Save Time Prepping Beds with a Cordless Electric Tiller
With the soil beginning to warm, everyone's starting to think about getting outside. There is still snow on the ground here in Central Indiana, but the long-range forecast shows some 60 degree days popping up! In anticipation for this, I did some research to try to find a good cordless cultivator for using in prepping our new garden beds.
After doing a lot of reading and research, I ordered the Earthwise TC70040 Cordless Tiller/Cultivator from Amazon to prep our showcase gardens. Electric tiller/cultivators have come a long way in recent years, but I decided that the EarthWise model was the best value for the money. Read on to find out why!
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About Cordless Tillers
Cordless Tillers are an update on older models of small-size cultivators and tillers. For years, the Mantis Tiller was the mainstay in small-garden cultivators, and they've been remarkably popular - over 2 million Mantis tillers have been sold over the years!
These tillers had some inherent issues, though, and have fallen out of favor as new technology has been released. As gas powered tillers, they are noisy and give off gas fumes. They also aren't very good if the soil isn't in the absolute perfect condition for working - Too dry and hard, and they just bounce on the soil surface. Some gardeners call them "grasshoppers!"
The next generation that aimed to solve the gasoline issue was corded electric cultivators such as the Sun Joe - These cultivators are powered by an extension cord, and pull a few amps to give them good power. Of course, with an extension cord, you're limited as to how far away from your house you can go, and extension cords present their own problems.
We used to have an extension cord powered hedge trimmer, and it worked, but it was a pain to use! You would invariably get the cord caught around something, and it would snag and pull out of the trimmer, causing it to go off. Not only that, I've nearly gotten the cord caught in the trimmer blades - Not an overly safe situation! Understandably, this trimmer now sits in the tool shed, unused - Instead, we've got a really nice Greenworks trimmer which I highly recommend.
Recently, Lithium-Ion technology has really solidified, to the point where you can get a lithium-ion just about anything. This brings us to Lithium-Ion Tiller/ Cultivators - These have really become popular in the last few years, and for good reason! You can usually get at least half an hour or so out of a charge, giving plenty of time to prep a bed or cultivate between vegetable rows. There's quite a few models available, but these three we'll talk about really stand out. As the season progresses, we're probably going to buy the last one to add to our collection!
Earthwise TC70040 Cordless Tiller/Cultivator Review
This is the cordless cultivator we just bought, and I'll update this review with our findings. This is currently the top-selling cordless cultivator on Amazon, and it looks really promising! It's got the best reviews, and some pretty impressive specs which I'll talk about here.
First of all, compared to the Greenworks model next, the EarthWise TC70040 provides an 11" wide tilling strip, 1 inch wider than the GreenWorks model. It also tills to a depth of 8 inches, which is 3 inches deeper than the Greenworks.
For battery size, It has the same capacity battery as the Greenworks, 40 Volts with 4.0 Ah current. Both are long-lasting lithium-ion batteries and will run for about 1/2 hour flat out.
The main thing that really sold us on the EarthWise TC70040 was the price - At just under $200, this is almost $100 less than the comparable Greenworks model. There are benefits to having the Greenworks model, which we will talk about, but the price difference alone was enough to convince me to go with the Earthwise model.
Looking through the issues people have with this model, it seems most of the negative reviews center around the corded models. The main issue with this particular model seems to be soil texture. Of course, this unit really isn't well-suited for working extremely heavy clay soils or really rocky soils - Here in Central Indiana, we have clay loams that can be sticky but are really loose and friable when the soil moisture is just right, so I wasn't too worried about that factor.
One thing to note about the Earthwise model, is it is a relatively large unit, the largest of the cordless cultivators - While this is great for prepping beds and borders and incorporating organic material, it's not quite so easy to use it around tight spaces like in between vegetable rows and next to established plants. For this reason, we may be buying the Black & Decker cultivator further down the article.
UPDATE: I have been using this little tiller on nursery beds for a few months now, and it's been a surprisingly good little machine! It has a lot of torque, and breaks up clay lumps very well. It lasts for hours on a single charge, and works very well for incorporating soil amendments.
Though it is a very useful machine, there are still a few things to consider when using it:
- It doesn't till new ground very well. I dug a new bed from fairly compacted clay, and this just barely scraped the surface. To remedy this, I broke the ground with a shovel, turning over fairly large lumps of clay. After leaving it to dry for a few days, I went back over the ground with this tiller, and it broke up very nicely!
- This tiller works better when you pull it towards you, not let it run forward! That is somewhat counterintuitive and opposite from typical tillers but it does a better job this way.
- While the listed tilling depth is 8 inches, realistically you're only going to till 4-5 inches unless you've got pure peat soil.
- Make sure your ground is dry enough! Our Indiana clay is very loose and friable when it is exactly the right moisture - Otherwise, it's either heavy and sticky or hard as concrete. If you pick up a lump of soil and it easily breaks apart in your hand, it's ready to till.
Click Here to view the current pricing of this tiller on Amazon. Unfortunately, it's been unavailable for about a month, but I'll post on this article once it's back in stock.
GreenWorks 10-Inch 40-Volt Cultivator Review
GreenWorks 10-Inch 40-Volt Cultivator on Amazon
I've included the GreenWorks model mainly because of the popularity of this brand. We have quite a collection of GreenWorks tools, and use them frequently.
The single biggest advantage of going with the GreenWorks 40-Volt Cultivator is simply the battery. Since this model uses GreenWork's 40-Volt G-Max Battery, it is compatible and interchangeable with all other GreenWorks 40V tools. This means that if you have a collection of tools, you can swap out the batteries and save a considerable amount by purchasing the unit without a battery.
the GreenWorks 10-Inch 40-Volt Cultivator provides a 7 to 10 inch wide tilling swath, down to a depth of 5 inches. This is fine for vegetable gardens and annual gardens, but at the Nursery, we're mostly prepping beds for permanent perennial and shrub installations.
Another factor that led us away from purchasing the GreenWorks model was the reviews - Over 20% of the reviews are 3 star and below, which isn't a good sign! It seems that the GreenWorks Cultivator is best suited to turning over raised beds and gardens with good, loose soil. This unit is then a bit of a fair-weather friend - It works fine so long as conditions are perfect, but fails to perform when the garden soil is less than spectacular with a lot of clay or rock.
To summarize the GreenWorks Cultivator, it is a lackluster addition to a great product line. We use a lot of the other 40-volt GMAX tools around the nursery, but the cons outweighed the pros in our particular situation. If you have a small yard with good soil, and already have a lot of Greenworks tools, this is a fine purchase. Otherwise, it really isn't worth the extra nearly $100 investment over the EarthWise model.
Black + Decker LGC120 Cordless Cultivator Review
Black+Decker Cordless Cultivator on Amazon
This is the cultivator I might be getting the nursery here in another few months. While this isn't as large a unit as the EarthWise model, it does have some good benefits.
The main benefit of the Black + Decker LGC120 is that it is completely cordless, running on a Lithium-Ion battery. Pretty much every single other electric cultivator this size uses a power cord, something that I just don't like dealing with.
The 20-Volt battery also fits Black & Decker's 20-volt tool system, like their drills. This isn't as big of a benefit for us, since we use mostly DeWalt tools on nursery projects, but for some it may be enough of a benefit to make the decision to purchase.
Probably the biggest benefit to this unit is the price. This is the least expensive of all three of these cultivators, coming in at just under $100. While this is definitely a saving over both models, don't forget that this unit isn't nearly as wide as the others. As a result, you can't get as much ground worked on a charge, and it takes more passes to prep the ground.
An interesting factor of this cultivator is that the tines run horizontally, kind of like an eggbeater - Most other units I've seen have traditional vertical tines. From the reviews it seems this design works better in harder soils with rocky material - Definitely worth considering if you've got less than optimal soil.
For prepping narrow garden beds and for vegetable garden cultivation, this unit is very promising! Later in the season, if I get one of these for the nursery, I'll update this post with our findings.
Lithium ion battery technology has really made some strides lately, and these units are key examples of that. Even with all the benefits, there are still some factors to consider when looking to purchase a cordless cultivator:
Soil texture is a primary concern with these models. While they all work great in optimal, loose soil, differences start to pop up when soils are hard and/or rocky. Here in Central Indiana, our soil is primarily clay based with some gravel/pebble material. It is really gummy and sticky in the spring, and then bakes hard and dry in the summer. We've got about 1 month of perfect tilling conditions, at which point the soil breaks apart really nicely.
For gardens with good soil, I'd recommend going with either the EarthWise or the GreenWorks cultivators. If you have a lot of rock in your soil, or don't have a lot of other Greenworks tools to begin with, the EarthWise is a much better use of money.
If you just need a small tool to prep an annual bed or weed between vegetable rows, the Black+Decker cultivator is an excellent buy. From what reviews say, it is perfectly capable of handling pebbly soil and hard soil, which is a definite benefit for gardeners in mountain regions or areas with close surface bedrock that have to deal with rocks and stone in their gardens.
Battery life is another factor to consider when looking at purchasing a cordless cultivator. All three of these models should have comparable battery life; from what I've read, it seems that lithium ion batteries need to be replaced every 3 years or so. This, of course, depends on how often you use the tools. If you use them day in and day out, you may have to replace the batteries more often.
Lithium ion batteries are also very expensive - For all of these units, the battery is the most expensive component. That's something to budget for if you're hoping to get one of these units.
To conclude this article, I think it's definitely worth it to get a cordless cultivator over a corded model or a gas model. It's so much easier to use these - If you have a garden bed that is 200 feet away from a power outlet, it's not a problem! Also, you don't have gas fumes and noise to worry about, which is definitely a plus. In today's busy world, getting the job done more quickly is paramount, and these units save a lot of time over using old-fashioned shovels and forks to work ground before planting.
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