10 Best Garden Trowels
The garden trowel is an essential gardening tool and every gardener should have the best trowel they can afford. Here's a collection of our favorites.
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If you’re going to get down on your hands and knees in the garden this summer, one tool you’ll definitely need is a garden trowel. Whether you use it for digging up weeds, planting bulbs and seedlings or cutting roots, this handheld shovel is indispensable in the garden, and if you find a good one, you’ll probably still be using it 10 years from now.
Some of the best trowels come from the UK, Japan and the Netherlands, where gardening is a centuries-old tradition. It’s difficult to find these tools in North America, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for inferior quality.
Buying a Garden Trowel
The trowels you use for gardening aren’t the same as the ones concrete workers use. Garden trowels are used for digging (not smoothing) so they have a cutting edge and are shaped to hold dirt. The end may taper to a point or may be rounded, and the trough may be rounded or triangular. Some trowels are handy all-around tools while others are designed for a particular purpose, such as:
- Digging: Digging blades are generally wide and shovel-shaped and can hold a good amount of dirt. They are best for digging large holes (more than 4 inches in diameter or 4 inches deep).
- Weeding: Weeding blades are long and narrow, allowing you to reach deep roots. Some have forked tips.
- Potting: Potting blades are long and concave, which allows for easy transfer of soil from one place to another.
- Transplanting: Transplanting blades are long and narrow like weeding trowels, but they hold more dirt and are better for digging holes.
The three most common blade materials are stainless steel, carbon steel and aluminum. Stainless steel is strong and rust-resistant and generally considered the best blade material. Carbon steel is also super strong, although it may rust if you leave the tool outside. Lightweight aluminum trowels are best for small jobs, like planting seeds or seedlings. All of these materials are bend-proof and break-resistant, because nothing is more frustrating than having a blade deform while you’re digging in clay soil.
The average handle length is between 4 and 5-1/2 in., but some are shorter for use in tight places and some are longer to provide better leverage. Extra length increases the likelihood of bending, however, and a short handle makes the tool more tiring to use.
Handles can be made of wood or plastic, and those with cylindrical and oval shapes are the easiest to use. Beware of handles with sharp edges, which can cause blisters. Some trowels feature ergonomically designed handles that greatly reduce the amount of wrist movement needed for digging. Handles also need to be bend- and break-proof; the best ones are molded as part of the blade rather than welded on.
Best Utility Trowel
A utility trowel is one you can use to perform most of the tasks for which you need a trowel, and the Edwards Bend-Proof Garden Trowel is definitely that.
Sturdy one-piece stainless steel construction, easy-grip rubber handle with a palm grip and an oversized trough for moving lots of dirt quickly make it a standout. The company offers a lifetime replacement warranty should you find a way to bend the handle or distort the blade.
Best Trowel Splurge
From Japan, where some of the best hand tools are made, comes the Niwaki Forged Trowel, with an oversized digging blade and a longer-than-usual wooden handle for extra leverage.
This tool is only available through Niwaki’s website, and it’s very expensive, but that’s because it’s produced by a small family business in Sanjo, in the north of Japan. The sharp carbon steel blade easily breaks ground even in rocky or clay soil, and the 6-in. trough holds a lot more dirt than conventional trowels.
Best Potting Trowel
The Berry & Bird Stainless Steel Trowel has a durable stainless steel blade and an ergonomic wooden handle made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified ash. The handle is seamlessly welded to the business end of the tool.
The concave trough comes to a sharp point and is clearly graduated in quarter-inch increments to ensure you bury seeds, bulbs and seedlings at the optimum depth. The tool is light and easy to handle, which is just what you need for moving around loose soil in a pot.
Best Transplanting Trowel
Best Digging/Transplanting Set
The Zuzuan Garden Tool Set comes with a transplanting trowel with a graduated blade, a digging trowel and a hand cultivator, all for a lower price than many individual trowels.
All three tools are made of aluminum and have ergonomic rubber handles. The set gives you everything you need to move soil around, dig holes to accurate depths, aerate the soil and remove weeds.
Best Root-Cutting Trowel
The Radius Garden Root Slayer has a blade with a shallow trough and serrated edges which are perfect for sawing through pesky roots that get in your way.
The blade is constructed of durable powder-coated carbon steel, so it won’t rust, and the thermoplastic, non-latex rubber handle makes digging and sawing easy on the wrist. The blade tapers to a flat edge that is easy to resharpen, and the tool comes with a lifetime warranty.
Best Weeding Trowel
The Hori-Hori Garden Tool is a gardening knife and a trowel in one. The pointed blade digs deep into the soil and through the roots of pesky weeds, and unlike a traditional Japanese hori-hori knife, the blade is formed into a trough for removing dirt.
The stainless-steel blade is graduated to allow you to use the trowel for planting bulbs and seeds and transplanting seedlings, and the handle is made from durable and attractive rosewood. It’s something of a collector’s item you’ll keep for years to come.
Best Border Trowel
A border trowel has a long handle like a shovel, but the blade is the size of a conventional trowel. Use the Berry & Bird Stainless Steel Border Hand Trowel to edge the garden or plant bulbs without having to get on your hands and knees.
Because of the extra leverage provided by the long handle, this trowel can dig deeper than others, and it’s also an effective weeding tool, because it can reach and unearth deeper, more persistent roots. This tool comes with a two-year warranty.
Best Multi-Purpose Potting Trowel
The Fiskars Composite Soil Scoop is the tool you need to transport potting soil from bags into pots and from pot to pot. It holds more soil than other trowels, and the deep trough prevents the soil from spilling out while you’re carrying it.
Made of durable fiber composite material, which is actually stronger than steel, this trowel has many other uses, such as adding perlite to the soil and even filling bird feeders with seed.
Best Trowel for Kids
Even if they aren’t actually gardening, kids can spend hours of quality time just moving dirt or sand around, and they don’t need a sophisticated trowel to do it. The Fiskars Fiber-Composite Trowel is perfect.
One piece plastic body, no sharp edges and a low-low price of only a couple of bucks. This is an actual trowel that you can borrow for your gardening work when your own trusty trowel goes missing.