Tilling vs. Cultivating

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Here at RepairClinic.com, we are currently working on a new set of Mantis® tiller part replacement videos. While going through the different parts, it was pointed out to me that the tines or blades on this particular tiller can be reversed and achieve a different action. When the tines are facing the downward direction, this is considered tilling. When the tines are facing in an upwards direction, this is called cultivating.

So what’s the difference? What is tilling and what is cultivating?


Tilling is essentially the act of preparing your soil for gardening. When the tines are in the tilling position, they will turn and break up the soil up to slightly under a foot’s depth. They will also mix in any added soil components such as compost.

Tilling should obviously be done at the beginning of gardening season, as soon as the ground is soft enough to till. It should also be done at the end of gardening season, in order to prepare the soil for next year. This should involve mixing in a fertilizer and more compost and covering the soil with mulch to prevent runoff from rain. Doing these extra steps will go a long way toward having a great garden next year.


Cultivating, unlike tilling, only breaks the surface crust of the soil. This works to aerate the soil, making it easier for air, water and nutrients to get to the roots of the plants. This means less frequent water is necessary because the plants have better access to what they need. Cultivating also works to remove weeds from your garden and interrupts weed seed germination. This eliminates any competition for water and nutrients your plants may have had and it makes your garden look better!

Many of the smaller tillers on the market today can easily switch from a tilling position to a cultivating position. Both tilling and cultivating are vital to your garden’s growth, so it is a good idea to take time to understand how your tiller works.

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