Do you love gardening but hate the idea of tilling? Well, you’re not alone. Even though tilling the soil is a vital part of keeping your garden healthy, it can be challenging if you don’t have the right tools.
With that in mind, we have the top 8 handheld tillers that you should consider for use in your garden. Additionally, our buyer’s guide will show you how to choose a handheld tiller that’s right for you.
We’ve included handy tips and techniques to make tilling a breeze, and you’ll find a quick rundown of the different types of hand tillers, as well as their main features.
How to Choose a Handheld Tiller: A Buyer’s Guide
Handheld tillers go by many names. They’re sometimes referred to as hand cultivators, gardening claws, and even hand rakes.
No matter what you call them, tillers are the perfect tool for your garden, and a must-have for every gardener.
Hand tillers are small and convenient, which makes them ideal for those hard-to-reach spots. The best part is you don’t have to worry about damaging your plants.
Let’s take a look at the different types of tillers available on the market.
Different Types of Hand Tillers
Generally, all hand tillers have the same basic concept. On one end there is a handle, while the other end has a claw.
Extending from that claw are prongs, or tines, whose number can be anywhere from two to six depending on the model. These are the most important part of the tiller.
These handy gardening tools are great for removing pesky weeds, and they also do a great job of aerating the soil. This is when you fluff up the area around the base of your plants to add nutrients and fertilizer.
If you prefer not to do any manual labor, there are also electric and gas-powered tillers. Keep reading to find out more.
Electric tillers are powered by an electric engine. Simply plug it in and get tilling. These models are energy efficient and quiet, which makes them ideal for most home gardens.
Their main drawback is they’ll let you only go as far as their cord will allow, or until the battery runs out. Besides, they’re not as powerful as gas-powered tillers.
Gas-powered tillers come in various sizes. They range from the small two-cylinder engine to the more powerful four-stroke engines.
These types of tillers can work for a long time on a full tank of gas. They’re quite powerful and are ideal for large gardens.
Their downside is they can be pretty noisy. Check with your local city regulations before choosing a gas-powered tiller.
They also require extra maintenance and care compared with other types of tillers.
Short vs. Long-Handled
Both short-handled and long-handled tillers are pretty good at getting the job done. The difference is in their handle design.
When you’re using short handheld tillers, you need to get down on your hands and knees. Next, with the tiller in your hand, thrust it into the soil. After that, just twist the tiller to remove rocks, weeds, and other garden debris. These compact tools work best in small areas where the soil isn’t deep.
Yet, some users prefer long-handled tillers over those with short handles. One reason is long-handled tillers help reduce back strain.
Moreover, one of their best features is they provide more leverage. All you do is place your foot on the top part of the claw, and then lean on the platform and use your body weight to drive the tiller into the ground.
Long-handled tillers are ideal for large spaces and areas where the soil is deep. Also, they can be more comfortable if you’re not able to kneel when working in the garden.
Features To Look For In Your Handheld Tiller
Now that you know the different types of tillers, let’s look at some of their features and uses.
When choosing the handle length, think about what jobs you plan on doing around your garden. Do you prefer a long-handled tiller to prevent straining your back?
Having the right length helps you hold your tool comfortably while you’re standing. If this is a must, your best bet would be a long-handled tiller. Maybe pick one with a telescopic handle for added convenience.
Alternatively, maybe you have a small garden where most of the work will be in tight areas. In that case, a small handheld tiller would be better. Short tillers are better for removing weeds from around stems without damaging the plants.
Handle grips should be ergonomic to reduce hand fatigue and prevent blisters. You can choose between wooden or cushioned handles. Both are durable, non-slip, and easy to use.
Others come with a rubber handle. Rubber is durable yet still manages to offer an excellent grip.
Many tillers do more than just till. Newer models can cultivate the lawn, remove weeds, aerate the soil, and much more.
This usually requires additional attachments, which are sold separately. You can also find tillers that come with extra attachments. This way, you’ll get more bang for your buck and have a beautiful yard to show for it!
Having a versatile hand tiller can save you both time and effort when working in the garden. What’s even better is having a tiller you can adjust in a variety of ways. It means with one tool you can deal with a variety of different challenges or problems that may come up.
One example is a tiller with an adjustable handle. This feature is commonly found in long-handled tillers and can boost productivity and comfort.
Many tillers also feature adjustable tines. Having this option means you can get multiple jobs done with ease and efficiency. Simply adjust the tines into the configuration you want and you’re all set!
Ease Of Use
Every gardener knows the importance of having user-friendly gardening tools. So, whether you pick a short handheld tiller or one with a long handle, make sure it doesn’t put extra strain on your back and neck.
Without a doubt, the tines are the most vital part of the tiller. The type of material and design can determine whether a certain type of tiller is the right one for you.
Look for tines made of sturdy materials that can stand the test of time. They should also be rust and corrosion-resistant.
Another factor to consider is the configuration of the tines on manual tillers. Each design changes how a tiller works and how productive it can be.
Some have claw-like tines to plow through the soil. There are others with wheels that roll into the ground. Both these designs prevent debris build-up on the tiller. They also help you carry out many gardening jobs with ease.
Spikes are what we call the sharp edges on the tines. They come in many shapes and designs. Yet, their most important feature is the distance between them.
Spikes with wide spaces are better used in large gardens. For smaller-sized gardens, it’s better to use a tiller with narrow spaces between each spike.
Additionally, you can also have long spikes. These are ideal for areas where the soil is deep. They also come in handy in large gardens, especially in areas where the ground is firm or difficult to manage.
As with all gardening tools, hand tillers should be able to withstand years of heavy-duty use. They should also be able to handle their fair share of drops and bumps without breaking or bending.
For them to do this, tiller claws should be made with high-grade steel or aluminum. The handles also should be made of solid wood or steel.
No matter the material, it’s important to clean the tiller after each use, and to store it properly as well. Make sure it’s stored in a dry place, preferably above floor level.
Hand tillers in general are pretty light, so as you don’t feel fatigued or strain as you’re tilling the soil. Yet, you’ll undoubtedly find slight variations between each model.
Keep an eye on the weight of each tiller. Pick one that’s both lightweight and durable so that it can handle the heavy wear and tear of garden work. Remember that long-handled tillers are going to weigh more than handheld models.
Hand tillers come in a wide range of prices to fit every budget. Cheap tillers are typically made from flimsy materials that typically don’t last long.
Therefore, it might be a good idea to invest in a high-quality tiller that you won’t have to replace every few months. You can find many great choices on the market that meet your budget but are still sturdy and long-lasting. We’ve listed 8 of the best ones below.
The Top 8 Handheld Tillers Reviewed
#1. Yard Butler Twist Heavy Duty Hand Tiller
- LIFETIME GUARANTEE: Stop buying plastic or cheap metal products that don't hold up over the years. Yard Butler products are designed to last a lifetime and if you have a problem with our tools we make...
- LONG HANDLED GARDEN CLAW CULTIVATOR's step plate and wide 12 inch T handle uses the force of your body to easily rotate sharp angled claw tines into hard compacted soil.
- HANDHELD TWIST TILLER loosens, turns, tills, and aerates soil promoting the free flow of water, air, and fertilizer for a healthier and more beautiful yard and garden.
The Yard Butler Twist Heavy Duty Hand Tiller tops our list of the best hand tillers for your lawn or garden. This tiller is very tough and heavy duty, and is perfect for any job needed in your garden, like cultivating, aerating, and weeding. It is made with ½ inch powder coated steel and has 6 sharp angled claw tines that effectively penetrate even the most compacted soil.
The shaft is 38 inches long, meaning it is ergonomically designed to require less back strain and bending over, allowing you to get more strength and torque with less injury risk. The steel step plate helps you to use your own body weight to more easily shove the tiller into the ground, and the 12 inch T handle with comfortably cushioned hand grips allow you to twist the tines more effectively, promoting a freer flow of air, fertilizer, and water within the soil.
This hand tiller is great for raised flower beds, as well as mixing fertilizer or peat moss in hard to reach areas, like if you’re working around shrubbery or other plants. It can also be sold with extra attachments such as an aeration tool or a rotary cultivator if needed.
#2. Asano Japanese Ninja Claw Rake and Cultivator
- Country of origin: CN
- Model: 05080
- Brand: HAOHIYO
The Asano Japanese Ninja Claw Rake and Cultivator is a perfect hand tiller for those looking to work on a budget. It is a small, inexpensive, yet highly effective tool that would be a great addition to any gardening toolbox. The Ninja Claw is the very definition of handheld – it is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. It is only about 9 inches long, with a 5 ½ inch long wooden handle that is easy to grip and has that handmade, traditional feel.
It also only weighs 6.6 ounces, which allows you to swing it and dig with it much easier and with more force and makes your soil tilling faster. The claw is made up of 5 prongs that are made from long lasting Japanese steel. The 5 claws have a spread of 4 ¾ inches, and are fully curved and sharpened at the points to more effectively break up and aerate the soil. This tool would be perfect for any hand cultivating work you could think of, like weeding, mixing fertilizer or soils together, and aerating.
#3. Edward Tools Hoe and Cultivator Hand Tiller
- Carbon steel blade and head for heavy duty use
- Ergonomic rubber handle is more comfortable and grippy
- Solid oak for extra strength and durability
The Edward Tools Hoe and Cultivator Hand Tiller is an excellent heavy duty hand tiller for loosening new soil, weeding, and digging. It is relatively inexpensive compared to similar models, and it is of high enough quality that it will last longer than competitors as well. It is a multi-use tool, with two different heads attached to the handle, both made with durable carbon steel.
The first is a blade tool that is sharp and strong and acts as a hoe, which you can use to shape the soil in your garden as well as remove weeds, plant and harvest crops, and work through root systems. On the other side is a three pronged hand tiller that helps you to break through new soil, and to aerate and till the soil to allow water or fertilizer to mix in.
The handle that both of these attach to is made of solid oak, which provides extra strength and durability. On the end of the handle is a soft, ergonomic grip designed for comfort and to provide extra grip. Edward Tools stands behind this product and backs it with a lifetime warranty, so they are sure it will stand up to many hours of hard labor.
#4. Fiskars 79906935J 40 Inch Long Handle Steel Tiller
- Ideal for breaking up tough soil when tilling
- Extra-long handle eliminates sore knees from kneeling or back strain from bending
- Six arrow-tipped tines penetrate tough soil easily
Next on our list of the best hand tillers is the Fiskars 79906935J 40 Inch Long Handle Steel Tiller. This is a premium tool that offers durability and power unmatched by most of its competitors. It is an ideal handheld tiller for breaking new ground due to the long 40 inch shaft. This model is made with welded, hardened steel tines attached to a 19 gauge steel shaft, which combine to be more durable and last much longer than wooden tools and which won’t flex like fiberglass models.
At the bottom end of the shaft are 6 arrow pointed tines that are angled and set up to penetrate and break up soil easily, even hardened soil such as clay or soil laden with roots or weeds. An extra large foot platform just above the tines provides a stable spot to put your weight on, meaning you can maximize your strength and drive this tiller into hard ground and as deep as it can go. Additionally the rubber gripped T handle means you can get more torque and power to twist the tiller and really aerate the soil and provide space for water or fertilizer to be mixed in.
#5. DeWit 5-Tine Cultivator with P-Grip Handle
- QUALITY CULTIVATOR – Great for aerating, weeding, and breaking up soil, DeWit Cultivators are designed to be the perfect lifetime garden tool. The elasticity of the P-Grip Handle helps it bend...
- LIFETIME DURABILITY – Crafted from hardened boron steel that has been heat-treated for strength, the 5-Tine Cultivator is the perfect long-lasting addition to your garden tools.The strong, but...
- SUSTAINABLE – With our eco-friendly tools, know that you are caring for your plants and for the planet. Our Cultivators are designed with an ash handle harvested from environmentally responsible...
The DeWit 5-Tine Cultivator with P-Grip Handle is a more expensive, but premium quality option for a hand tiller. Dewit products are handmade in Holland by professional craftsmen, with the solid steel tines forged by fifth generation blacksmiths and the wooden handle made from ash hardwood responsibly sourced from regulated and FSC-certified forests, so this artisan Cultivator is guaranteed to be built ethically and sustainably.
The 5 tines are made of hardened boron steel that has been heat treated for increased durability and strength, which makes it powerful but very lightweight. This means it will last a lifetime and can be used to break up hard ground, aerate and fertilize soil, and get rid of weeds and roots with ease.
The wooden handle is made with a P grip that is ergonomically designed to increase leverage and therefore power while simultaneously limiting stress on your wrists and arms, which means you can work more comfortably for longer. The P grip handle is also elastic, so it can bend without breaking and also increase the amount of work you can do without damaging the tiller.
#6. Garden Weasel Garden Claw Pro
The Garden Weasel Garden Claw Pro is called such because it stands for all of the different jobs it can do – C.L.A.W. means cultivate, loosen, aerate, and weed. The versatility of this tiller really sets it apart from other comparable models. It can be used in large gardens or tight spaces, fitting around bushes or planted vegetables, and it works well in any type of soil, even hard clay soil. Even the tines are versatile – they can be adjusted into three different settings. The small setting is perfect for weeding in tight spaces, the medium setting is for cultivation and the largest option is great for tilling.
The Claw Pro is made from durable and long lasting carbon steel. This makes it weather and rust resistant, and Garden Weasel back their product with a lifetime warranty, meaning they’re confident it will last for many years of tough labor intensive service. The shaft is 38 inches long, and it comes with a comfort grip handle and a large area to put your foot right on top of the tines. This means no more bending down and hurting your back when tilling, you can simply use your own weight and twist with your hands for perfect tilling every time. When done, the tines are completely repositionable for easy storage and they wash off with a garden hose.
#7. Yard Butler Terra Tiller All Steel 15” Hand Tiller
- DUAL ACTION HEAD One side has three sturdy steel prongs for cultivating, breaking, loosening and deep tilling soil. The other side is a sharpened beveled edge that is perfect for chopping and cutting...
- PERFECT WEIGHT AND HEFT Heavy duty steel head is completely welded onto the all steel handle with comfort grip. PLANTS, TILLS, DIGS, CHOPS. No wooden handle to split or shrink. VIRTUALLY...
- PERFECT SIZE FOR RAISED BEDS, vegetables, flower boxes, around shrubs or bushes, and other hard to reach areas. Makes gardening easy.
The Yard Butler Terra Tiller All Steel 15” Hand Tiller is another great hand tiller from Yard Butler, with this one being smaller and more suited to handheld jobs than the model listed above. The Terra Tiller is made completely from steel and is only 15 inches long, so it is lightweight and perfect for those small, tight jobs such as tilling around a bush or row of plants, or within a narrow section in your garden. The handle is covered with an ergonomic comfort rubber grip.
The head of the tiller has two sides for dual action purposes. On one side there is a sharpened, beveled edge that is great at cutting roots and weeds, as well as shaping the soil and planting crops. The other side has three durable steel prongs that perfectly cultivate and break up new soil, as well as deep till already aerated soil. This means any job you could need it to do, the Terra will excel at. Yard Butler provides a full 30 day guarantee in which you can return it for a full refund if you’re not completely satisfied.
#8. Fiskars 40 to 60-Inch Telescoping Rotary Cultivator
- Ideal for loosening soil, removing weeds and aerating soil and mulch
- Six rust-proof aluminum cultivating wheels power through tough soil
- Telescopes to cultivate without forcing you to bend or kneel
The final hand tiller on our list is the Fiskars 40 to 60-Inch Telescoping Rotary Cultivator. What makes this hand tiller unique is that it has wheels with spokes on it rather than fixed tines. There are 6 wheels on this model, and they are all made from rust proof aluminum; attached are large spikes that stick out a few inches from the wheels. These wheels are spikes are perfect for cultivation and for aerating mulch and loosening the top layer of soil, as well as removing weeds, but if you want to do deep soil tilling then this model is likely not as useful.
The telescoping shaft is adjustable, meaning you can lengthen it or shorten it to suit your needs – it can pull out to anywhere between 40 inches and 60 inches. This allows you to stand upright if you want to, and doesn’t bother your back at all, and when you want to bend down a bit simply contract the shaft and use it at a smaller length. Another feature is that the center wheels and spikes can be removed, meaning you can work around small rows of plantlings and vegetables. Additionally, Fiskars backs their product with a lifetime warranty.
In Summary – The Best Handheld Tiller For You
We hope you have found this buyer’s guide helpful, and that you were able to make an informed decision as to which is the best handheld tiller to use in your garden.
If you’re still not exactly sure which handheld tiller to go for, we would recommend the Yard Butler Twist Hand Tiller. This is a perfect tool for any garden and comes at a reasonable price. If you want a smaller tool the size of your hand, then the Asano Ninja Claw is the way to go.
You can’t go wrong with any of the hand tillers listed above, however, and the most important thing is to just get tilling!