Anatomy of a Trowel
Four gardeners recommend their favorite trowels and tell us why they love it.
Every gardener's caddy should have a trowel, which gets its name from the Latin trulla, meaning ladle. The tool's concave blade is meant for digging, weeding, dividing, and even cutting through stubborn roots. Some are designed for specific tasks: the bulb-planting trowel has a slender, pointed dish, and the right-angle trowel—a peculiar Swiss import with a perpendicular blade—makes for fast, powerful digging. For most jobs, any standard trowel will do (like Corona's eGrip Trowel, left), provided it's comfortable and built to last.
-Select a broad blade to move soil; a pointed V-shape for rocky terrain; and a long, narrow blade for weeds and rockeries.
-Forge-welded joints will resist separation far better than spot-welded joints. The handle and blade should be sturdily linked (better still if they're fashioned from a single piece of metal).
-The best handles will have a smooth finish and be made from hardwood or plastic; the grip should fit the contours of your hand.
Corona eGrip Comfort Trowel ($11.99) from Amazon; amazon.com
Sneeboer Transplanting Trowel
“For our raised garden beds, I prefer a long, tapered blade. And as a self-confessed tool geek, I'm partial to the Sneeboer. I call it ‘art on a stick.’”—Blake Schreck, owner of Garden Tool Company, Fort Collins, Colorado
Sneerboer Transplanting Trowel ($42.39) at Garden Tool Company (800/830-4019; gardentoolcompany.com)
Fiskars 7978 Fiber Comp Trowel
“I tend to lose things, so I buy a lot of these inexpensive trowels and keep them all over—on the porch, in the cold frame, the backyard, and the car. If they last a year, I'm happy.”—Sally McCabe, PHS garden tenders project manager at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
Fiskars 7978 Fiber Comp Trowel ($3.65) at Amazon (amazon.com)
Wilcox 14-Inch All-Pro Digging Trowel “I use trowels in many situations, and my favorite is the Wilcox. It's sturdy, so you can use it as a lever without worrying that it will bend on the shank. And it has a little heft to it, which helps when you're stabbing at soil. Plus the Wilcox is made from stainless steel, so you can be sure it won't rust or shed chrome.”—James Folsom, director of the Botanical Gardens at the Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California
Wilcox 14-inch Pro Digging Trowel ($13.59) at Amazon (amazon.com)
Right Angle Trowel “This well-made wonder is much better than a standard trowel for setting plants. All you have to do is hold it in your fist, jab it in the ground, and pull it back to make your hole.”—Eliot Coleman, co-owner, Four Season Farm, Harborside, Maine
Right Angle Trowel ($35.95) at Johnny's Selected Seeds (877/564-6697; johnnyseeds.com)