Best soil cultivator tools to help improve plant growth

Whether you are tending to a small garden or a large field, these top garden cultivators are sure to get the job done quickly and effectively.

Removing weeds in garden with soil cultivator

by Ellen Kinsey |
Updated on

Soil cultivators are an essential tool for any gardener, as they help to prepare the soil for planting and maintain the health of the crops. These vital tools are used to prepare the soil for planting or to remove weeds or other undesirable plants from your plot of land. They come in various shapes and sizes and can be hand-held or mounted on tractors or other heavy machinery. In this guide, we round up the best soil cultivator tools, from long-handled cultivators to hand tools.

These tools generally have a series of curved or straight tines or blades designed to loosen the soil, break up clumps, and eliminate weeds as it is pulled or pushed over the ground. Whereas some cultivators are intended for use in small gardens and are hand-held or used by one person, others can be larger and mounted on tractors or other heavy machinery for use in larger fields or commercial operations.

Soil cultivators can be an effective way to prepare the soil for planting, as they help improve the structure and fertility of the ground and make it easier to plant and care for crops so; if you are looking to optimise your plant growth, here are some things to consider.

cultivator tool

What is the difference between a garden tiller and a cultivator tool?

An electric tiller breaks up hard and compact soil, whereas a garden cultivator mixes up dirt that is already loose. Cultivators are used for mixing soil that has been broken up. Such as when compost or fertiliser is added after tilling and before planting. Additionally, cultivators can also be used after planting to control weeds.

How to use a soil cultivator tool?

Modern Gardens Magazine writer Geoff Hodge guides us through the tools that break down soils into a lovely crumbly tilth. "Soil cultivating tools not only break down the soil into finer particles, but the process also aerates the soil and allows for better absorption of water and nutrients."

"They are also used to break up soil pans, dense layers of soil below the uppermost topsoil layer, and soil capping. This is the hard surface crust in the top 1-10mm of bare soil, usually caused by heavy rainfall pounding on the soil surface. This is then hardened by the sun and drying winds to produce a crusty surface that sometimes cracks."

"Long-handled cultivators are the best choice when dealing with larger areas of soil, whereas hand-held versions are better in small areas or when working close to and around plants. Hand-held ‘midi’ tools with longer handles provide a bit more reach."

"The majority feature three, sometimes four, prongs. Those with pointed and even sharpened tips will cut through heavy soils better than those with blunt ends. And those with prongs that curve back towards you, rather than downwards, tend to be easier to use and control."

"Cultivators with prongs will be perfect for the vast majority of soils. But where the soil is very heavy or hasn’t been cultivated for many years, cultivators with blades are more powerful and will cut through the soil more quickly and easily. The Wolf-Garten Multi-Change Soil Miller, for instance, is often referred to as the ‘soil buster’! Using these first and then following up with a pronged cultivator usually produces excellent results."

What to consider when choosing a soil cultivator tool?

Before purchasing a soil cultivator tool, there are a few things to consider to ensure you pick the right one for you.

Material

When selecting a cultivator, your main choices are between carbon steel or stainless steel prongs and shafts made of traditional wood or lighter-weight aluminium or even FiberComp, which is a fibre-reinforced plastic composite resin.

Carbon steel is slightly heavier than stainless steel and can rust if you don’t take care of your tools and oil them regularly.

Stainless steel is lighter than carbon steel and tends not to corrode or rust. It is easier to keep clean and generally easier to work through heavy soils.

Specifications

Handles: Wooden handles, usually made from ash, can rot if not maintained and kept dry. They can also be quite rough and produce blisters, especially on cheap models that use poor-quality wood and even splinters. If you decide on a wooden handle, choose one that has been varnished or check the quality and smoothness first. Where available, make sure it’s comfortable.

Length: Ensure it’s the correct length for your height to use upright without bending

Shaft: Make sure it’s smooth, and that wooden shafts don’t have imperfections that could result in cracking, breaking or splinters

Prongs: Width, length and material will affect weight, balance and how deeply they cultivate

There are many different types of cultivators on the market, and choosing the right one will depend on the size and type of your garden or plot of land, as well as your personal preferences and needs.

For small gardens, hand-held cultivators or those that one person draws are a great choice as these are often lighter, easier to manoeuvre and can be used to cultivate small areas of land quickly and efficiently.

So without further ado, here are the best soil cultivator tools picked by gardening expert Geoff Hodge to ensure your garden soil is of excellent standard.

Best soil cultivator tools

Best long-handled tools

Best long-handled cultivator with star shaped blades
Long Handled Cultivator
Price: £21.24 (was £24.99)

www.coopersofstortford.co.uk

The Coopers of Stortford Long-Handled Cultivator is a versatile and convenient tool that is perfect for any gardener looking to cultivate their soil easily. It features 48 no-rust aluminium star-shaped blades and robust tines and is comfortable to grip. The long handle and durable tines make it easy to use and maintain, and it is an excellent choice for those looking for an easy-to-use cultivator.

Customer review: "A great tool. My daughter used it on her allotment and is delighted with the results, even though the ground was hard."

Pros

  • Stainless steel blades
  • Lightweight metal shaft

Cons

  • Blades may require more maintenance and upkeep than other cultivators

Best premium long-handled cultivator

This long-handled cultivator is made from a durable stainless steel material that is resistant to rust and wear and features a sleek design that is easy to use. The cultivator has a set of three sharp and pointed prongs designed to loosen and aerate the soil, making it easier for roots to penetrate. In addition to its cultivating capabilities, the Draper Heritage 99017 Cultivator can also remove weeds and other unwanted plants from the soil using its sharp and precise prongs.

Pros

  • Made of durable stainless steel
  • Stylish design
  • Timber sourced from sustainable and responsibly managed forests

Cons

  • Pricier than other models

Editor's choice

This award-winning brand has designed tools you can rely on, and this three-prong cultivator is crafted from a combination of a hardened carbon steel head and a weatherproofed ash wood handle for greater durability and longevity. The shaft is lightweight and easy to use, and the handle is comfortable to grip for a day working outside.

Customer review: "Very well-made tool and good value for money."

Pros

  • Well-made material
  • Longest length on this list
  • Weatherproofed

Cons

  • None we could think of

Best long-handled cultivator for length

Another excellent tool from Spear & Jackson is this Neverbend cultivator. Hammer-finished and featuring an epoxy-coated head for improved resistance to rust, scratches, humidity and alkalines in the soil, this tool is made of the collections Neverbend Carbon and is designed with 'Supergrip handles' for ideal angles. The double riveted sockets ensure longevity, and the polished stainless steel heads are designed to tackle the most demanding tasks and the tests of time.

Customer review: "Cultivator arrived today; it feels and looks like a quality tool, the type that you won't lend out, not even to your best friend!"

Pros

  • Made to last
  • Comfortable handles
  • Award-winning product

Cons

  • Pricier than other options

Best adaptable soil miller

This versatile multi-change cultivator incorporates all the tools needed to keep borders in good condition. It has a solid, robust design with tines, prongs and blades that resist bending, wear and corrosion. The Wolf Garden multi-change heads snap in and lock firmly, then release instantly when required with the press of a button. The Multi-Change Soil Miller will crumble soil into a fine tilth ideal for sowing seeds and planting and mix peat, manure and fertiliser into the soil.

Customer review: "Probably one of the best gardening products I have ever bought. After turning soil with a fork use this product to break it up. Takes all the back breaking work out of it."

Pros

  • Versatile tool
  • High-quality materials
  • Multi-change heads for multiple tasks

Cons

  • Expensive

Best hand cultivators

Editor’s choice
Burgon & Ball GTH/SCCRHS RHS Stainless Claw Cultivator
Price: $32.73

The Burgon & Ball GTH/SCCRHS RHS Stainless Claw Cultivator is a high-quality and long-lasting tool that is ideal for any gardener. The cultivator has a set of curved claws created to loosen and aerate the soil, making it easier for roots to penetrate and improve the structure of the soil. Crafted with a wooden handle and stainless steel that won't rust, this hand cultivator, is excellent for small jobs in your garden. Plus, the sleek look makes it a great gift.

Customer review: "I already have a long-handled cultivator, but I struggle with it a bit. This is perfect for when you’re on your knees, weeding the borders, and it loosens up the soil nicely. Comfortable handle, sturdy design and good to use."

Pros

  • Suitable for small tasks and weeding on your knees
  • High quality
  • RHS approved

Cons

  • We can't think of any

Best twist cultivator
Twist Cultivator
Price: $52.84

This nifty Twist Cultivator is constructed from a strong, high-quality stainless steel material that is robust and long-lasting. Garden tools from Burgon & Ball use traditional manufacturing techniques, and their attention to design results in hand tools that can be relied on and make gardening easier for everyone. The tines of my Twist Cultivator efficiently push into all soils, and due to its lightweight and compact size, it's straightforward to work between closely spaced plants in raised beds and pots.
**
Customer review:** "Excellent quality and a good price. Superb little tool, it will get a lot of use in my pots and gardens."

Pros

  • Good for smaller hands
  • Handy twist design
  • Gift boxed

Cons

  • Expensive

Best budget option

Pricing at just over £5, this hand cultivator from Draper is great value. Designed with epoxy-coated carbon steel, which is hardened and tempered with plated ferrule, this tool will make light work for your garden tasks. It includes a leather wrist strap and a plastic handle. Draper tools are manufactured with high-quality materials, and an ergonomic design and will be a reliable piece of kit in your collection.

Customer review: "Compact and tough. I found this tool comfortable to use."

Pros

  • Good price
  • Has a leather wrist strap

Cons

  • Has a plastic handle

Best easy grip hand tool
Easi-Grip PETA Garden Tools
Price: $22.95

The Easi-Grip PETA Garden Tool is a hand-held cultivator designed for use in small gardens and outdoor spaces. It features an ergonomic handle that is easy to grip and comfortable to hold, even for extended periods of use, making it excellent for those with arthritis. The handle is made from a soft, non-slip material that helps prevent hand fatigue and is shaped to fit the hand's natural contours. The tines are made from a durable stainless steel material that is resistant to rust and wear and are spaced closely together to provide top coverage and effectiveness.

Customer review: "I gave a talk at my Garden Club about ergonomic gardening. I discovered this tool while doing research and ordered it because the price was reasonable, and I wanted to use it for Show and Tell when I gave my presentation. I’m so glad I made that purchase. I’ve fallen in love with this tool and will be purchasing other gardening tools made by this company that has the same handle grip."

Pros

  • Ergonomic and comfortable handle
  • Durable stainless steel tines that are resistant to rust and wear
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Not as effective as larger cultivators in breaking up heavily compacted soils

Soil cultivator tools FAQs

How to maintain garden cultivator tools?

Regardless of the type of cultivator you choose, it is necessary to follow proper care and maintenance procedures to ensure it is working at its best. This may include cleaning the tines or blades, lubricating the moving parts, and checking for any signs of wear or damage. You may also want to occasionally oil the metal parts too. By taking good care of your cultivator, you can ensure that it will last for many seasons and help to keep your soil healthy and productive.

How do I use a garden cultivator?

You can use a garden cultivator by simply holding the tool in your hand and using the tines or prongs to loosen and aerate the soil in your garden bed or planting area. You can move the cultivator back and forth in a sweeping motion to cover a larger area or use a more precise digging motion to target exact areas of soil.

Can a garden cultivator be used to remove weeds?

Yes, the prongs can remove weeds. To do this, use the cultivator to slice through the weed at the base of the plant, being careful not to harm the surrounding soil or plants.

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