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The 9 Best Hand Tillers for Digging Up Your Small Garden

Do you have a small garden and no need for a large gas-powered tiller? You may just need a hand tiller. Hand tillers are wonderful tools for preparing your garden’s soil in the springtime. They also work well to maintain your garden throughout the growing season by removing weeds and aerating the soil. But how do you know which are the best hand tillers for your gardening needs?

Garden hand cultivator tools against a shed wall.

We’ve listed the top nine hand tillers on the market. Keep reading to learn more!

What Is a Hand Tiller?

A hand tiller is a gardening device with tines or spikes that is used to loosen, aerate or cultivate the soil. They are also handy when removing any unwanted weeds or plants. Hand tillers are commonly used to prepare and maintain smaller gardens because of their ergonomic size and ease of use.

Man using a hand cultivator in a garden.

Hand tillers are essentially budget-friendly and have less maintenance than most electric or gas-powered tillers. Because they are manual devices, anyone can use them.

The 9 Best Hand Tillers for Your Small Garden


Best Overall Hand Tiller

Fiskars Telescoping Rotary Cultivator

Fiskars 40 to 60-Inch Telescoping Rotary Cultivator, 16Oz

This is one of the most popular tillers on Amazon for a reason. The bladed wheels are made from strong, rust-proof aluminum, so you don’t have to worry about getting it wet. The six-blade head easily breaks dirt loose and pulls up weeds in your garden. The best part is the telescoping handle, which makes it easy to use no matter your height.

Pros:

  • It has rust-proof wheels that can be removed if needed.
  • The handle telescopes from 40 to 60 inches.
  • It’s easy to use.

Cons:

  • The adjustable handle doesn’t lock in sometimes and slips.

Best For Speed

Garden Weasel Cultivator

Garden Weasel 90206 Cultivator and Tiller - Original Garden Weasel on TV - Durable Steel, Detachable Tines, No Bending

This cultivator is great for getting a job done quickly. Similar to the Fiskars model, the Garden Weasel has a weatherproof design that features six blades that can be detached to avoid a seeded row. The 54-inch handle is made from steel but is still lightweight enough for you to knock out your garden work.

Pros:

  • The handle has a strong steel design.
  • Bladed wheels are removable.

Cons:

  • The handle is not adjustable.
  • The plastic connection piece between the blades and the handle is not as durable as other materials.

Best For Breaking Soil Without Kneeling

Fiskars Steel Tiller

Fiskars 79906935J , 40 Inch Long Handle Steel Tiller

The design of this Fiskars twist tiller is durable, featuring a steel handle with welded steel tines. If kneeling in the garden is too much for you, this tiller allows you to cultivate the soil from where you are standing. That comes in handy when removing weeds for a long period of time.

Pros:

  • It has a very durable design, made of welded steel.
  • The tiller has a wide area to press the tines in the soil with your foot.
  • It allows you to do the hard work without kneeling in the garden.

Cons:

  • Tines are rounded instead of sharp, so it’s better to use this tiller on loamy or sandy soils.

Best For Weeding

Yard Butler Twist Tiller

Yard Butler Twist Tiller garden cultivator & hand tiller heavy duty garden claw hand tool - ITNT-4

The Yard Butler Twist Tiller is another great option for those with back problems or trouble kneeling. The best thing about twist tillers is how easy they make removing weeds by grabbing the roots and twisting them free. This tiller features six steel tines and a comfortable height of 38 inches tall.

Pros:

  • This tiller helps you avoid back pain while gardening.
  • It has a strong steel design.
  • The step plate is large.

Cons:

  • Some reviewers of this product complained about a lack of cushioning on the handles.

Best For Versatility

Yard Butler Terra Tiller

Yard Butler Terra Tiller All Steel 15†Tilling Weeding Loosening Cultivating Digging and Chopping Garden Hand Tool Three Thick Prongs And Heavy Duty Chopping Blade With Welded Handle – TT-4T

This hand cultivator is durable and versatile. One side of the cultivator has three tines for loosening dirt and removing weeds. The other side of the cultivator has a blade with a beveled edge for cutting roots. The Terra Tiller has a cushioned grip and a steel design that makes it a great choice if you want a short-handled hand tiller.

Pros:

  • It has two heads for cultivating and chopping roots.
  • The handle is cushioned well.

Cons:

  • The tines tend to bend with repeated use.

Best For Durability

Edward Tools Hoe and Cultivator

Edward Tools Hoe and Cultivator Hand Tiller - Carbon Steel Blade - Heavy Duty for loosening Soil, Weeding and Digging - Rubber Ergo Grip Handle - Rust Proof

This multi-head hand cultivator is similar in build to the Terra Tiller, but it features a wood handle instead. The blade and tines are made from carbon steel, which makes it a very durable tool in combination with the wood handle. This setup is great for hard clay soil and tough jobs.

Pros:

  • It has a durable wood handle.
  • It works great on hard soil.

Cons:

  • Some reviewers complain that the tool is too small.

Best For Small Jobs

Tierra Garden DeWit 5-Tine Cultivator

Tierra Garden DeWit 5-Tine Cultivator with Short Handle, Works as Garden Hoe and Tiller (31-0903)

This small hand cultivator is great for little areas such as raised beds or small patches of dirt. It has a short handle that’s just large enough to fit in your hand, which gives you good control over the tool. The five tines are great for digging through rocky soil. It has a lifetime guarantee, and the company claims that it is made from eco-friendly materials.

Pros:

  • It comes with a lifetime guarantee.
  • It works well with heavy soils and rocky soils.
  • The tiller is fashioned from eco-friendly wood.

Cons:

  • Some reviewers felt that the handle was too short to grip.

Best Value For Small Budgets

Asano Japanese Ninja Claw Rake and Cultivator

ASANO Japanese Ninja Claw Rake and Cultivator (Basic Pack)

The build of this hand tiller is almost identical to the Tierra Garden DeWit model, but you can get it for an amazing price. If you have a small gardening budget, this tool is a perfect investment. The tines are made from steel, which are attached to a wooden handle. This hand tool is great for picking weeds and loosening the soil.

Pros:

  • It’s very budget-friendly.
  • It works well for small projects.

Cons:

  • The wooden handle can be coarse.

Best For Tight Spaces

Corona GT 3070 Extendable Handle Cultivator

Corona GT 3070 Extendable Handle Cultivator, Red

This tiller is very similar to the other small hand tillers with tines, but this tiller has a long, telescoping handle. If you have a tight space that is hard to reach, this cultivator will allow you to telescope the handle out to 32 inches. It’s rust-resistant and lightweight, and the handle features a no-slip grip.

Pros:

  • It has a telescoping handle that extends from 18 inches to 32 inches.
  • It’s weatherproof.
  • The design is durable and lightweight.

Cons:

  • The twist extension feature can be hard to open.

Different Types of Hand Tillers

Hand tiller is an overarching term for several different styles of manual tillers such as hand cultivators, rotary cultivators, and twist tillers.

Hand Cultivators

This is a common tool you may have seen in the garden department or at a yard sale. Hand cultivators usually feature between three and five tines made of some type of metal attached to a long or short handle. These are primarily used to loosen the dirt by raking the surface, or they can be used to create lines to sow seeds into.

Person using a hand cultivator to break up dirt.  Hand cultivators are some of the best hand tillers for small gardens.

Rotary Cultivators

Rotary Cultivators feature several rotary blades that look like spikes attached to a long handle. These are great for loosening and aerating the soil by rolling the cultivator back and forth over your garden.

Person using a star rotary cultivator in a garden.

Twist Tillers

Twist tillers have several curved tines attached to a long handle. You press the tines into the soil with your foot and twist the handles on top, which works well for removing thick weeds and cultivating the soil in small areas.

Person using a twist tiller, or garden claw, to break up soil.

How to Choose the Best Hand Tiller for Your Garden

Garden Size

Every garden is different, so not every tiller will benefit you like it might for others. You want to get what tool works best for you! If you have a very small garden or a raised bed, you may not need a rotary cultivator. It may be just as easy to prepare your garden soil with a small hand cultivator.

Budget

Hand tillers are some of the most budget-friendly garden tools you can buy. With that being said, there are some ranges in price between different tillers. There are several price options out there for any type of hand tiller, so finding what matches your price point should be easy.

Handle Length

If you can’t kneel for long periods of time, consider getting a tiller with a longer handle. The same can be said for those who can’t stand for long. There are many options for short-handled tillers and cultivators as well!

AN old-style long-handle garden cultivator -- useful for persons who can't kneel when tending a garden.
Handle length is a factor when selecting one of the best hand tillers for your garden.

Materials

How long do you want your tiller to last? Construction directly impacts durability. Wood and steel handles are considered to be very durable, but that is usually reflected in the price. Aluminum may not hold up as well in the long run, but it is usually cheaper.

Maintaining Your Hand Tiller

Once you have picked out the perfect hand tiller for your garden, it’s important to take care of it throughout the year.

Clean hand tools for the garden lined up against a shed wall.

Cleaning

To clean your hand tiller, brush off any dry dirt. If mud is caked on your tool, you may have to rinse or spray it off. It’s important to dry your tiller completely after cleaning it, especially if it has any kind of rustable metal.

Cleaning your hand tiller after every use is essential to maintaining its integrity. It’s also important to clean your tool to prevent any diseases from spreading from plant to plant.

Sharpening

If the blades on your cultivators or tillers get dull, you can sharpen them using a file. Make sure to sharpen only the outside edge of the blade at an angle of approximately 30 to 45 degrees. This will keep the blade from getting flimsy and breaking.

When using a file to sharpen a blade, use only a downward motion. Pulling the file back toward you in contact with the blade could damage the file or yourself.

Storage

The best place to store your hand tiller is somewhere dry and out of the weather, so that your tool lasts for seasons to come. Keep it near the rest of your gardening tools, so it is easy to find next time you need it! Keeping it in an enclosed area also prevents the risk of someone tripping on the tool and getting hurt.

End of Season

At the end of the season, it’s a great time to make sure your tools are clean if you haven’t already done so. It’s also very important that you make sure they are dry before you store them for a long period of time. If they are left wet, you run the risk of rot or rust before the next season.

Man hanging a garden hand tool on a hook in a garage or garden shed.

Beginning of Season

Once spring arrives and it’s time to get your hand tiller out, look over your tool for any needed maintenance. Spring is also a great time to sharpen all of your garden tools to prepare for the season ahead!

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Luckily, manual tillers don’t usually have problems as long as you clean, sharpen and maintain them. Rotary blades can catch if they have mud caked into them, so make sure to inspect your tiller after every use to get the best performance out of it.

Use One of These Best Hand Tillers in Your Garden

Hand tillers are a great way to get a small job done quickly. If you have a small garden space, this is a must-have in your toolbox to aerate, loosen and cultivate the soil. Overall, the Fiskars Telescoping Rotary Cultivator is the best choice on the hand tiller market, but refer back to our list for several other great choices as well!

A hand cultivator lying on the ground in a garden.

A good hand tiller is a must-have item, but there are lots of other tools to help make preparing and maintaining your garden a breeze. Visit our Digging Tools page to learn about other useful garden tools you’ll want to add to your collection this year!