With Fall arriving last week, it was time to clean up the garden beds, add soil balancers, and prepare it for winter. We needed a tiller to turn the soil, so we set about doing the research and comparing products on line. There are too many options to list here, so we’ll just summarize our process. Size – we first determined a small “mini-tiller” would work fine for our 400 SQFT site. The larger machines work faster, but they are harder to move and store. Plus, the smaller tillers can fit into raised beds easily. Motors – We eliminated electric due to the long stretch from the house, so that left 2-cycle or 4-cycle. We settled on 4-cycle, which eliminates mixing the oil and gas, and is typically not as noisy.
One mini-tiller that kept coming up in positive reviews was the Breez R2 40cc 4-cycle tiller. The engine seemed powerful enough to do the job, and had the environmental bonus of running on propane. Yes, propane! It uses a small 16.4 oz gas cylinder – the kind you take on a camping trip. The advantage of propane is no mixing, spilling, or smell of gasoline, lower emissions, and it is relatively inexpensive. The down side, environmentally, is these cylinders are disposable and cannot be refilled at a propane dealer. The internet, however, has myriad DIY solutions for refilling them, so we will explore those options.
Other advantages of this particular engine include:
Simple starting – no choking or priming the engine
No exhaust smoke, and there is only a small trace of combustion odor
Lower carbon build-up helps the engine last longer
So the real test of this mini-brute was in operation. When we started our new section of the garden, we didn’t have the tools to properly break up and till the soil. Most of the soil is clay with just a layer of compost we added in Spring. So we needed to dig down through the layer of clay and blend it all up. These Before and After photos speak for themselves:
It only took about an hour to have the area completely tilled and blended. The clay sections were a little stubborn, and the tiller jumped a lot – like operating a jack hammer! (Safety tip – wear eye protection.) But on the second pass, it easily turned everything over and blended soil and compost well. It looked so good, we were tempted to plant something, but we will hold off until Spring before starting our garden cycle over. Next year, we will have the benefit of nutrient-rich soil that we can easily re-cultivate with our little propane tiller.