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Trowel Buyer’s Guide

Trowel with cushion grip

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A trowel is a small, narrow, hand-held metal scoop used for small digging jobs, such as digging holes for flower and vegetrable transplants. Trowels are used while you kneel or sit.

Trowels are commonly made from one piece of cast metal or a metal blade with a plastic or wooden handle. Trowels have various blade and handle sizes that are suited for a variety of tasks. Transplanting trowels, for example, have extra-narrow blade while multi-purpose towels have wide-blades.

Trowel uses

Trowels are excellent for digging small planting holds and for removing weeds. Use a trowel for digging up and dividing a small perennial. Use a trowel to break up a bale of peat moss or compost. Use a trowel or to scoop potting mix into containers and for planting bulbs. Use a wide blade trowel to move soil. Use a long narrow blade trowel are for digging a hole in compacted clay soil. Some trowels have measurements scribed onto the blade to help dig to a desired planting depth.

Trowel construction

Trowel blades are can be made of tough fordged steel. Some blades are made of light weight and rust-resistant aluminum. Stainless steel trowel blades offer durability.

Trowel handles can be made of wood, fiberglras or metal. The handles are sometimes wrapped in rubber or plastic for a cushioned grip. Some trowels have larger-diameter handles for gardeners who have a weak grip or suffer from arthritis. Som trowels have curved and foam-padded handles.

Some manufacturers offer long-handled trowels with 2- or 3-feet long lightweight handles for use by those gardeners who have trouble bending over. Houseplant trowels have small, nearly minature blades for use in container gardening.

Trowel with scribed measurements on blade

Trowel types

Standard trowel

A standard trowel is made from two pieces: a wooden, metal ,plastic, or fiberglass handle and metal blade with a sharp edge.

One-piece trowel

A one-piece trowel is made from cast lighweight aluminium or other metal alloy or forged heavy-gauge steel. Usually the handle is covered with a colorfull platic grip. The blade on a one-piece steel trowel is often V-shaped rather than curved (adding strength).

Planting or bulb trowel

A bulb trowel has a narrower blade, ususally 2 to 3 inches at the top, tapering down to about 1 inch at the tip, and as much as 6 inches long. The smaller blade can be used to dig a small, narrow hole suitable for planting bulbs, bedding plants, or seedlings. Most bulb trowels have measuring lines stamped into the blades for determining how deep to plant each bulb.

Trowel use tips

  • Hold a trowel with your knuckles wraped around the back of the handle and your thumb pointed up, as if if where an icepick; stab the blade into the soil.
  • When transplanting, insert the trowel into the soil and open a hole by moving the trowel from side to side; the curve of the blade will form the hole.
  • Use a narrow and V-shped blades for digging out weeds and planting bulbs and for piercing heavy soil.
  • Use a wider and flatter blade for moving soil and digging large holes in loose soil.
  • Use a long handle trowel if you have trouble bending over or kneeling.

Trowel maintenance

Metal trowel blades should be cleaned with an oiled cloth after use and stored in a dry place to avoid rusting.

Metal-blade trowel with wooden handle

Trowel buying tips

  • Choose a trowel that feels comfortable in your hand.
  • Choose a trowel with a bright handle that is easy to find if you lay it down while you are working.
  • Try various grips for comfort. Usually a larger grip will be eaiser to use.
  • A one-piece aluminum or steel trowel with a plastic or rubber wrapped-handle will be most durable an comfortable. A tang-and-ferrule trowel blade that fits into a separate handle may eventually detach.
  • V-shaped blades are strong and less likely to bend.
  • Aluminium trowels are lightweight, a consideration for people with arthritis or weak grip but the blade will not be as sharp as a steel blade and cannot be sharpened.
  • You may want to buy several sizes of trowels for use in different jobs.

Trowels we like

Fiskars Ergo Trowel – Heavy Duty Gardening Hand Tool with Hang Hole. About $9.

Large Potting Soil Scoop, Kbenison Garden Trowel, Bent-Proof Gardening Hand Shovel, Fertilizer Feed Scooper, One-Piece Aluminum, Ergonomic Handle. About $19.

Kemaier Heavy-Duty Trowel Garden Tool, Stainless Steel Serrated Hand Shovel for Effortless Digging, Weed Control, and Precise Bulb Planting. About $18.

Edward Tools Garden Trowel – Heavy Duty Carbon Steel Garden Hand Shovel with Ergonomic Grip – Stronger Than Stainless Steel – Depth Marker Measurements for More consistent Planting. About $8.

Garden Serrated Planting Trowel, Multifunctional Shovel with ash Wood and Stainless Steel Digging Trowel Transplanter. About $17.

Corona E-Grip Transplanter 13-1/2 inches. About $12.

Corona CT 3314 Premium Stainless Steel ComfortGEL Garden Trowel, 13.5″ Overall Length, Handle Length 7″. About $12.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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