I did my research on the Internet, and was familiar with most of the models available. I love reading purchasers’ product reviews, which are very revealing. I’ve found that people will be brutally honest about a product’s quality, good or bad. However, in my neck of the woods, there is nothing as golden as a recommendation by a trusted friend. I emailed Bill. Still happy with his tiller after five years, he steered me toward the Mantis electric minitiller. And the reviews I had already read agreed with him.
The Mantis brand was more expensive than most other minitillers, but has a five-year manufacturer’s warranty. But what really sold me was the breaker switch on the housing that trips if the motor starts to get too hot. Bill said this could happen if you were tilling a big bed on a hot day. The fact that the machine will turn itself off before it burns itself up is worth the price of admission right there. Bill did mention having to learn good cord management skills. I would need about 200 feet of 14-gauge extension cord to get to the farthest bed in the garden.
The tiller, weighing 20 pounds, has three speeds and tills down into the dirt about 7 to 8 inches. The electrical draw is less than 6 amps, which our system can provide. By the time my tiller arrived I had the extension cords waiting. After eagerly performing the small amount of assembly required, I was ready to till.
I had a small garlic patch along half of one side of the upper garden. I decided to till the rest of that row with the tiller. I planned to plant it with volunteer garlic starts we dug up when we repositioned a raised bed this spring.
A safety switch must be depressed to engage the tines. I started the tiller in first gear. The tiller dug through the soil and chugged to the row’s end. It was digging up rocks as big as pullets’ eggs. It was small enough that when it bucked on a particularly hard patch of dirt I could easily keep it under control.
After going over the area in first gear, I repeated the tilling pattern in second and third gear. A layer of aged manure was applied and raked flat. (Thanks, Bob-O!) I tilled in the manure using second gear and it smoothed the row into a flat, homogenized planting bed. The garlic volunteers are doing well because they were so young when I transplanted them. Plants are very forgiving like that. After the first test bed, we just needed fair weather for a couple of days to dry out the soil in the main garden enough to till.
Now, our method is that the first spring tilling is done with a big tiller. This means the ground is tilled and a layer of manure is tilled in. Then, using the minitiller, all the raised beds are tilled, manured, and tilled again. As each row is positioned, it receives another layer of manure and tilling with the minitiller. Next, the drip lines are laid out. Finally, the beds are planted with seeds or seedlings.
The planting beds and rows are beautiful—easy to plant in, easy to weed. I could not have prepped the beds to this standard by hand, even with Bob-O’s help. My electric minitiller is a tool I feel really good about since it is powered by water, wind, and sun. Like Bob-O would say, “Let the 3/4 horse do the work.”
Kathleen Jarschke-Schultze is experimenting with growing okra at her off-grid home in northernmost California.