What is a Lawn Cultivator?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Lawn tillers are a form of cultivator that uses an engine to rotate tines into the soil.
Lawn tillers are a form of cultivator that uses an engine to rotate tines into the soil.

A lawn cultivator is a gardening tool which is used to prepare the soil for establishing a lawn, and to maintain a lawn while it grows to keep the grass healthy. Lawn cultivators vary widely in style and design, from models which require people to push the cultivator across the soil by hand to lawn tillers which use gas or electricity to rotate the tines of the cultivator. Many garden supply and hardware stores carry lawn cultivators for sale and sometimes for rental as well.

A lawn cultivator can be used to mix in fertilizer.
A lawn cultivator can be used to mix in fertilizer.

A typical cultivator includes a row of tines which are designed to rotate. As the lawn cultivator is moved over raw soil, the tines cut through the soil, loosening it. The loosening action promotes aeration of the soil, which is important for a healthy lawn, and the tines also remove weeds as the lawn cultivator is pushed along the soil. This activity is often recommended before seeding or sowing a lawn to ensure that the soil is of the best quality possible.

Aeration helps keep a lawn from looking thin and brown.
Aeration helps keep a lawn from looking thin and brown.

Lawn cultivators can also be used to mix compost, fertilizer, and other soil conditioners into the soil. Typically the cultivator is run across the soil once to prepare it and remove weeds, stones, and debris, before the compost, manure, or fertilizer is applied and the lawn cultivator is run again to mix it thoroughly into the soil. This ensures that the additive to the soil is evenly distributed while promoting aeration in the soil so that grass seeds will germinate and grow healthy, and so that sod will have a healthy base to grow on.

A lawn cultivator can be used to work soil until it reaches the desired state.
A lawn cultivator can be used to work soil until it reaches the desired state.

Once a lawn is established, a lawn cultivator fitted with an aerator can be used. This device is used to aerate the soil to reintroduce air pockets and looseness to soil which may have become compacted over the time. The device can also be used for dethatching, to pull out clumps of old grass from the lawn. Dethatching promotes healthy new growth and keeps a lawn looking more attractive.

In addition to being used on lawns, cultivators can also be used more generally in gardening. A tiller/cultivator can be used to prepare flower beds and vegetable beds and to care for the soil while crops are growing, in addition to readying soil to plant trees, vines, and other types of plants. As with other gardening tools, a lawn cultivator should be well cared for to ensure that it will operate effectively when it is needed; the tines should be wiped down after use to remove debris, the device should be periodically oiled, and it should be stored in a cool dry place.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • Lawn tillers are a form of cultivator that uses an engine to rotate tines into the soil.
      Lawn tillers are a form of cultivator that uses an engine to rotate tines into the soil.
    • A lawn cultivator can be used to mix in fertilizer.
      A lawn cultivator can be used to mix in fertilizer.
    • Aeration helps keep a lawn from looking thin and brown.
      Aeration helps keep a lawn from looking thin and brown.
    • A lawn cultivator can be used to work soil until it reaches the desired state.
      A lawn cultivator can be used to work soil until it reaches the desired state.