(Updated for 2017)
There’s a small cluster of tools that a gardener – no matter how serious (or not) they are about what they’re doing – needs to have. At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious (and in the full knowledge that they’re probably not classed as tools) pots are most certainly one. Secateurs are probably another. A trowel is also up there too – and it is, I think, better to invest a little time and money in picking a good one now rather than ending up with a handle that has bent and broken off in a week’s time.
This little guide is purposefully concise. We’ve picked five great trowels, described their pros and cons, and provided a link if you want to buy them. We’ve included a little bit of general advice at the end too if you’re interested. Whatever your price point or personal preference, if you go with a model listed here you’ll almost certainly be happy for years to come.
I hope you enjoy our reviews…
Top 5 Best Trowels for Gardening
We’ve tried to be as comprehensive as possible here, covering a range of price points and materials. There’s a lot of nuance so it’s worth having a skim of all of them to find the perfect “fit”.
Fiskars “Ergo Scratch”
We like Fiskars. They’re a good brand and their products are usually of a superb quality (such as their secateurs). Their “Ergo Scratch” trowel is no different. The padded handle, made from moulded plastic, is very comfortable and the blade is also a joy to use doe to its comparatively greater width.
The one issue is that it is made from aluminium, and there have been some complaints about the handle snapping after heavy use. Others swear that they’ve used it consistently in tough conditions without any issues. What you have to bear in mind, however, is the price. For a piece of this quality, it’s an absolute steal.
Wilcox 14″ Stainless Steel
The Sweet Home give a nod to the Wilcox in their excellent article (it’s far more in-depth than this one if you want to really learn about the myriad of garden trowels on the market). It’s a great tool by any standard, and the heaps of positive reviews confirm this.
In terms of specs, the blade itself is stainless steel with one sharp side for cutting through roots and it also has a “depth gauge” in both centimetres and inches on the inside for help with planting. As far as bad things to say about it are concerned, it could be a little wider – but that’s the extent of my criticism!
For the thrifty (I’d never use the word tight) folk out there. It’s a basic piece, made from a single piece of plastic (which helps to stop it from breaking), and it’s very light. There’s not much more to say really…it’ll get the job done.
DeWit Steel Trowel
For those who prefer the traditional look, the lifetime-guaranteed DeWit trowel is a beautiful choice. It’s made in Holland with what’s called boron steel, a type of carbon steel which has boron added for greater strength. What this means in practical terms is that the trowel is particularly resistant to both abrasions and bending.
The one drawback is that, because it’s not made from stainless steel, it can rust if it’s left in the presence of moisture for long periods of time. Regular oiling and good storage however should prevent this from happening. The wooden long handle also feels great.
Draper Stainless Steel Garden Trowel With Measurments
This piece from Draper (another excellent brand) has a lot of features to recommend it. The varnished ash handle, which is ethically sourced, is very well crafted and the blade itself has graduations of one to four inches – so you can get those daffodils in at just the right level! It’s a high-quality piece with a more traditional design. Stainless steel is also slightly more robust than aluminium, so it will likely stand up to wear and tear better.
Just What is a Garden Trowel Anyway? Buying Advice…
Garden trowels are for transplanting plants. Digging holes for those going into the ground and digging up those that are already established.
Generally speaking, your “blade” is going to be made out of either plastic, stainless steel or aluminium. Each have their own benefits: stainless steel is the stronger and sharper option (the better of the three in my opinion), aluminium is lighter and plastic is cheaper.
A good trowel will generally have a sharp(ish) edge for digging through compacted soil and tough roots (essentially a step below a soil knife). You can also find models that have measurements on the inside of the blade for ascertaining the ideal depth of planting (for bulbs, for instance), which can be a useful addition. You’ll also want to take the handle (ergonomic with a squishy plastic covering is often preferred) into account. I personally prefer a wooden handle but plastic is just as good. Lastly, for those ultra tight on space, a folding trowel can be good.