What is the Difference Between Aerating and Tilling?

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Gardens require specific equipment and techniques to make sure the soil is in optimal condition for planting. Tillers and cultivators are gardening tools that can help to prepare and maintain soil so that your crops can grow to their full potential. Here is some further information on tilling and cultivating and how they are different.



Tilling is simply the process of loosening soil to prepare it for planting. This allows for easier crop planting and more accessibility when adding nutrients such as fertilizer to the soil. It can also be known as plowing and is primarily done in early spring or autumn when sewing begins. Modern tillers contain blades that are located either in front or in the rear of the machine. Rear-blade tillers are easier to control than front-blade tillers although both effectively break up the soil.

Tilling is important for making sure the soil is at its best consistency. This enables new plants to be able to grow to their maximum potential. It’s also important for being able to effectively add extra treatments into the soil.

Aerating (cultivating)

Aerating is similar to tilling except it takes place once the crops have already begun to grow. This ensures that the soil gets oxygen, while also pulling up weeds.

Aerating is important because it allows essential nutrients and air to reach the plants roots which provide optimal growing conditions. It can take place on flower beds, vegetable patches or even your lawn.

The best time to aerate is in the spring or early in the autumn. Aerating should always take place when there’s not too much moisture in the soil. A good way of testing this is to walk over the soil. If it sticks to your feet, then it’s too wet to aerate. Any grass should always be mowed before aerating begins, with twigs and sticks removed.

You can then push your aerator over the lawn or flower beds. After you’ve aerated, you’ll notice your garden soil or lawn has parallel slits from where the machine has been. This is normal, and allows the air to reach deep into the soil.

Aerating vs. Tilling

While it is entirely possible to own and use both a tiller and cultivator, you may prefer to opt for one or the other. If so, the size of your garden may be a factor in your decision making. A small garden less than 100 square feet will benefit the most from a cultivator because it can double up as a tiller on small areas of land. This means you can use the cultivator both before and after you plant crops.

Cultivators are typically smaller than tillers and easier to use. You can purchase either a gasoline powered or electric powered model. If you have a garden larger than 100 square foot, then both a tiller and a cultivator are recommended to cope with the larger area and make gardening a big space a bit easier. Tillers are more heavy duty, so cannot be used to aerate soil after crops have begun to grow.


Spades – You can use a spade to cultivate and till soil. A round point spade is best as it is easier to break through the soil.

Border spades are also good for digging in tougher environments such as clay or weeded areas.

Hand Tools – A hand trowel or hand fork can be useful for tilling small areas of land. They are also good for tending to plants or seedlings without disrupting their environment too much.

Manual Tools – Three pronged cultivators, hoes and non-motorized cultivators can be used to cultivate small gardens. A long handle enables wider spaces of ground to be covered, and manual tools are effective at tilling the land. Rakes can also be used to create a level bed for planting.

Motorized Tools – A motorized cultivator or tiller can be useful when your garden or piece of land have become out of control and are in need of heavy duty maintenance. This can be a quick and effective way of handling larger areas of soil, especially if they have not recently been tended to.

Tilling and cultivating your garden offers the benefit of healthier soil and better-growing crops. If you have a garden that would benefit from either a tiller or a cultivator but still aren’t sure, contact us for more information!

What is the Difference Between Aerating and Tilling? In Louisiana & Mississippi

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