I used a triple-reduction Merry Tiller for about ten years in Texas, and a couple of years in Kansas. I eventually lost it, and a full set of accessories, in a flood in Missouri. Then we went through about eight years of apartment living, with no access to gardening.

Now, here in Maine, we can garden again, and I will be buying another Merry Tiller to replace the tiller I lost. It will be a very similar mid-tined model to my old tiller. I fondly named my old tiller "Tillie." I will also name my new tiller "Tillie." I am looking forward to using Tillie again this spring.

I prefer the mid-tined triple-reduction Merry Tiller to the rear-tined tillers, such as the Troy-Bilt, because the mid-tined Merry Tillers can till deeper and, with their triple reduction slim profile transmissions, they have much higher torque and much slower tine speed, so they don't throw dirt and they don't need any kind of dirt shield. That gives you a clear view of what the tines are doing and where they are going. You can rescue a toad if you need to, or remove a rock that gets brought up by the tines. I found many interesting things as the tines gently brought them to the surface, including a ring, a watch, a rusted pocket knife, some small toys, and numerous sea-floor fossils.

The slow, gentle tilling action of the Merry Tiller doesn't "purée" the soil like the higher speed rear-tine tillers. I've heard that if you cut an earthworm in two that both pieces can grow back into whole earthworms. Now I don't know if that is true, but I doubt that such regeneration would occur if you cut the earthworm into thousands of pieces (grin). Also, high speed tines destroy the soil's crumb structure. The soil is a living thing. Each soil crumb is a little micro ecosystem that is best kept intact by gentle blending rather than violent churning. Tillers don't have to destroy soil structure.

And the gentle way is quieter, too. The triple-reduction transmission allows the tiller to operate fully immersed in soil with the engine running just a little above idle. Without the triple reduction, the engine would stall. The slim transmission case slices easily through the soil, though deeply immersed.

The rear-tined tillers are a vehicle, sort of like a street cleaning machine. The triple-reduction Merry Tiller uses its wheels only for transport to the work site, where you raise the wheels and use it more like a big kitchen mixer that blends the soil at a slow speed.

Rocky soil is one of the biggest challenges for a tiller. If you are working in rocky soil with a mid-tine tiller, and I did quite a bit of that, you can partially lower the wheels to stabilize the tiller as it gently rolls the rocks out onto the surface where they are easy to pick up.

Rocks don't purée very well, but the triple-reduction torque just brings them up to the surface with slow grace. You learn to relax and not fight the tiller and let it do the work. The advertising of rear-tine tillers promoted the myth that all other tillers are difficult to use. That simply isn't so.

-- Burton --

Everson, WA(Zone 8a)

There are several good tiller brands out there and Craftsman is not one of them in the mini versiom.

The Craftsman mini style tiller uses a brass worm screw to drive against a steel gear. The lubrication for this gear drive is not goog enough to keep it from galling and freezing up. The parts alone are around eighty bucks.

I bought one of these from sears about six years ago and thought it was so neat I told three friends about it and they got one to, Hey why not save a hundred bucks. The first one failed at about 18 months and we thought it to be a fluke we bought the parts and fixed it. Since they have all died and the one we fixed has died for the second time.

My mantis is a 81 or 82 model and still works fine I don't have an edger for it though so can't comment on that.

Honda has a good habit of not building junk when it comes to building thingsI would think Honda or Mantis would do you justice. Ernie

California, MD(Zone 7a)

I have had Troy-Bilts for the last 30 years. Had the 8HP Horse and now, since I don't have a large place, anymore, I have the Pony. Don't waste your money on a Craftsman/Sears. They are more trouble than they are worth.

A Troy is gear driven, all except one belt, which is the drive belt... and that belt will last for years if you keep the machine out of the weather when storing it.

A Mantis is good for little gardens and light cultivating, it is NOT a tiller for a job such as you describe. It is what we called, in the trades, a "Harry Homeowner" tiller.

Take care and Happy Gardening.


It is also very easy to operate. You can, LITERALLY, guide it with 2 fingers. And there are numerous attachments and it travels under its own power. Please read ALL the info before you commit to something you may not be satisfied with. I did and when I found out I screwed up, I bought the Troy. (I had bought a MW, rear tine... and it was JUNK.

Thumbnail by Electric_Bob
Garner, NC(Zone 7b)

I currently own a BCS 850 14hp walking tractor for my market garden. Having owned Troy Bilts before, there is no comparison. The BCS 5hp model will outwork a Troy bilt hands down. And the catch is that BCS and Troy bilts are generally the same price. For the money, go with all gear drive in the BCS for the transmission AND the tiller. Also, BCS products have other attachments like a lawn mower, snowblower, rotary plow (have the plow, it plows down mature rye cover crop that nothing else can touch), tillers, etc. BCS tractors are Italian made and of superior quality to anything American. Parts are readily available b/c they use Briggs/Honda/Kohler engines depending on the model.
Check out www.
Or even better site:
Joel Dufour at the above address is an awesome BCS dealer and will ship anywhere in the US if you don't have a local dealer. Tell him Tom K. from Raleigh, NC sent you!

This message was edited Jan 16, 2004 12:35 AM

Garner, NC(Zone 7b)

Check this out.....

Thumbnail by tbolt76
California, MD(Zone 7a)

Well, I hadn't heard of the BCS, but I still prefer to buy USA. If you have the Troy rear tine tiller, you don't really need that plow. The tiller will go as deep as that plow and the plow is hard to handle in hard ground, where the tiller is not. Gravely makes the same plow and I used to have one. It was so messy and unweildly that I just got rid of it, plus it lings dirt all over the place. The Troy tiller leaves a nice, soft, even garden bed.

The troy also has available; a snow blower, generator, logsplitter, snow/grader blade, hiller/furrower, etc.

From his/her post, I don't think "kypug" wants anything as extravagant as you describe, just a good tiller.

It sure looks like BCS has copied the Troy-Bilt and the Gravely machines and used them for a pattern.

Anyway, to each his own. Like I said, I'd rather buy American and the Troy is built right there in Troy, NY. I hope this helps, kypug.

Garner, NC(Zone 7b)

Dear EB,
I would agree with you, that KPUG wants a small machine. I threw my picture in there to show others who may not be familar w/BCS. I like to buy USA too, but no company, not even Gravely, makes a rear/front mount set-up like BCS. As for the Rotary Plow, BCS's is a rear mount like the tiller and is not a demon like Gravely's front mount one they have had for years. It is very efficient and doesn't develop a mind of its own. As for Troy-Bilt, they are no longer made in Troy, NY. They were bought out/went out of business 1-2 years ago and are now controlled by White/MTD I believe headquartered in Ohio. My dad and I have owned Troy's for 20+ years (and I'm originally from NY) but the BCS is so much better b/c in Europe they design their walking tractors to be small scale ag. equipment, not just semi-pro as I would classify Troy. Troy has always had great quality, but there are things it can do that Troys just cant.

Do any of these machines have a branch chipping attachment?

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Jorge, I know the Gravely does (it has 57 attachments) but can't say about the BCS. The Troybilt doesn't, unless it has come out in the past year.

I have the old "un-wieldy" Gravely (with a rotary plow, bush hog blade, scrape blade) as well as a Troybilt. I wouldn't give either one of them up. They each are kings in their own right. Some machines are better in certain conditions/situations than others. There is no one machine that is "the" best in all areas.

Also, it's important to remember, many of these machines operate differently depending on the type of soil/clay/whatever they are put to use in. If the soil is a nice loose friable medium, every one of the above-mentioned machines will cruise like a charm and can be operated one-handed, leaving the "perfect" worked soil in their wake.

California, MD(Zone 7a)


Is this what you're looking for? It is the Troy-Bilt chipper/shredder. The unit itself is a PTO unit and you can change from the tiller to logsplitter, chipper/shredder, generator, snowblower, cultivators, etc. The hiller/furrower digs a trench for potatoes, etc., and then you go down each side and cover them up. There is also a safety bumper to protect the carburetor and fuel tank from damage and I would recommend for you to get that. Sometimes they have a sale where they throw the hiller and bumper in for free, as a bonus.

Also TB, I do remember that MTD bought them out, I'd just forgotten, Fact remains, though, they're still in the United States and are made from American parts.

(As an aside... the Harley Davidson fanatics give me a big bunch of heartache over my choosing the Honda Gold Wing over an "American-made bike" until I show them the "Made in China" on the carburetor, "Made in Japan" on the wiring harnesses and brake, throttle and clutch cables and the speedometer and tach.

The Honda Gold Wing is ALSO made in Ohio. Marion, to be exact. And by American workers. It is not built in Japan, then shipped here and assembled.)

Take care and happy gardening, y'all!

This message was edited Jan 17, 2004 1:26 PM

Thumbnail by Electric_Bob
California, MD(Zone 7a)

Uh-oh!! I think I goofed. Looks like MTD has changed the pattern and the logsplitter and chipper/shredder no longer run off the tiller motor. Oh well, trust MTD to screw up a good idea.

Sorry guys.

This message was edited Jan 17, 2004 1:33 PM

Garner, NC(Zone 7b)

Dear Jorge Ozog,
BCS make a chipper/shredder that hitches right up to the PTO on their 8hp and up machines. Check out the website in my post above. If you have any other questions, let me know. Oh, and Horseshoe, you know the BCS rules cause you've seen it in person!

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Yep, I certainly agree, Tom, that BCS is quite a machine! Never got to operate it tho!
It, too, is a machine that looks like it will last a lifetime, very well built!

By the way, ktpug, in your original post, you said you had big bed big? Maybe the size will help determine what you may like best. And also how much room/turn-around room you have to work with. Also, did you go ahead and get the Mantis? Just curious.

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or sign up to post.