Cultivators and motor cultivators for the vegetable garden. Differences and how they work

In today’s post we will talk about what a Cultivator and motor cultivators and mechanical mules are and how they work. These are two of the most commonly used gardening machines for tilling the soil and preparing the orchard soil before planting crops.

Cultivators and motor cultivators for the vegetable garden. Differences and how they work

As we will see, although they have almost the same function, there are some differences between a motor hoe and a power tiller (both in size, components and handling).

What is a power tiller or a motor hoe?

Cultivators and motor cultivators (also known as “mechanical mules”) are small agricultural machines used for breaking up hard soil, weeding or removing weeds and aerating the substrate in preparation for sowing or planting.

Many models of Cultivators and motor cultivators can be fitted with accessories or small implements to carry out not only tilling or plowing the land, but also other tasks such as forming furrows or ridges, fertilizing, sowing, mowing, applying pesticides to eliminate pests and diseases…

The basic components of the motor cultivators or motor cultivators are:

  • Engine: diesel, gasoline or battery-powered electric motor (minimum power between 5-8 hp -more in larger tillers to which implements or trailers are to be attached-).
  • Gearbox, transmission system and gear lever: these machines usually have one or more forward gears, neutral and reverse. The gears are selected by operating the gearshift and the clutch (which is usually on the lever).
  • Starting device: it can be manual or wind-up or electric (with key or interuptor).
  • Handles or handles to hold the machine (with levers to stop operation, accelerate or clutch the engine).
  • Rotating spindle with blades or cutters (milling machine or rotavator): the number of cutters (usually between 3 and 6) determines the working width of the machine, which is usually between 30 and 60 cm. The working depth can usually also be adjusted by means of a lever that raises or lowers the rotavator shaft.
  • Screen or protection devices for the moving parts

In the case of the power tiller, as we will see below, another component is the driving wheels, which the mechanical mule or motor hoe lacks.

Differences between a power tiller and a motor hoe

Normally the motor hoes (lighter and cheaper) are used for tilling small areas of the home orchard or garden, while the power tillers are used for larger extensions and harder work, so their weight and size is greater than that of the motor hoes.

Power tillers are said to be two-wheel tractors or single-axle tractors, as they are small self-propelled vehicles that have an axle with two driving wheels that allow the machine to move forward.

Cultivators and motor cultivators for the vegetable garden. Differences and how they work
Power tiller cultivator

This translates into greater comfort of use and less effort and time to till the same area. Although it is larger and heavier, using a power tiller is less tiring than a small mechanical mule or motor hoe because the driving wheels absorb part of the weight of the machine and also the vibrations and jerks caused by the resistance of the tines as they move forward. All this, of course, at the cost of a higher price: for the same power, a power tiller will always be more expensive than a motor hoe.

In motor hoes, on the other hand, the movement of the engine is transmitted only to the shaft of the cutters or blades, which is the one that generates the advance of the machine (they may have a small support wheel – usually at the front – but this is not driven by the engine).

Cultivators and motor cultivators for the vegetable garden. Differences and how they work
Motorized tiller

Another difference between a motor hoe and a power tiller is the working depth. In motor hoes it is greater (it can reach up to 30 cm) because, as we have already seen, these machines do not have wheels that limit the depth to which the cutters and blades are introduced.
Types of motor hoes or motor cultivators

These are some of the most common types of Cultivators and motor cultivators used for soil preparation:

  • Cultivators and motor cultivators with gasoline engines: more common in lower-powered machines (motor hoes or small tillers).
  • Cultivators and motor cultivators with diesel engines: these machines are more expensive but tend to last longer and the fuel is more economical.
  • Cultivators and motor cultivators with electric motor and rechargeable battery: electric tools and machines do not require maintenance and generate less noise and vibrations than those with diesel or gasoline engines, but their power is limited, so they are usually used for small plots of land (orchards and home gardens).
  • Large power tillers with seat and trailer: they are used for extensions of several hectares and usually have an accessory power take-off to connect other implements such as a sprayer for phytosanitary treatments, a seeder or a lawn mower.
  • Motor hoe for furrowing: an accessory tool that replaces the tiller is connected to the machine: the worm-tiller.

Which machine to use for tilling the soil in the orchard or for laying lawns in the garden?

To plow the soil of a vegetable garden and prepare it for sowing, it is most common to use a motor hoe. One of the main reasons is the greater working depth of this machine (up to 30 cm or more), which is necessary to condition the soil to the depth reached by the roots of vegetables.

Cultivators and motor cultivators for the vegetable garden. Differences and how they work
Motor hoe for plowing the orchard

On the contrary, to prepare the soil of a large garden with the purpose of sowing grass, the power tiller is more suitable. Thanks to its greater power and size, the power tiller shreds the soil much more but at a shallower depth (to the depth necessary for the grass to grow, with roots much smaller than those of the plants in the vegetable garden). In addition, its ease of operation will greatly reduce the work time and effort that would be involved in tilling a large area with a small power tiller or mechanical mule.

If a motor hoe is available for the vegetable garden, it can also be adapted to prepare the soil for sowing grass. You should work with the engine revved to the maximum and limit the depth of the work so that the tiller blades work only in the shallowest layer of soil.

How to use a power tiller to prepare the soil for the vegetable garden

Here is a video of a motor hoe working in the orchard. It explains how to use the motor hoe or mechanical mule, as well as some details about how to prepare the machine before tilling the soil.

Before using both the motor hoe and the power tiller, it is very important to inspect the area and clear it of stones, branches and other objects that run the risk of getting caught in the blades or being violently ejected by them.