How to Use a Tiller to Remove Grass

Are you planning on repurposing a section of your yard? Perhaps you’re looking to start a vegetable garden or a flower bed, or maybe you want to plant another type of grass or remove awkward and difficult weeds. You could also just leave the area empty to build an outdoor kids’ play area or a picnic table.

Whatever your reason, a power tiller is your best option. It’s a safe tool that’ll get the job done quickly and neatly! In this post, you’ll find a step-by-step guide on how to use a tiller to remove grass.

These handy gardening tools are designed with rotating blades, called tines, that can break up the soil. They also save time while reducing the risk of back problems.

How to Use a Tiller to Remove Grass: a Step-by-Step Guide

Using a tiller to remove grass is easy and quick. Many models allow you to control the clutch, which controls how deep you want the tines to dig into the ground.

Step 1: Dress Safely with Protective Equipment

Experts recommend you wear protective gear any time you work with tools. This is especially true when you’re dealing with sharp blades like those found on a tiller.

Here’s a list of the safety equipment you should wear when operating a tiller:

  • Closed-toed shoes
  • Gloves
  • A hat or sunscreen
  • Full-length pants
  • A jacket or long-sleeved top
  • A mask if you suffer from allergies
  • Safety goggles or glasses

Step 2: Clear and Clean the Lawn or Garden

To protect the tiller’s tines, as well as the soil itself, you have to prepare the area you plan on working on. This means clearing your lawn or garden of any rocks or other things that can break the tines, such as pieces of metal or debris.

No matter how tough your tiller promises to be, it won’t be able to cut through metal and other hard objects. So, it’s important that you take your time clearing the space to prevent damaging your tiller.

Step 3: Cut Any Long Grasses or Weeds

Mowing the area beforehand helps shorten the grass blades. It facilitates the tilling process since tines move more smoothly over short grass.

Mowing also helps remove weeds, which can jam the tines or cause the tines to break or become dull – either way, you risk damaging the entire machine.

Step 4: Make the Soil Semi-Dry

Is your soil tough and dry? Then, it’s recommended that you water it before tilling. Don’t overdo it, however – you don’t want the soil to become cakey and muddy.

The aim is to soften the ground and make it semi-dry. So, once you’ve removed all the rocks and gravel, add an adequate amount of water to the soil. Wait several minutes until the soil feels slightly dry to the touch.

Step 5: Prepare the Tiller

Take a look at the section you plan on tilling. Is it big or small? Is it better to use an electric, battery-powered, or gas-powered tiller?

Consider the size of the land and how much work will go into tilling it. Then, choose the size and type of tiller accordingly.

Once you’ve picked the perfect tiller for your yard, start by reading the manufacturer’s user manual. Get acquainted with the tool and how to use it before taking it for a test drive.

Step 6: Use the Tiller on the Grass, Twisting Down to the Roots

Now, the fun begins. Place the tiller on the edge of the section you plan on clearing.

You’re going to move back and forth in straight lines. It’s a process similar to mowing your lawn. This is to ensure that you evenly cover the entire area.

Hold on tight to the tiller handles as you press the clutch lever. This is what gets the tines to burrow into the soil.

A word of caution: when you press the clutch lever, the tiller will give a slight lurch forward. So, make sure you keep a steady, firm grip on the handle when you’re first starting.

When you’ve gotten the hang of it, start to push the tiller forward slow and steady. Keep at it until you get to the end of the first row.

Don’t try to rush it. You have to move at the tiller’s pace if you want to get the job done right.

You’ll quickly notice that the tiller isn’t only cutting the grass as a normal mower would. Tillers also dig deep down into the soil to remove the grass by its roots, which can run pretty deep in the ground.

Step 7: Till Repeatedly in a Pattern Until All Is Done

When it’s time to till a new row, push down on the handle to raise the tines out of the ground. Turn the tiller onto the next row. Then, set the tines down into the soil once again. 

Next, press the clutch lever to get the tines moving. Finally, push the tiller forward and start tilling the next row.

Make sure there are no gaps between the previous row and the row you’re working on. One of the easiest ways to guarantee this is to till a bit of the previous row along with the current one.

Keep tilling in the same pattern until you complete the entire section you want to be cleared. Remember to keep a firm grip on the handle each time you engage the clutch. If you’re not careful, you could end up damaging the tiller or injuring yourself.

Another important thing to keep in mind: never leave the tiller unattended when it’s turned on. If you need to take a break for any reason, turn it off. If it’s electrical, it is also better to unplug the cord to prevent accidents.

Other Options for Removing Grass

Tillers provide an accurate and quick way to remove grass. One of their best advantages is that they’re easy to use; plus, they reduce the risk of back injuries. This makes them better suited for a wider audience than other types of gardening tools.

However, other tools can help you get this job done. Let’s take a look at a couple of other choices besides tillers.

Hand Tools

Gardening hand tools are more affordable and accessible than engine-operated tillers. Yet, they depend more on physical hard labor, which may not suit some homeowners.

Still, they’re pretty straightforward to use. Take your pick of hand tools and drive them into the soil. Make a small square of about one foot by one foot.

Using the edge of the hand tool, dig down and slowly try to loosen the ground beneath the grass. Then, lift up and out.

There are two main drawbacks to using hand tools. One, they take a long time, and two, you have to be careful as you’re working that you don’t injure your back or neck muscles.

Using a Herbicide

One tried-and-true, quick removal of grass is using herbicides. One common chemical in many of the herbicides on the market is glyphosate.

Glyphosate is highly effective at removing both grass and weeds. The problem is that it’s just as effective at killing trees, flowers, and shrubs. It also poses a threat to water animals, such as fish and frogs.

The good news is that glyphosate isn’t a health risk to humans, providing you use it with extreme caution. Another piece of good news is that it doesn’t affect plant seeds. So, you can sow it onto your cleared area without worrying about the health of your new plants.


Solarization is when you place a clear sheet of plastic over a section of grass. What happens is that the sheet traps heat from the sun, which kills the grass.

For this to work, the soil has to reach extremely high temperatures to produce enough water vapor. In turn, the hot steam kills off the grass, weeds, and even any insects in the area.

For this reason, solarization works best in places that get a lot of sunshine throughout the year. Even there, the sheet must be kept in place with weights for no less than a couple of months to get the job done.

Its main disadvantage is that it only works on heavy soils, such as loam and clay. These soils retain water for longer, which is why they’re able to produce the suitable amount of steam needed to kill the grass.

Lighter soils, such as sand, don’t hold in as much water or heat, so they’re not an ideal choice for solarization.


If you’re planning on clearing a large section of your yard or garden, a tiller should be your go-to tool. They’re faster and much safer than standard hand tools. Plus, they get the job done with more precision and are less strenuous on your back.

After reading our step-by-step guide, you now know how to use a tiller to remove grass. Follow these steps and you’ll quickly have a cleared space in your yard to use as you please.