How to Use an Electric Garden Tiller

Last Updated on October 2, 2023 by Kyle Whitley

how to use an electric garden tiller

Planting a garden, planting flowers, or reseeding your lawn often requires that you use a garden tiller to till or turn over the soil in the garden, flower bed, or lawn.  There are two main types of powered garden tillers, gas, and electric garden tillers.  We are going to focus on how to use an electric garden tiller.

Garden Tilling Basics

So why would you want to use a garden tiller?  Garden tillers are mainly used for breaking up compacted soil.  By busting up the soil with the tiller tines, you loosen the soil so that new plants have an easier time rooting into the soil.

Reason’s for using a garden tiller

  • break up hard and compacted soil
  • weed in an established garden
  • to aerate the soil in the lawn or garden
  • working in soil amendments into the soil (fertilizer or weed preventers)

Types of Garden Tillers

There are really two types of garden tillers front tine and rear tine tillers.  Front tine tillers can be powered by both gasoline or electric powered motors.  Rear tine tillers which are intended for very compact soils are almost always gasoline-powered.

We are focusing on electric tillers for this article and there are two types of electric tillers as well.  There are corded electric tillers and battery powered electric tillers.  Both have there pros and cons.  The pros and cons are similar to the pros and cons of electric lawn mowers or string trimmers.  Unlimited power vs mobility.

Pros and Cons of Corded Electric Garden Tillers


  • Unlimited power
  • Powerful ac/dc motors
  • Lighter weight


  • Limited by power source
  • Length of extension cord limits garden location
  • Lack of mobility

Pros and Cons of Cordless or Battery Powered Electric Garden Tillers


  • Mobility, mobility, mobility
  • Lightweight
  • Being able to extend runtimes with extra batteries


  • Limited runtimes
  • Smaller tiling widths
  • Less powerful than corded models


When Should we Till the Garden or Lawn?

For the most part, when planting a garden you would want to till the garden in spring after there are no more chances of frost.  Tilling the warming soils of spring will make turning over the soil that much easier.

If you are tilling for a new lawn, of course, fill free to till the soil when you are planning the lawn rejuvenation.  That being said for warm-season grasses that would usually be in the spring and for cool-season grasses you might do some tilling during the fall.


What to do Before you Till a Garden?

Like most gardening or planting, you need to pay special attention to your soil prior to tilling with your electric garden tiller.  As far as your garden goes, check to see if the soil is wet or to dry.  Either end of the spectrum should cause you to pause your tilling activities.

Tilling soil that is to wet will cause issues with soil compaction and issues with wear and tear on your electric tiller.  However, if the soil is excessively dry, you might want to water the soil down to make it easier to till.  After watering you might want to let the soil sit for a day before tilling.

Another thing you should do is clean up the area where you are going to till.  You don’t want to leave any rocks, roots, or leftover sod in the garden area.


Operating you Electric Garden Tiller

It goes without saying, but please read your owner’ manual prior to operating your electric garden tiller.  I will go over some general instructions on how to operate an electric garden tiller, but please refer to your electric tillers owner’s manual for more detailed information.

Starting you Tiller

This is really easy and one of the bounses of using electric outdoor power equipment.  You simply have to either plug the electric tiller in and pull the power trigger or put a battery in the electric tiller and pull the power switch.  The power switch might be handle bar type switch or a trigger.  These are usually located on the tiller handle bar. Can’t get much easier than that.

If you have a corded electric tiller, you will need to prepare the extension cord and make sure you attach the extension cord to the tiller to keep it out of the way of the tines.

Tilling Soil or Preparing a Seed Bed

You will want to wheel the electric tiller over to the area where you are wanting to prepare a sed bed or to till the soil.

  • Point the electric tiller tines in the direction you are wanting to till
  • Make sure there are no obstructions (roots, rocks, or power cords) in the path of the tines
  • Engage the tine by activating the tiller, usually located on the tiller handle
  • Start making a single pass over the area you are wanting to till

Tilling soil is very much like cutting grass with a gas or electric lawn mower.  You are going to want to follow a pattern and going backward and forward over the area to be tilled.  One thing to note for especially compacted soil you will need to make several passes get the soil busted and turned over enough to make it soft enough for planting.

What to Do When You Are Finished Tilling

When you have finished your tilling, electric tillers are pretty easy to deal with.  To stop the tines simply release the power trigger or bar to stop the tines from moving.  You can then either unplug or remove the battery from the tiller to make sure the tiller is safe to move and work on.

You will want to remove the dirt, grass, or other organic material from the electric tiller tines prior to storage.  Also, lubricate the tines with a spray-on silicone type lubricant to prevent the tines from rusting.


The Do’s and Don’ts of Using an Electric Garden Tiller

With all electric outdoor power equipment, there are do’s and don’t that you should follow to help make your experience a safe and productive time. Electric garden tillers are no different and here are a few do’s and don’ts that we thought would help make your experience that much safer and more enjoyable.

The Do’s

  • Always, always, always read your instruction manual.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  There is safety and maintenance information that is invaluable to your electric tillers operation and maintenance.
  • Engage the power slowly.  Take my advice the tiller can and will run away from you if it engages and hits hard ground.
  • Start at a shallow depth.  Making an initial shallow pass with the garden tiller will allow turn over the compacted soil and lower stress on your electric garden tiller
  • Let the tiller do the work.  Let the tiller pull itself along, don’t fight it.
  • If you happen to hit an object while tilling, stop the tiller, unplug or remove the battery from the tiller.  Then inspect the tines for any damage.  Do not continue tilling with damaged tines.
  • Call 811 (Call before you dig).  In the United States we have a number we can call where someone will come out and mark any existing underground services prior to you doing any digging.

The Don’ts

  • Leave any debris in the garden or the lawn.  This includes roots, rocks, or loose items in the lawn or garden.  These object can become hazards to you and the tiller.
  • Operate the tiller when there isn’t sufficient light and visibility to see what you are tilling.
  • Don’t over till.  Over tilling can cause issue with compaction and deoxygenation of the soil which is what you are trying to avoid by tilling.
  • Start tilling where ever you want.  Please call 811 if you are in the US, to make sure you are tilling in an area that doesn’t have underground utilities.
  • Immediately start planting.  Give the soil some time to rest and decompose any organic materials that got tilled up when you ran your electric garden tiller.


Summing it up

As you can see using an electric garden tiller is not a very complicated task.  You pretty much have to provide power and pull the trigger.  What might not be so easy is making sure you till at the correct time and till the soil correctly.  I think by following some of these simple do’s and don’ts, you will know how to use and electric garden tiller.



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