Mini tillers

     OK, since my idea of buying a chipper has been smashed, I'll ask about a smaller investment:
In recent years, I've been wanting one of those mini-tillers. This would not be my main tiller. I picked up a good deal on a used Troy-Built Pony model many long years ago and it is serving me fine in getting my garden ready in the spring and (usually) cleaning it up in the fall after the season is over.
I don't have enough room to space the rows so far apart that I can use the big tiller between the rows. I keep thinking a tiny tiller would be just the thing for keeping the weeds down until the plants get big.
However, I was on the Mantis site some months ago and they had a video of theirs in use. The ground looked like it was already nicely tilled and yet the little tiller was jumping all around like it would be hard to control. So, who here has one of these (any model) and do you like it? Any advice here?
Steve PS I just went back to look at the video and they have a new one that makes it look a lot smoother: http://mantis.com/video.asp The video for their new 4-Cycle model shows what I was talking about as far as jumping around. http://mantis.com/video-4till.asp
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I have a mantis, got it last year from Amazon. At first I had lots of doubts such a mini could perform. When it arrived I was immediately disppointed, what a job trying to figure out how to put it together, but finally I figured out those fercocktah directions and it was time for the big test. Gased it up and pulled the cord, vroooom... started on the first pull. Brought it over to my garden and tried it out, that thing was happy chewing dirt like a termite chewing wood in a lumber yard. Oh boy was I surprised, I will never again pull out my 7 horse Simplicity behemoth to till previously tilled dirt. The Mantis isn't designed to break virgin ground but once tilled that little whippersnapper can go all day and so easy it's actually fun. Get one, you won't be sorry, in fact you'll wonder how you lived without it.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

They certainly do work, unlike some products you get 'em home and it was a total waste of money. A Stihl will cut four inches into the ground which can be disappointingly shallow but the soil's definitely fully turned. I dunno if others would go deeper. It's also just a narrow strip of plowing. I once used a wide tiller to turn up a substantial lawn, tiring but fast; but if it had been a mini-tiller it would've taken a month. Mini-tillers can be hard to start and can really get frustrating pulling and pulling, so might be worth paying a little extra for a fast-start feature, and even then figure on taking to someone to service annually.
I prefer to rent stuff or otherwise get a chance to use it before spending money on anything expensive. I used to live near a neighborhood tool-loan nonprofit organization but I moved from that neighborhood alas; you might ask around to see if you have one of those neighborhood tool loan organizations. Where I live now I got two pro-tool rental places and that can be expensive enough to justify buying. But renting it once will answer all questions about how easy to use and how useful it's really apt to be.
My other reason for renting is such machines do shake apart and need at least an annual professionial tune-up -- very true of mini-tillers -- & I'm not the least bit machine savvy so even doing the fuel mixes or figuring out of the spark plug's okay is annoyingly complicated for me.
Too bad there's not an independent consumer report on a whole mess of models. I have over time gotten a bad impression of most any brand obtainable in Lowes or Home Depot, so have a prejudice against Honda (though I have several smaller Ryobi tools and can't complain about those -- just about every other brand I've gotten at Lowes and Home Depot have turned out to be inferior and needed to be returned immediately -- I'd've been stuck with some truly shitty garden stuff if Home Depot didn't have a pretty easy return policy.
So if my prejudice holds true for mini-tillers it's worth going a little further to find a stihl or mantis instead of brands the big depots carry. I went through every brand of hand-pump sprayer Lowes and Depot had before I gave up & sent away to have a good one that was made in Italy, the only one still in manufacture without crappy-ass plastic parts. Gotta praise those crappy outfits for letting me return their crap but I dunno how they stay leaders in all this without selling stuff that's bound to work.
Gads, it only just occurred to me to google and see if there IS a consumer report. And looky dat: <http://www.mysimon.com/Consumer-Reports-Mini-Tillers/4002-9375-6409283.html the page alas doesn't actually report on test comparisons but seems a pretty good overview of what to look for to lessen chances of getting screwed.
-paghat the ratgirl
--
visit my temperate gardening website:
http://www.paghat.com
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

The Mantis works great on already tilled soil. I'm a fairly small female and I have no trouble dealing with the Mantis in my rocky New England soil, it does jump with the rocks, but as long as you know it's going to, it's not a huge issue. I've got the four stroke Honda engined Mantis and I love it - I had the two stroke and unlike many others I had no problem getting it to start season after season, I think I had it for five or six years before a tree landed on it and killed it - thus the new four stroke. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
--
Ann, gardening in Zone 6a
South of Boston, Massachusetts
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I tried a Mantis then decided to get the mini Honda tiller. Very nice machine, much better than the Mantis.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

It's the same exact machine except for the type of motor (only advantage I can see is you don't need to mix gas), what else is better about it?
I don't mind doing the two stroke mixture, I have other two stroke equipment anyway... and two stroke engines have more torque and last longer in dirty conditions. My two stroke mantis starts first time every time, and tills its full 10" depth into previously tilled soil like it was tilling through butter. I haven't started up my monster tiller since I bought the Mantis last spring. The mantis is also far easier to clean before putting away than my monster tiller.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Have you used each of these machines? I have the Honda FG 110 and compared it side-by-side with the Mantis. The Honda FG 100 was discontinued and has a smaller engine. The overall construction quality differences are very obvious.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Sheldon wrote:

If you compare the Mantis 4 cycle tiller at http://mantis.com/tiller4_features.asp with the Honda 4 cycle tiller at http://www.hondapowerequipment.com/products/modeldetail.aspx?page=modeldetail&section=P2TL&modelname=FG110AT&modelid=FG110AT (note the wrap) I believe that you will find a number of differences. Which is "better" I have no idea.

--
--
--John
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

You can buy the Mantis with a four stroke Honda engine. It's a nice little tiller.
--
Ann, gardening in Zone 6a
South of Boston, Massachusetts
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I would probably get the Mantis 4 stroke, all else being equal. But... I want to buy it through Sears because I got 3 gift cards from there totaling about $250. I was in Sears 2 weeks ago and they were selling Mantis tillers. In stock was just one 2 stroke Mantis with no visible price tag. I was just now browsing through the Sears Web site. I didn't find any Mantis but I found this: http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_07129271000P?vName=Lawn+%26+Garden&cName=Lawn+%26+Garden+Care&sName=Power+Equipment
I wonder how that one would be? It's a pretty good price, at least for the next few days. The tines look to be the same style as the Mantis, different from the Honda tiller.
Steve
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Steve wrote:

http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_07129271000P?vName=Lawn+%26+Garden&cName=Lawn+%26+Garden+Care&sName=Power+Equipment
Searching Sears.com on keyword "mantis" finds the 2 stroke for 319.99 and the electric for 299.99. A couple of days ago they were 30 bucks cheaper. Amazon.com has them for less and theirs include the kickstand and the border edger.
I almost bought one over the weekend but the local Sears didn't have any in stock except the display models.
--
--
--John
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.