One of the most important gardening equipment many need is a cultivator. However, not a lot of people are familiar with what these handy tools are, mistaking it for other equipments like tillers. 

So, what is a cultivator exactly and what does it do? More importantly, what’s best for you? You’ll be surprised to know that there are different types of cultivators available according to what YOU need. 

To learn all about the purpose of cultivators and how to choose the right one, read on! I’ll show you everything to know about cultivators, from what they are down to how to choose and use one properly.

What is a cultivator anyway? These are tools that gardeners use for various purposes, such as mixing and aerating the soil. It also removes weed and prepares the soil to create an adequate garden bed to ensure that your plants grow excellently.

So basically, it’s like a soil tiller! However, there are differences between both these tools and they shouldn’t be confused with one another.

What makes them so different besides their sizes, though? Here are some of their major differences to help you identify such tools:

  • Tillers have thicker and stronger blades which take an L-shape. Cultivators have blades that look similar to star wheels.
  • Cultivators usually have tines in front of wheels which are located in the rear part of the tool. Tillers have blades in front or behind wheels, with its wheels being bigger compared to cultivators.
  • A cultivator is light and has a compact size compared to a tiller, which is made for heavy-duty work. Cultivators would mix non-compacted soil or for raised and flower beds, while tillers are heavier and used in fields or gardens to break up hard grasses or soil.
  • Cultivators can be used either by electrical outlets, gas, or battery, while tillers always use gas or oil-powered engines.

The Uses of a Cultivator

What exactly do cultivators do if they’re different from soil tillers we know and use? Because they’re the smallest soil cultivation machine, its primary use is to prepare the soil for your plants to grow. Besides this, it’s also used for the following gardening tasks:

Improve and Prepare Soil

As time passes by, foot traffic or weather conditions cause the soil to compact, making it difficult for growing plants to get water and air to survive.

Cultivators have enough strength to loosen different soil conditions to prepare for planting. With tines and disks, they can break clods into small pieces. That way, your plants get more air and water, also draining efficiently.

Besides that, it helps in mixing soil with other components, such as manure, compost, fertilizer, or potting mixes.

Weed Control

Cultivators can help remove broad-leaf weeds efficiently. This is because when you apply the tines to the soil, it loosens up both the soil and weeds. That way, it’s much easier to pull out and keep weeds away, even incorporating weeds to planting rows that put back its nutrition to the soil!

Plough and Build Rows

If you’re planning to use cultivators for plowing and building rows, then you’ll need wedge-shaped blades rather than tines. With this special blade, it would create furrows that are prepared to accept all planting seeds. Once seeding is complete, you can cover the trenches with soil, making the whole planting process easier.

Benefits of Using a Cultivator

Cultivators can be used for more than just soil preparation, but why should you invest in one? I’m sure some people are wondering why they should choose this over tillers. Cultivators have a host of benefits to reap, such as:

Save on Time and Costs

Preparing soil manually is a tedious task, taking up a LOT of time and energy. While you may think that a cultivator is an extra expense, it would save you money and time in the long run.

You get things done quickly and can focus on planting rather than worry about the soil quality. The time you save can be used for other things, such as more gardening work or other jobs to earn.

Practical and Easy to Use

Another thing people are afraid of is that cultivators are difficult to handle. But when you compare it with tillers or hand tools, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to work on. They have adjustable controls to work on various sized fields and soil depth. Plus, they’re light enough to easily push and maneuver.

Quality Tillage Work

While cultivators aren’t as strong as tillers, they’re still able to till and prepare the soil for efficient planting. Plus, you get more than what you pay for from it with its versatility and many uses. You’ll get more work done in more quality results compared to doing so manually.

Lightweight and Hassle-Free Storage

Another thing that makes cultivators a bit more beneficial than tillers is its size. It’s a bit smaller and lighter than tillers, making it easy to operate, without the need to exert so much force. Besides that, it’s also easier to store because of its size.

More Cost-Effective

Comparing the cultivator with a tiller, the former is cheaper and can do quality jobs without the hefty price. However, it depends on your soil quality and the power you need for the garden bed. If you have a medium-sized garden bed with not-so-tough soil, cultivators are cheaper alternatives that do the job perfectly.

Choosing a cultivator isn’t just about getting the priciest and most popular. You should also make sure that you get the one suitable for you based on what YOU need. With that said, here are the six important factors you need to consider:

Type of Cultivator

There’s more than ONE type of cultivator! Each has different benefits and uses based on the tines used, such as:

  • Spring Tine Cultivator

These cultivators have tines with reversible shovels and heavy-duty springs. These save your cultivator tines from breaking if ever it meets a hard object. I recommend it for dry or wet soils!

  • Rigid Tine Cultivator

These have U-clamps and shovels, making it versatile for most gardening work. It’s best to loosen and aerate the soil while preparing your garden beds quickly. It can work best in hard soils!

  • Rigid Tine Shovel Type Cultivator

These are the most popular cultivators for agricultural operations. It’s made for bigger fields and heavier-duty gardening jobs. I recommend it for different jobs, such as loosening and aerating the soil, preparing beds, as well as cultivation and weeding.

  • Bar Point Cultivator

These are made best for inter-cultivation for lighter or heavier soils. The tines are mounted on frames with clamps, with bar point shares at the end of the cultivator’s tines. However, you operate this on tractors!

Size and Weight

  • Lightweight cultivators are made best who cultivate the soil from greenhouses or garden beds, easy to maneuver but made for lighter work.
  • Medium-weight cultivators are best for harder soil or in areas that have no garden (though you want to make one!). They're quite heavier and use gas engines.
  • Heavy cultivators would cultivate unused, virgin, or extremely tough soil. They're extremely powerful but also very heavy.

Ease of Use

I highly recommend that you invest in cultivators that are easy to operate, built with an ergonomic grip and adjustable controls. I like smart designs that also easily power up with an electric starter, lessening the hassle of setup and operation. This lessens the trouble and work I have to put when I’m using the cultivator.

Power and Operation

There are different ways cultivators can be powered up:

  • Electric cultivators are beneficial for their quiet operation and smaller size. However, they usually use electrical outlets, making it better for smaller garden beds.
  • Gas-powered cultivators are heavier, but they have even more power for various tasks and don't have limits since they don't use cords.

What's Your Budget?

Of course, don’t forget how much you can afford for a cultivator! Fortunately, they’re more affordable than tillers, though different price ranges are depending on the power and extra features it comes with. With that said, expect cultivators to cost between $80 to $300, so set a REASONABLE budget to narrow down your choices!

Brand and Warranty

While the brand isn’t supposed to be the main priority, it’s still an important consideration for better trust. I would rather pay a bit more for brands that are known for their quality and power. Furthermore, I recommend cultivators that have guarantees and warranties, which ensure that the company has confidence that their equipment lasts.

How to Use a Cultivator

Now that you’re familiar with what a cultivator is and what it does, how can you use it? Here are some helpful tips to follow to use and maintain your cultivator for long-term operation:

  • Before anything else, you should make sure that you're prepared to operate it. Wear your safety equipment such as your work gloves, clothing for the weather, as well as goggles as needed. This prevents your hands from getting blisters or getting hurt from any small debris that flies to you.
  • Inspect the area before using the cultivator. Remove all debris such as rocks and large pieces of wood before you begin. Also, inspect your tines, add fuel to the motor, and adjust your depth and width according to your needs and field size.
  • Once you've assembled and set up the cultivator according to your necessary options, power it up. Before you till or cultivate the soil, create sowing lines by dragging your cultivator in a straight line.
  • Using the chopping option, turn the soil and dig into the ground based on the lines you made earlier. Break all clumps and clods, also removing any heavy debris like rocks. Repeat this until you have shallow and soft trenches suitable for planting.
  • As you continue to operate the cultivator, avoid putting too much force or pressure when the tool can't handle the soil's hardness. Instead, start gradually and with a shallow depth, increasing it as you loosen the soil's layers.
  • Maintain a steady grip and constant speed. Avoid going for the fastest or hardest power immediately, which can result in you losing stability.

Learn more about how to use a cultivator properly with this informative video:

Wrapping It Up

Cultivators are handy pieces of gardening equipment many people need. While they aren’t as heavy-duty and intense as tillers, you can find the suitable on that works on your medium-sized garden bed just as well. That way, you have cultivated soil that’s prepared for planting all your seeds properly.

I hope that my article answered your question, “what is a cultivator?” Now that you’re familiar with what this piece of gardening equipment is, learn more about the rest now!

If you have any questions or want to share your knowledge on other gardening equipment, then comment below. All your thoughts are much appreciated.

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