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Despite a late snowfall last week, spring is FINALLY here in Texas and people are making plans for their vegetable and herb gardens. While researching tillers for a friend, I found that Mantis reviews online far exceed those of other manufacturers when it comes to quality, durability, and warranty. The Mantis tiller/cultivator, shown above, weighs only 24 lbs. It’s powered by a 4-cycle Honda 25cc engine that’s both quieter and more powerful than the 2-cycle tillers.

The Mantis 4-cycle is gas-powered and requires no fuel mixing, as some tillers do. It includes a variable throttle and a shut-off switch to avoid “run-away” machinery, and digs as deep as 10″. The gear box is aluminum cast in a single piece for extreme durability.

Mantis guarantees their reversible serpentine tines against breakage for life, and they offer a risk-free trial — if you buy directly from Mantis, you can return the tiller up to a year later for a “complete, no-hassle” refund. Additionally, all components of any of their tillers are warrantied for 5 years against defects in workmanship and materials. Everything purchased from Mantis qualifies for free shipping.

The cons of the Mantis? Many reviewers complain it’s not the best at dealing with very hard or rocky soil. And the 9″ tilling width means a loooong time tilling if you’re planting a really big garden. But the warranties and refund guarantee, the Consumer Digest seal of approval, and the wide availability of parts and accessories seem to make this one a good call.

The Mantis 4-cycle runs $449 direct from Mantis, and the 2-cycle is $349. Other options include their 16″ XP tiller for $599 and the 9″ wide electric (plug-in) tiller, also for $349.

If you’ve had experience with Mantis tillers or others, let us know in comments what you think are the best choices for home gardeners.

Mantis Tillers [Manufacturer’s Site]
Reviews of Mantis Tillers [gardenrototillers.com]
Mantis Tillers Street Pricing [Google Products]
Mantis 4-Cycle Tiller Via Amazon [What’s This?]

 

20 Responses to Get Your Garden Started: Mantis Tiller/Cultivator

  1. rick says:

    I have the 2 cycle because it was cheaper. It does a good job.

    Tips:
    1) It can beat up your back a bit after hours of use.
    2) I suggest ear protection, but I wear it anytime I use an engine powered item.
    3) unplug the on/off switch (down by the engine). Its easy to bump the switch when in use. To turn it off just pull out the choke, or connect the switch and turn it off.
    4) unwrap vines from it maybe every 5 min (where applicable)
    5) it can go through grass, but be patient, and make sure its very dry. Its a lot of work to bust sod.

    Great little tiller though, very light. If the dirt isnt covered with grass it blasts through it. I am also surprised at the roccks it has ripped out of the ground! If you are going to be busting up a lot of grass, either be very patient, or use something else. I was just patient! For anything else, it is very good. Really makes the garden much easier to manage!
    Rick

  2. fred says:

    If you have a String Trimmer with a split shaft that accepts attachments – there is a tiller attachment that you can add for light-duty work:

    https://www.hardwareworld.com/Pp2000-Cultivator-Attachment-pPFKKA2.aspx

  3. slapinem says:

    I’ve had a 2-cycle for years now and i really can’t say enough good things about it. I’ve taken it through every different kind of soil clay,sand,rocky soil everything and I’ve never had to replace one part on it.If you are a taller person (like me) you will want to take a break every so often to give your back a rest but as far as quality goes the mantis is top notch.

  4. Brau says:

    I was skeptical until I borrowed one. Great for small, narrow spaces, going *between* the rows, and for people with bad backs. My full size tiller has sat since I got mine. However, unless you have cause to use one regularly, I recommend a split shaft weed wacker with the tiller attachment, because using a tiller but once or twice a year will usually see the little carb gum up with bad gas real fast (like they say “if you don’t use it … you’ll lose it).” Something like 90% of small engine service calls are related to bad gas, which can kill a carb in as little as a few weeks of non-use under the right conditions. In the end it’s wiser (& cheaper) to give one engine a regular (weekly) workout than it is to split the tasks … and for goodness sake use gas preserver.

  5. Old Coot says:

    Wonderful tough little critter. Used it for all kinds of garden chores for many years. Even used it to help dig a wide trench for some large diameter conduit and pipe in an area where a backhoe couldn’t get to; took awhile, but it would chew along the route a few inches deep with each pass, even shredding medium-size tree roots along the way…made removal of spoils by shovel much easier.

  6. Shopmonger says:

    Ditto to the abover, great little machine, when i moved to the new house thoguh, too many rocks, so now i have a big roto….

    Shopmonger

  7. Jerry says:

    I first experienced the Mantis a couple summers back when going to help a friend prepare a new garden space. My experience was oddly different from many of those here. Maybe it was that the soil we were going after was just never “dug up” before? The Mantis bounced along on top of the ground and initially did little more than mow the existing grass. After a challenging 6 passes over the same strip of ground, we had managed to actually have about 4 inches of soil loosened up. Basically, it seemed that there was just not enough weight to this little machine. We retrieved my rear tine, 5 horse tiller and one pass on each of the remaining areas did more than the Mantis in those 6 passes (plus a lot wider path.)
    However, once properly, the Mantis has maintained the space quite adequately and is superior in all ways to my big machine for going between the rows during growing season.

  8. KMR says:

    Jerry, did you have the Mantis tines reversed? You can position them two ways, one for light tilling (1-3″ depth, and surface scuffing) and the other for a good 8-10″ depth. The direction of the teeth lets you know which way you have them positioned on the two drive axles.

    My Mantis is amazing, I’ve used it enough that I finally incurred enough wear / damage to the tines that I got a free replacement set from the factory.

    The most back breaking task I’ve done with the Mantis was till a 2ft wide by 18-24″ deep trench in the backyard on home in PA. We did 8-10″ deep passes, then would remove the tilled dirt, and work it more, and remove the dirt…. basically did as Old Coot did.

    Do keep the air filter clean.

  9. KMR says:

    Oh… factory store in Willow Grove PA (not far from the turnpike exit), has good deals on recon and open box attachments. Also complete recon tillers at good discounts.

  10. MattC says:

    I have an older 2 cycle Mantis. I bought it for when I had 1.5 acres in Southern PA and now have since moved to a smaller house (out of state). It doesn’t see much use now, but it is well made, will till in small spaces without a hiccup. I would definitely recommend a Mantis for the home user.

  11. FredP says:

    Jerry and others are right when they say the Mantis is too light. If your soil is compacted and solid, the Mantis just bumps across the top of it and is completely useless.

    However, if you want a light tiller (for jobs it is good at), then buy a Sears Craftsmen gas powered weed wacker and the optional tiller attachment. You’ll spend less than the cost of a Mantis and have two tools. Spend another $100 to get the pole saw, and now you have three tools for roughly the cost of a Mantis.

  12. Rick F. says:

    There is also the Honda tiller equiv out there — I believe it’s the FG-110 or perhaps newer.. I’ve got one and it works great — sure it’s not the biggest thing and I would NOT want to do a huge yard with it but it works. I just got a tine upgrade recently after hearing that the factory tines that came with it (when we bought it about 3-4 years ago) are “OK” but these other Honda tines are much better..

    Keep in mind with any of these — ensure that you prepare the tiller appropriately when it’s being stored for long periods.. I had to rebuild the fuel system on ours after it didn’t want to run properly after being stored for a long period of time — the lines were gummy and the rubber hoses were dried up.. After the rebuild it works much better.. Also use a good quality fuel.. Our local shop suggests something like Mobil (here in the LA area) — don’t use the cheapie gas!

  13. kramman says:

    I work at a big orange box that rents these units out. Some of the best engines I’ve worked with. Never have any problems with the tillers. in my 3 years of renting and repairing tools the mantis probably requires the least amount of maintenance. Only had one ever go down on us but that was just because the friction clutch had just been worn out with use. Most customers do say they aren’t much for breaking up untilled dirt, but for preexisting beds they are great.

  14. I’ve got the electric version– I live in a place where gas-powered yard tools will bring doom and gloom down on me– and I love it. It’s identical to the gas-powered version, but with a beefer router-style electric motor instead of the gas version. I love it… I can till the garden early on Saturday morning without annoying anybody.

  15. Bill says:

    If the Mantis has handlebars, I would prefer it. I have a Troy-Built (MTD) weed trimmer/interchangable tiller attachment, and while I’m pleased with its performance for small jobs, it is hard on the back to use for long periods of time. I used it to fluff up small flower beds, mix in compost, etc. I wouldn’t think of using it on a hard soil.

  16. Lee Willis says:

    Get the electric model. It does just as good a job as the gasoline powered models, but it’s basically maintenance free.

  17. austin says:

    Had an older 2-cycle once. It was great for smaller areas, but I’d agree with all the above – too light. I also found it very finicky, had to have everything including the spark plug gap just right or it wouldn’t start. I sold it and got a similar size Ryobi. I like the Ryobi – it has a tank to add sand for weight, it has wheels so you can roll it back to the garage instead of carrying it, better handlebars, easy to start and it’s even quieter.

  18. Jon says:

    I have the electric version and agree with what was written above. Has a tough time busting sod and hard soil. It’s slow going, hops up and down, and frequently clogs with grass. But it zips right through established garden areas. The electric model is very convenient and I am glad I got it instead of the gas versions (though I’ve never used a gas version myself.)

  19. Andy says:

    I have the 4 stroke and am very happy. It will hop if it hits a big rock but I just send it back in and it usual will eventually loosen it. Starts easily. Long weeds and vines can make quite a nest on the tines shaft but are relatively easily removed. One of the toughest problem is when a rock gets wedged between the tines and the safety guard but this and the wrapped vines is a problem I also had with my old school tiller. I gave away my old tiller and have no regrets. I’ll have to try the reversing of the tines trick. Since it does not stand on its own I will probably try and make a kickstand. (I’m too cheap to just buy Mantis’s)

  20. Matt says:

    I have used my 2 cycle Mantis for planting trees,thatching my lawn and cultivating growing beds.
    I love the ability of the small unit. You do need to keep that air filter clean. If you have trouble starting the tiller take off the filter. If it will start without the filter you need to clean the filter. Don’t spend time playing with the carb. until you have a clean filter.
    My advice for breaking sod is to use a large rear tine tiller first. Even a large tiller takes some time to accomplish this task depending on the soil.
    Any one use the Mantis to install sprinkler lines?

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