9 Best Garden Cultivators for Small Yards | Gas, Electric

Digging over vegetable beds, cultivating the soil for leveling, or breaking up compacted clay soil are some of the more arduous tasks a gardener has to face. Let’s be honest…no one looks forward to pulling on your boots to do those jobs. 

But if you have the right tools, you can turn a dreaded task into one that’s actually pretty good fun and very efficient. Well, that’s what we’re looking to do right here by picking through the best garden cultivators for small yards.

I’m going to share with you my experience testing some of the best gas and electric cultivators available right now and help you find the right product for the job in your backyard.

Best Garden Cultivators at a Glance

If you’re short on time, that’s okay! Here are the best cultivators in each category…gas-powered, battery-powered, and electric corded.

Champion 2-Cycle 43cc Gas Garden Cultivator 

Best Gas Cultivator

Champion 2-Cycle 43cc Gas Garden Cultivator 

Excellent maneuverability, high performance, and completely portable. Sturdily made and easy to start.

Mantis 3550 Electric Cultivator 9-Amp 12-Inch

Best Corded Cultivator

Mantis 3550 Electric Cultivator 9-Amp 12-Inch

Simple to use and comfortably designed. Low noise / no gas emissions, but it is powerful and effective.

Sun Joe 48-Volt Cordless Cultivator 2x2.0Ah

Best Battery Cultivator

Sun Joe 48-Volt Cordless Cultivator 2x2.0Ah

It has a long battery life and is agile. Lightweight and covers a wide area. Extremely durable.

Choosing the Best Garden Cultivator 

There are three primary power sources for a garden cultivator: gas, electric corded, and electric battery. Which one you choose will depend on your garden’s composition and needs.

Here is a general overview of each power source as well as a few other notable specifications to give you a better idea of what to look for in a cultivator: 

Gas Powered 

The cost of gas machines may be a bit more expensive than electric, but cultivators that run on gas are more powerful. That means if the dirt is hard or rough, a gas-powered rig will work much better at turning into the soil than an electric machine. 

While gas-powered garden cultivators don’t generally weigh much (usually between 30 – 40 lbs), they weigh more than their electric counterparts and may be slightly clunky. Still, they’re better at blending soil composition and cutting overgrown weeds.

I suggest going for gas if you have a more extensive garden with a tougher surface to break through as the extra weight will help drive the tines into the ground. Plus the gas-powered engines will produce more muscle power overall. 

Electric Corded 

Electric corded cultivators are lightweight, compact, and easier to use than gas-powered ones. There’s no process for refueling, and they are usually more versatile than the latter.

There are some cons to running on electricity, though. Electric corded cultivators require an outlet (not good for long distances) and aren’t as powerful as a gas cultivator. So, while they are effective at mixing soft soils and cutting weeds, they don’t perform well on hard ground.

Electric corded cultivators are best for small gardens with moderate needs. They’re mainly built for ease of use and convenience. 

Battery Powered

Battery-powered cultivators perform similarly to electric corded cultivators but eliminate the problem of needing an outlet.

The caveat is that they have a limited run time before they need a recharge and may be slightly heavier due to the battery. Still, they are more mobile than corded and don’t have any additional gas fees.

The battery-powered cultivator finds its best use in general upkeep for small gardens and is best for casual gardeners.

Battery Run Time

Battery run time is determined by the storage capacity of the lithium battery cell. This is indicated in amp hours, or “Ah.” You will see the battery cells rated 2.0Ah or 3.0Ah for example. 

Each amp hour represents the amperes discharged per hour by the battery. So a battery cell with 2.0Ah will last 1 hour if it is having 2.0Ah of charge consumed. However, the number of amps being drawn by cultivators varies by machine and model type. So a cultivator may draw 4.0 amperes per hour, which means a 2.0Ah battery will last 30 mins, as it’s being hit with twice the power demand. 

To avoid all of the complexity, I can tell you the tillers within this product review all run between 30-45 minutes on a single charge, depending on how aggressively you use them. 

It’s also worth noting, that while a lithium battery with a higher storage capacity will run longer, it will also take longer to charge. But generally, most batteries charge within 60 minutes.

Engine vs. Motor Power 

Engines are powered by fuel, while motors get powered by electricity. Engine power is more potent than motor power but requires gas (energy determined by cc) to run and can emit harmful emissions.

Battery-powered motors require a certain amount of volts, or electric force, in storage to be powered. You can expect the best garden cultivator batteries to be about 40 volts, giving you around 25 minutes of runtime. For reference, a gas engine will hold about 1 gallon of gas and run for about 2 hours.

Also, the power of a corded cultivator depends on how many amps it has. A higher degree of amps means a more powerful motor. 

In summation, engines are stronger than motors but have more maintenance requirements. Batteries are great for convenience but don’t run as long as the other two options. Keep a close eye on voltage, amperage, and cc when buying.

Front, Mid, or Rear Tine

Tines are the blades on the end of the cultivator that till the ground. They can come in 3 different positions, or they may be adjustable. Different positions are better suited for various tilling or cultivating needs.

Rear tines are more robust and suited for tilling the tough ground for the first time. As the name suggests the rear tine tillers have their tines located at the back of the machine behind the tires. They have a tine shield to protect your legs.

Front tines are smaller, cheaper, and better for working on pre-established gardens. Many front tines are still suitable for tilling harsh land, but only in small increments.

Mid-tines are the middle ground. They’re suitable for gardens that are pre-established but may have tough soil. 

Working Depth and Width of Tiller

Your garden will likely only need a cultivator with a 6-inch working depth. It gives ample space for plants to fully spread their roots. Some plants do require more space than this, and for them, you’ll need a tiller that extends even further down.

The width of your tiller depends on the size of your garden. If your garden is on the smaller side, you don’t need a cultivator with a large tilling width to manage efficiently. Having a wider tilling width makes the initial job easier but may struggle when trying to work around plants.

Speed Settings and Controls

Most cultivators will only have one or two speeds. For a small garden, that’s all you’ll ever really need. Just look for one that can run comfortably at a 2mph pace. Anything more will most likely do a sloppy job and is more dangerous to use.

Aside from this, cultivators may require different starting procedures. Common ones are starter cords for gas and electric button starts. If you have arthritis, an electric start might suit your needs better.

Weight and Size 

You’ll want a lightweight, high-maneuverability cultivator that’s easy to store. Gas cultivators are typically around 35 lbs, while electric ones will be about 20 lbs. 

Some cultivators have folding options that are better for storage. You don’t want something clunky taking up unnecessary space in your garage or a large tiller that’s immobile and awkward to handle.

Best Garden Cultivator Reviews

Without further delay, here are my picks for the best garden cultivators. My criteria included ease of use, value for money, quality of build, and overall versatility for the average gardener.

1. Champion 2-Stroke 43cc Gas Garden Cultivator
  • Power Type: 43cc Gas 
  • Width: 17.7-Inch
  • Tines: Front
  • No. of Tines: 4
  • Tilling Width: 10-Inch 
  • Tilling Depth: 6-Inch adjustable

Pros

  • The tines can eliminate most tangled debris through a self-clearing action
  • Easy tine removal with a pin

Cons

  • If you don’t turn off the fuel cutoff, the fuel can drain into the oil
  • Some users note that the tires separated from the rim 

This cultivating behemoth has everything you could want in a cultivator. With 43 ccs of gas-fueled power and steel tines, you’ll have no trouble getting through any tough surface. It’s a bit on the larger side, but it’s surprisingly agile, especially for a gas cultivator.

Champion 43cc 2-Stroke Portable Gas Garden Tiller Cultivator with Adjustable Depth (Overview 100882)

The Champion has so much power packed into a 33-pound frame, and it doesn’t really get any more efficient than this. With its heavy durability and high power, it makes it an excellent choice to till your first garden, assuming you require a serious workhorse.

All the gas-powered options on this list perform well, but I can say for sure that this is one of the best garden cultivators.

2. Earthquake Garden Cultivator 43cc 2-Cycle Engine 
  • Power Type: 43cc gas
  • Width: 18-Inch 
  • Tines: Front
  • No. of Tines:
  • Tilling Width: 10-Inch 
  • Tilling Depth: 6-Inch

Pros

  • Easy to assemble
  • Lightweight
  • Simple to use

Cons

  • Fuel lines can crack
  • Some customers find the quality of the parts lacking
  • Various reviews mention poor customer service

The Earthquake cultivator is another great option for a gas-run cultivator. It’s potent while being pretty maneuverable, and it’s an excellent all-around machine.

It’s not quite as efficient as the Champion cultivator, but it gets the job done and is more optimal for tough gardens that require moderate upkeep. I will say that this one has better control than the Champion and is good at chopping up weeds without destroying my plants.

The one complaint I have about it is that it’s a bit harder to start, which can sometimes get frustrating. It’s not a massive issue for me, but I can imagine this being a problem for an older person who might not have the strength to pull the cord repeatedly.

Overall it’s a solid option with only a few drawbacks.

3. Mini Max 2 in 1 Tiller Cultivator 35cc Honda Engine 
  • Power Type: 35cc gas
  • Width: 16-Inch 
  • Tines: Mid-Tine 
  • No. of Tines:
  • Tilling Width: 16-Inch 
  • Tilling Depth: 8-Inch

Pros

  • Motor starts easily
  • Compact
  • Heavy-duty

Cons

  • The plastic nuts can loosen and get lost.

The Mini Max tiller cultivator is excellent at easily creating soil beds. It’s a bit on the heavier side, weighing around 50 lbs (the previous two entries were only 33 for reference), but there are no complaints about the performance.

It makes up for its bulk with adjustable tilling width ranging from 7 to 16 inches. Manipulating the width is better for accommodating the needs of various plants and makes this option versatile in what it can do.

It’s a heavy-duty tool that’s relatively simple to use and easy to start. It is hefty and a bit awkward sometimes, but I’ve never had a real problem with it. The upside of its weight and power is that it can be considered an electric tiller, as well as delivering an excellent cultivating function.

4. Honda 25cc 4 Cycle Tiller Cultivator 
  • Power Type: 25cc gas 
  • Width: 10-Inch 
  • Tines: Front 
  • No. of Tines: 4
  • Tilling Width: 9-Inch 
  • Tilling Depth: 9-Inch 

Pros

  • Easy to handle
  • Lightweight
  • Reliable

Cons

  • Some users find it hard to start
  • Several reviews mention that the tines freeze

This is the smallest and lightest of the gas cultivators on this list, but it’s still pretty powerful. It’s more than enough for most people’s needs and has great handling.

The tilling depth goes deeper than most other cultivators (9 inches), a feature I like in the best garden cultivators because it allows you to take care of deep-rooting plants better and can be adjusted to 6 inches if desired.

So why isn’t this one my pick for the best gas cultivator? While it performs exceedingly well, the design isn’t as well made as other cultivators. As a result, this one doesn’t last as long. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad choice; just be wary that you’re getting fantastic results for a shorter time.

5. Toro Garden Cultivator 10" 43cc 2 Cycle 
  • Power Type: 43cc gas
  • Width: 10-Inch 
  • Tines: Front
  • No. of Tines:
  • Tilling Width: 10-Inch 
  • Tilling Depth: 8-Inch

Pros

  • Works well in tight spots
  • Easy assembly
  • Easy to control

Cons

  • Not ideal for soft bedding soil

The Toro Garden cultivator is exceptional in culling weeds and tilling but comes a little short when trying to mix or bed soil. I don’t mean it’s terrible at handling soil, but it isn’t suitable for heavy-duty jobs with tons of soil mixing. It just gets bogged down a bit here and there.

Still, I wouldn’t let this minor inconvenience deter you if you’re looking at this one because it’s still really good at doing its job and is quite flexible in taking on various tasks. It’s just as powerful as any other cultivator or tiller on this list and lasts a long time.

6. Mantis Electric Cultivator 9-Amp 12-inch 
  • Power Type: Corded 120 volt 9 amp
  • Width: 15-Inch 
  • Tines: Front 
  • No. of Tines: 2
  • Tilling Width: 15-Inch 
  • Tilling Depth: 6-Inch

Pros

  • Low maintenance
  • Can run for extended periods
  • Customers praise the power

Cons

  • The safety button location is in an inconvenient spot
  • No easy pin system to remove the tines

As for electric cultivators, the Mantis electric cultivator is as good as it gets. This one does everything extraordinarily well, from light tilling to raising or mixing soil. 

As with any electric appliance, it’s not going to be as suited for laborious jobs (hard-soil tilling) as a gas tool, but it’s easier to use and way easier to maintain. 

It’s unsurprisingly light, coming in at about 22 pounds, and is compact for convenient storage. It’s also cheaper than most gas models, which is a plus.

I wouldn’t recommend tilling a huge garden with a hard surface to break with this one, but this is the best garden cultivator with a cord for maintaining small to medium-sized gardens.

7. Sun Joe 48-Volt Cordless Cultivator 2x2.0Ah 
  • Power Type: Battery Powered 48 volt 
  • Width: 16.4-Inch 
  • Tines: Front
  • No. of Tines:
  • Tilling Width: 14-Inch 
  • Tilling Depth: 7-Inch

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Easy assembly
  • Charges quickly

Cons

  • Not suitable for deep tilling
  • The trigger handle makes it hard to use
  • Some customers are not satisfied with the quality 

Battery-run cultivators and tillers aren’t as common on the market as gas or corded, which is most likely because cultivators require large amounts of power to do heavy workloads.

Still, the Sun Joe battery-powered cultivator defeats all odds and does an excellent job at maintaining backyard gardens.

It’s not suited to till large amounts of land, but it can do a small garden pretty well. The battery life lasts about 35 minutes, which is rather long. A general rule of thumb is if you’re using it for a garden that takes more than that amount of time, you should invest in a higher-powered cultivator.

I rate this one highly as a cultivator for light garden maintenance, convenience, and compact storage. It’s best for casual use in pre-cultivated gardens.

Earthwise 16-Inch 13.5-Amp Corded Cultivator
  • Power Type: Corded 13.5 amp
  • Width: 19-Inch 
  • Tines: Front, Rear, Mid-Time 
  • No. of Tines: 6
  • Tilling Width: 16-Inch 
  • Tilling Depth: 8-Inch

Pros

  • Easy to handle
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable grip

Cons

  • The tiller will bounce during deep tilling
  • Foam padding on the handle can split
  • The cord is a distraction

While electric tillers aren’t typically known for their power, this is the exception. The Earthwise corded cultivator is almost as powerful as a gas-run one and is a great all-purpose cultivator/tiller.

In addition to the outstanding performance, it has all the convenient qualities of an electric cultivator, although just a little bit heavier. The comfortable grip and maneuverability more than make up for the extra weight.

Although it is pretty powerful, this one still isn’t suited for tough dirt. Considering that you won’t be doing incredibly laborious jobs with it, you probably don’t need the extra power. But if you do, then this is probably your best bet.

9. Mantis 2 Cycle Gas 9-Inch Cultivator
  • Power Type: 21cc gas 
  • Width: 10-Inch 
  • Tines: Front 
  • No. of Tines:
  • Tilling Width: 9-Inch 
  • Tilling Depth: 10-Inch

Verdict: Best Garden Cultivator for Small Gardens

After reviewing all the top garden cultivators on the market, I can safely say that the best one for small gardens is the Mantis Electric Cultivator 9-Amp 12-inch.

Sure, the gas ones are more powerful than this electric corded one, but do you really need such a robust engine for a small garden? Most likely, no.

It also simply performs better than any battery-powered machine, which is necessary for managing a garden from spring to fall. You’re not just looking for something that can do the job; you’re also looking for reliability. 

Overall, I’d say that the Mantis electric cultivator is the perfect balance of everything you need for a small garden. Its numerous features do anything you could want; it runs on electricity and can be stored compactly. 

Champion 2-Cycle 43cc Gas Garden Cultivator 

Best Gas Cultivator

Champion 2-Cycle 43cc Gas Garden Cultivator 

Excellent maneuverability, high performance, and completely portable. Sturdily made and easy to start.

Mantis 3550 Electric Cultivator 9-Amp 12-Inch

Best Corded Cultivator

Mantis 3550 Electric Cultivator 9-Amp 12-Inch

Simple to use and comfortably designed. Low noise / no gas emissions, but it is powerful and effective.

Sun Joe 48-Volt Cordless Cultivator 2x2.0Ah

Best Battery Cultivator

Sun Joe 48-Volt Cordless Cultivator 2x2.0Ah

It has a long battery life and is agile. Lightweight and covers a wide area. Extremely durable.

What’s the Difference Between a Cultivator and Tiller

In this review, all of these cultivators have been acknowledged for their tilling abilities, yet they’re referred to as cultivators. This is simply the case because all of the products on this list are multi-purpose and function as both a tiller and a cultivator.

But what’s the difference between a cultivator and a tiller? 

A tiller primarily breaks ground to make it softer and more suitable for growing plants. This process also typically includes removing weeds or grass from the area.

On the other hand, a cultivator’s function is to mix nutrient-rich soil into the tilled ground. Doing so will allow the planting soil to incorporate into the dirt and prepare it for anything you want to plant. 

They’re both necessary for starting new gardens, and having a two-in-one feature makes your life all the easier.

FAQs Garden Cultivators 

Here are some common questions other gardeners ask about garden cultivators.

Final Thoughts

If you needed some help deciding on the best garden cultivator for your needs, I found all of these products I reviewed to be excellent options. However, my top three choices stand out for their convenience, performance, and value for money. 

It depends on your requirements and whether you’d prefer a gas, electric, or battery cultivator. If one of these reviewed options seems to correspond with your needs, I recommend you choose one of them to cultivate your garden to let it thrive!