The Best Garden Cultivators of 2023
Top-Rated & Best-Selling Cultivators
Whether you are an avid gardener, homesteader, or just a hobbyist who wants to start growing your own food, a cultivator is an essential tool for creating and maintaining garden plots to maximize the health and yield of the food you grow.
It's no surprise that not all cultivators are built the same, and we're here to help you decide which will be perfect for your needs. Unlike a tiller, a cultivator is specifically designed for garden plots, flower beds, weeding, and other helpful features that only suit mini tillers and not their much larger rototiller counterpart.
Spend some time reading through each of our categories, selections, and criteria for picking the best cultivator in its class. Don't forget to click on the product links to view more features, specs, reviews, and other great resources about each selection.
The Best Cultivators
For your convenience, on this page, we've also added several recommendations for tillers that are best suited for garden applications. Our other product recommendations for other types of tillers can be found by visiting our Best Tillers article.
|Best Garden Cultivator||Best Small Garden Cultivator||Best Small Garden Tiller||Best Tiller for Large Gardens||Best Tiller for Breaking New Ground|
How We Picked the Best Cultivators
When recommending garden cultivators, we take five features into account.
Even though you shouldn't use a cultivator to break new ground, you still want a cultivator with the power to get through tough soil, clay, rocks, and anything else you might encounter in your garden plot each season. While horsepower was the standard, direct, measure of power in the past, today many cultivator manufacturers list engine displacement in CCs, and more recently, battery power in amp-hours and voltage. The higher an engine’s CC, the more power it has the potential to create. That’s why, all things being equal, we’ll often recommend cultivators with a higher CC engine or more powerful batteries that give you more torque for rototilling your gardens. For cordless models, higher amp-hour batteries are preferred.
We like cultivators that stand the test of time, so we look at things like the construction material of the tines, frames, and handles—and how resistant they are to rocks or extended use. Hardened steel tines and sturdy gear boxes are some features we love to see. We also consider the construction of the controls and how we expect they will hold up over time. Plus, for gas units, we look at the air filter design and recoil sturdiness to see how they may impact the performance, durability, and longevity of the cultivator's engine.
The best cultivators need to be user-friendly. We look at comfort features, ease of maneuverability, and other added touches that make working your plots as simple and enjoyable as possible. What we look for here are features like comfortable handle grips, the ergonomics of the handlebars, transportation wheels, kickstands, and more.
We love tools that can do more than one job, so when rating the cultivators, we look at what accessories are available for them. Many have attachments that convert them to edgers, furrowers, dethatchers, and other useful tools. Some cultivators can have tines removed or added to adjust the width of their working path to allow you to get in between rows of flowers or other plantings. We take all of this into account with our ratings.
We prioritize performance over price, so you won’t find the cheapest cultivators on our list. Instead of evaluating solely on price point, we look at the overall value you're getting for the price to give our final value rating. You might pay a higher sticker price for some of these recommendations. Still, they offer valuable features like power, durability, and versatility that many models won't have, making your cultivating easier and more enjoyable in the long run.
Best Cultivator for Gardens: Mantis 7940 Mini Tiller/Cultivator
This Mantis 7940 garden cultivator takes our pick as the best cultivator for gardens because it's got all the power you need with the lightweight versatility you'd expect while re-tilling your garden plots and weeding between vegetable rows. Originally manufactured for professional landscapers in the late 70s, tens of thousands of these Mantis cultivator/ mini tillers have been sold to home gardeners. It's built to be strong when digging up to 10" deep into hard soil while being lightweight enough to carry around the garden with a convenient handle.
This cultivator/ mini tiller is easy to start, and quiet and the Honda 4-cycle engine means no fuel mixing is required. While cultivators are not designed for breaking new ground, this cultivator will still work well on new garden plots once it starts digging in, though it will take longer to get started. Once the ground has been tilled, re-tilling is a breeze and that's where this cultivator shines. Customers have told us they can clear an 8" deep 10'x15' plot in under 15 minutes.
The Mantis Model 7940 is a must-have tool for serious gardening enthusiasts. You'll dig through sod and hard (even rocky) soil with amazing ease. And all this power comes in a very lightweight package weighing only 24 pounds!
|Power||25cc 4-cycle engine with tines turning at 240 RPMs.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Durability||Heavy-duty cast housing with 1-piece gearbox, spring-steel serpentine tines.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Usability||4-cycle engine; soft grip handles; carrying handle; throttle activated clutch; includes speed control.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Versatility||Tills down 10"; lightweight and can be carried to different plots.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Overall Value||More expensive than similar cultivators in its class.||☆☆☆☆|
Who It's For:
- Gardeners and homeowners that need seasonal garden tilling
- Those that already have a garden plot and want to expand and maintain it
- Anyone who wants a powerful, light, and fast gas cultivator
- People who don't want to mix gas and oil ratios in a cultivator
Who It's Not For:
- Homeowners who just want the basics for cultivating a small garden plot
- Those who are on a tight budget
Best Small Garden Cultivator: Earthwise TC70040 Cordless Cultivator
The Earthwise (11") 40-volt lithium-ion cordless cultivator is perfect for those who want a quiet, emissions-free cultivator that can refresh the soil in your plots, raised beds, and flower beds each season. Powered by a 40-volt lithium-ion battery, this cultivator is light and maneuverable, and with its 4aH battery, you'll get up to 45 minutes on a single charge.
The 14-pound light profile of this battery-powered cultivator offers the most convenient option for small garden plots, flower beds, re-seeding, and general-purpose weeding. But don't let the lightweight frame fool you. This model also offers 4 steel tines with a width of 11" and a depth of 8," along with two transport wheels that flip easily for transporting anywhere on your property. As far as battery-powered small garden cultivators go, this mini tiller is hard to beat.
|Power||40-Volt, 4aH Lithium-Ion battery; 130 RPM idle speed.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Durability||4 steel tines.||☆☆☆☆|
|Usability||Lightweight; cordless; portable; a great replacement for a gas tiller; 45-min battery.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Versatility||Easy to move between garden plots and flower beds; 7"-11" width and 8" depth.||☆☆☆☆|
|Overall Value||One of the best electric cultivators around for price, size, and performance.||☆☆☆☆☆|
Who It's For:
- Homeowners that need a lightweight and multipurpose cultivator
- Those on a budget and prefer battery-powered equipment to gas
Who It's Not For:
- Those that have large garden plots that need to be deeply tilled
- Those preferring the power of a gas tiller
Best Small Garden Tiller: Earthquake MC440 Gas Cultivator
This powerful but lightweight Earthquake front-tine tiller has a powerful 40cc Viper 4-cycle engine and doesn't require oil and fuel mixing. It offers variable speed control for versatility when cultivating different soil types, and is quieter than some tillers of a similar size. It's light enough to be carried and transported between garden plots and flower beds, but heavy-duty enough to stay on the ground when cultivating tougher spots, with minimal kickback.
We like this front-tine tiller best because, unlike other front-tine tillers, this one has the most powerful 4-cycle engine with a max 8" depth and 10" tine width, a durable bronze gear drive, and it's lightweight enough to carry around but tough enough to get small jobs done fast. Earthquake has been around for over 50 years and has specialized in making outdoor power equipment, so it wasn't surprising that this tiller stands up in its class.
|Power||40cc Viper 4-cycle gas engine.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Durability||Solid bronze gear drive; superior air-filter design for longer life.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Usability||Lightweight; ergonomic handlebar design for minimizing fatigue; standing-start operation; quieter than some competition; can't set depth.||☆☆☆☆|
|Versatility||Adjustable lift-and-lock wheels; variable-speed control for different soil types; easy to handle on both flat and unlevel, rough plots and flower beds.||☆☆☆☆|
|Overall Value||Great value for the price and conveniences of a 4-cycle engine.||☆☆☆☆☆|
Who It's For:
- Homeowners who need to cultivate small plots or flower beds
- Homeowners with limited storage space in their garage
Who It's Not For:
- Homeowners who need something heavier-duty for new garden plots
- Those that want more features like adjustable speed or variable depths
Best Tiller for Large Gardens: Troy-Bilt Big Red™ Tiller
If you've got or want a large garden, this is the tiller you need. The Troy-Bilt Big Red™ rear-tine tiller is a behemoth when it comes to heavy-duty tilling, and is designed for gardens over 2,500 square feet. It boasts a Briggs & Stratton 306cc OHV engine with electric starting. The 12" steel bolo tines give you a width of 20" and a depth of 7", all while the tine shields protect you and others from harm. The rugged cast-iron transmission with bronze gearbox gives you plenty of extra durability and power for tough jobs, with 4 forward speeds, a neutral speed, and 2 reverse speeds. Though this tiller is heavy and powerful, it's still versatile enough to push with one hand on either side of the tiller.
This rear-tine tiller is as serious as it gets for large garden plots that need to be tilled quickly and efficiently. All the weight is in the rear of this tiller, giving you great depth when you need it during tilling projects.
|Power||306cc Briggs & Stratton 4-cycle OHV commercial-grade engine; 14.5 lb-ft gross torque.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Durability||Rugged cast iron transmission with bronze gear drive; 12" bolo tines; 16" AG tires.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Usability||One-hand operation; tine safety shields and front bumper; 7 variable speeds.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Versatility||Multiple adjustable tine widths; 7 tine depth settings; no additional attachments.||☆☆☆☆|
|Overall Value||Higher price range, but you’ll get a long life out of its heavy-duty construction.||☆☆☆☆☆|
Who It's For:
- Heavy-duty tilling needs on large garden plots (2,500sqft +)
- Those that want to till large plots quickly every season
Who It's Not For:
- Those with small plot tiller needs
- Those who want just the basics and a lower price point
Best Tiller for Breaking New Ground:
Troy-Bilt Mustang (18") Dual-Rotating Rear Tine Tiller
The Troy-Bilt Mustang (18") rear tine tiller is truly the best for breaking new ground for a garden plot thanks to its dual-rotating capability. This, along with the tillers' weight and rear-tine design, allows for deeper penetration into new ground.
Dual rotation allows you to easily switch between forward-and reverse-rotating tines with the push of a button. On your first pass, use the reverse-tine mode to dig deep and aggressively break the ground. Then, do a second pass using the forward-tine mode to grind the soil into finer, smaller pieces. You can turn the unbroken ground into usable soil in no time—exactly what homeowners want when starting a new garden plot.
The Troy-Bilt also offers 5 depth-adjustment positions down to 7.5,” making it the best candidate for tilling new garden plots. It really doesn't get better than this for heavy-duty powerhouse tines like this one.
|Power||208cc 4-cycle OHM Troy-Bilt engine.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Durability||13" steel tines; heavy-duty 16"x4" tires.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Usability||Single-hand operation; 5 height adjustment settings; 7.5" multiple depth settings; 18" width; comfortable handle grips.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Versatility||Power reverse; dual-rotating and counter-rotating tines.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Overall Value||Premium pricing but has great features and performance as compared to cheaper models.||☆☆☆☆☆|
Who It's For:
- People who need new plots tilled for gardens or large areas
- People who need heavy-duty tilling but light handling (one-hand operation)
- Gardeners who need harder soil plots re-seeded or re-plowed
Who It's Not For:
- Homeowners who just want the basics
- Farmers who need acres of ground tilled
Garden Cultivator FAQs
What's the difference between a tiller and a cultivator?
Many people use 'tiller' and 'cultivator' interchangeably, however, they each have distinct purposes and are each designed for different jobs. A 'rototiller' or simply, 'tiller,' is meant to break new ground for new garden plots and flower beds when you need to unearth fresh ground and impacted hard soil, clay soils, etc. Tillers are built heavier-duty and are designed to rip apart and dig deep into whatever ground it's moving across. You use a tiller to create a new garden plot or other large areas of plotted land.
A cultivator is meant to re-till existing plots and churn larger broken ground pieces into more finely ground soil needed for planting and gardening plots. A cultivator is a prime candidate for the second season of garden reseeding and onward. While tillers dig deeply into the soil and recycle the earth in larger chunks, cultivators finely grind up those pieces into the same soft soil consistency you'd purchase in soil bags at your local hardware store. These finer soil mixes are ideal for gardening and planting. You use a tiller to maintain the health of your existing garden plots.
Learn more about the distinct differences and when to use each in our tiller vs cultivator buyer’s guide.
What's the difference between front-tine, mid-tine, and rear-tine?
The orientation of where the tines are on your tiller/cultivator is what the front, mid, and rear types are referring to. The placement of the tines has several advantages/ disadvantages in each of those three configurations. Front tine tillers are typically cheaper and can be used for weeding and blending soil. Mid-tine tillers are the easiest type to use because the engines and tines are directly in the middle of the tiller, easily distributing the weight and making them a great choice for gardeners with larger plots to till. Rear tine tillers are the ideal choice for breaking new ground and plots that have heavy clay soil, because most of them also include options for different tine directions for maximum impact.
Read our rototiller buyer's guide for more information.
What's the difference between forward-tine, counter-tine, and dual-rotating tillers?
When discussing the rotation of the tiller tines, these distinctions explain whether the tines only move forward, are reversible and move forward or backward, or counter-rotate, meaning different tines are moving in both directions simultaneously.
Dale has been involved with gasoline-powered engines, especially small engines since he bolted the first one onto his Schwinn bike at 12 years old. After high school, he spent 19 years in the automotive parts industry, working for retailers, distributors, and manufacturers.
In 1994, Dale entered the small engine and power equipment industry, offering product and technical assistance to power equipment dealers and their customers. Since 2016, he has been a full-time sales and product expert at Power Equipment Direct, where he largely focuses on helping customers select the best lawn and garden equipment for their needs.
In his off time, Dale enjoys working on his own cars and power equipment. He is a go-to resource for friends, family, and coworkers who need a hand diagnosing or repairing their broken lawnmowers or string trimmers. When not around engines, he is a drummer in a local Chicago-area band. Hockey dominates his TV time during the NHL season, and he enjoys relaxing on his pontoon boat during the summer months.