I’ve made garden beds using the lasagna method, I’ve made garden beds using a broadfork, and I’ve made garden beds using a plain old shovel, but it was only recently that I finally got my hands on a real, live electric tiller.
I had expected the electric tiller to be by far my favorite method–after all, I’d been longing to check this tiller out of our local food pantry’s Tool Share program since spring!–but I was actually surprised by quite a few things that were different from my expectations.
Here, then, is my personal evaluation of the electric tiller as compared to some of my other favorite garden-clearing methods. Is an electric tiller for you? Read on and see!
Electric Tiller Pros and Cons
The electric tiller is quick. THIS is the main reason why I wanted an electric tiller in the first place, and I was not disappointed. It takes months to make a garden bed using the lasagna method, and hours for me to make a garden bed using either a shovel or a broadfork, but this electric tiller finished each garden bed in less than half an hour–talk about instant gratification!
Since I wanted these particular garden beds for fall gardening, the tiller was the ideal tool. My carrots get planted today!
The electric tiller requires muscle to operate it. Okay, this surprised me. The tiller’s instruction manual likened its use to running a vacuum, but running a vacuum does not make my biceps sore the next day! This tiller was really heavy, and although it wanted to go forward pretty happily, the manual instructed me to pull it back and forth; pulling it back and forth over the same spot is what made my garden beds nice and deep, but it definitely used some muscle. In fact, I’d say that although it takes longer to make a garden bed with a broadfork, the effort to wield a shovel or broadfork and the effort to wield this electric tiller were approximately equal.
It might be possible to run the tiller completely across the garden bed, then run it back again, and in that way send it back and forth while only having to push it forward, but otherwise, if you don’t have the muscle to wield a shovel, then you may not have the muscle to wield this electric tiller. If you want a method whose muscle power does approximately equal the running of a vacuum, then lasagna gardening is your method.
The electric tiller is less eco-friendly than a shovel or broadfork or the lasagna method, but more eco-friendly that a gas-powered tiller. The lasagna method is obviously the most eco-friendly of these options, because it allows you to turn old newspapers and food scraps and autumn leaves into gorgeous, rich garden soil.
If you’re going to till, however, then you at least want a tiller that’s powered by electricity, not gasoline.
The electric tiller makes a nice garden bed. I’m pretty miserable with a shovel or a broadfork, and so I tend to give up before I’ve really gotten my garden bed nice and broken in. This tiller, however, gave me a great garden bed to work in. It’s not as nice as a lasagna bed, which is full of that rich, gorgeous soil, but it’s much more workable than any of my other manual methods.
My experiences have me decided that anytime that I need a garden bed right away (and you know how many gardening emergencies there are in life!), the electric tiller is my tool of choice: it’s quicker and the results are nicer than my other manual methods, and the electricity pull isn’t too bad.
It’s the lasagna method, however, that’s truly the easiest, and the most eco-friendly, and gives the nicest results, as well. So while today I’m going to happily plant carrots in the garden beds that I tilled with the electric tiller last weekend, this weekend I’ll be making plenty more lasagna beds that will be ready for me to use in the spring.