Rotary tillers and two wheel tractors look similar: they are both self-propelled, steerable from a walking position, and are used to till soil to prepare it for sowing seeds or planting seedlings. They incorporate a rotor with rotating blades that soften the earth by breaking and chopping it to a certain depth. The rotor blades also uproot weeds and can be used to introduce substances needed to restore fertility (crop residues, manure, soil improvers and so on).
They are a convenient mechanised alternative to hand tools (spade, pitchfork, hoe and so on) and an intermediary between these and the agricultural machinery used in large-scale farming. So which is better, a rotary tiller or a two wheel tractor? It all depends on the amount of work you need to do (surface area of the land, how often you till it, whether you alternate between mechanical and manual tilling, etc.), your available time and, last but not least, your budget. Let's look at the main differences between rotary tillers and two wheel tractors, which are similar but only in terms of their appearance.
Differences between rotary tillers and two wheel tractors: structure
The first difference between rotary tillers and two wheel tractors is immediately apparent. Although both are self-propelled, a rotary tiller has no wheels and moves forward thanks to the propulsion of the blades, whereas a two wheel tractor runs on wheels. The only wheel you often find on a rotary tiller is the transport wheel, which should remain raised while you are working.
A rotary tiller is powered by its engine and its own weight, whereas a two wheel tractor divides the engine’s output between the wheels and the rotor. Given the same conditions, a rotary tiller can penetrate deeper (generally down to 20 cm) but has a less accurate strike. A two wheel tractor is therefore more suited to surface tillage, but is also preferable when more precise cutting and turning is needed. Note that making the soil too fine is not recommended in every situation, such as with clay-rich soils.
For both rotary tillers and two wheel tractors, the footprint and weight are proportional to the engine power and, given the same power rating, normally a two wheel tractor is bulkier and heavier. This is one aspect to bear in mind when it comes to storage and transportation. Despite the wheels, a two wheel tractor is harder to handle than a rotary tiller, which enables you to manoeuvre and till even in confined spaces, such as on a small vegetable patch or flower bed, between plant rows, around vines or orchard trees... Furthermore, on both rotary tillers and two wheel tractors the rotor is width-adjustable (by removing or adding blades), so you can adapt the machine to suit the job in hand.
As for the power source, rotary tillers can be electric, battery-powered or petrol-driven, and Efco provides all these types of rotary tiller. On the other hand, two wheel tractors are only petrol-powered.
Differences between rotary tillers and two wheel tractors: usage
Precisely because of the different type of propulsion we mentioned, a rotary tiller is more tiring to use than a two wheel tractor. It transmits more vibration, it must be steered firmly, it must be sunk into hard soil by applying downward pressure on the handlebars, and it must be pushed forward when embedded in light ground. In the second part of this video you can observe the correct technique for using a rotary tiller in the vegetable patch.
A two wheel tractor is easier to use, because it moves at a constant (adjustable) speed, is more stable on the ground and is less demanding to steer. This makes it more suitable than a rotary tiller for larger surface areas, and for anyone who prefers a more fluent action that is less tiring on the arms, back, etc.
Another difference between rotary tillers and two wheel tractors relates to versatility of use. A rotary tiller is designed for tilling soil and similar uses: for example, Efco medium power rotary tillers can be fitted with accessories such as a plough, furrowing tool and potato digger. Two wheel tractors are multi-purpose: depending on the model, the power take-off can also be equipped to function as a flail mower or plough, tow a trailer and so on.
Finally, let's talk about budgets: the cost of a rotary tiller or two wheel tractor depends on the power rating of the engine and other variables. In all cases, compared with two wheel tractors in the same category—respectively, for home gardening, intensive use or professionals—a rotary tiller is undoubtedly less expensive.
Tilling soil is just one of the jobs that need doing when you grow vegetables: here you will find our guide to preparing the vegetable patch. Various other activities are necessary in the various seasons, such as protecting your vegetable patch from the heat in summer, or shielding it from the cold in winter.
Rotary cultivators and rotary tillers are useful not just on the vegetable patch, but also for preparing soil for aromatic herb corners as well as for flower beds, hedges, fruit trees, lawns and so on, especially in the run-up to autumn, the ideal season for planting and sowing in the garden.
At the start of this article, we mentioned soil fertility: you can read about how to safeguard it and the best ways to regenerate exhausted soil. Fertiliser will certainly be needed: here you will find our tips for making your own compost. If, on the other hand, your soil is too alkaline, here's how to correct its pH by acidifying it.