In part one of this garden tool series, we talked about the different types of pruners. Today, we’re going to talk all about the different types of garden trowels.
Just like with pruners, a garden trowel is also a basic tool every gardener, at some point, will need.
Fortunately, though trowel prices can vary, in general, you won’t need to break the bank with this fella. However, at the same time, it’s still important to choose quality. A poorly made trowel can warp or bend, especially when digging heavier or more compact soils.
Types of Garden Trowels & Their Uses
When it comes to garden trowels, the two factors that matter most are the strength of the trowel and the comfort of the handle. It’s a good idea to keep this in mind when purchasing your trowel.
Garden Trowel Uses
Before we dive into the types of garden trowels, let’s take a moment to talk about a trowel’s use.
Garden trowels are simple, but versatile tools. You can think of them as a small shovel.
Whenever you’re working in tight spaces, needing to move small amounts of soil or fertilizer, transplanting, smoothing dirt, or weeding, look to your trowel.
If you’re new to gardening and would like to learn a little more, then take a look at my beginner’s guide to gardening. It has a lot of helpful information.
And a trowel’s use extends beyond gardening. Anytime you need to dig a smaller hole, whether gardening, camping, or backpacking, a trowel can come in handy.
There’s no denying this is one of the most useful tools in the shed. Not only do garden trowels come in various sizes and designs, but they’re also portable and perfect for multiple tasks.
Types of Garden Trowels
Although many of us are most familiar with the classic, shovel-shaped style trowel, there are other types of trowels with different shapes, made from different materials and designed for different purposes. So, it’s important to understand the various types of garden trowels to see which one might be right for you.
Let’s take a look at some of the options
Traditional trowels, with their slightly dished shape and pointed or rounded heads, are the trowels most commonly used. They’re a good, all-around trowel, and are great for scooping out and transferring dirt, plants, etc..
On the other hand, trowels with long, slender blades are ideal for narrow or rocky spots. In addition, they’re great for deep digging to remove stubborn weeds, especially in tight areas.
Beveled, pointed, or serrated blades are all suited for cutting through compacted earth and roots.
Some trowels have larger, scooped shaped heads, designed to cradle soil better.
Whereas other trowels will have depth markers. These are ideal for jobs where you need to measure out your soil or fertilizer or know the depth of your planting, such as when planting bulbs.
And these are just a sample of the options.
There are other trowels with unique shapes designed for a specific job or ones that combine different features. To find out more about blade design, check out this article from Wonkee Donkee Tools.
The blade of a trowel can be fashioned from a number of materials. The most common are stainless steel, aluminum, fiberglass, carbon steel, and plastic. Each has its own pros and cons.
Pros – Stainless steel is good for heavy-duty work and working with rocky or difficult soils. It’s durable and rust resistant. Cons – It may be too heavy for lighter applications, such as turning soils for aeration or working with pots. Too, it can be pricier.
Pros – Aluminum is lightweight and rust resistant. Because it’s lighter, it’s less fatiguing on the hands and wrists. This makes it great for transplanting and turning soil and working in soggier conditions. Cons – The downside with aluminum is it’s weaker and may not be suitable for heavier or rockier ground.
Pros – Fiberglass composite material is lightweight, yet strong. It won’t rust and you can use it in all types of outdoor conditions. Cons – As with aluminum, fiberglass may not be well suited for heavy clay or tough soils.
Pros – Carbon steel is a heavy-duty material that’s strong and durable. It has great wear resistance and is good for compact and rocky soils. Cons – However, due to its weight, it can more easily fatigue your wrist and hand. In addition, it can be prone to rust.
Pros – Plastic trowels are made from high-impact polystyrene. They’re lightweight and affordable. They make a good option for anyone not wanting to carry around heavy tools or looking for something that’s budget friendly. Cons – The downside is plastic’s not as sturdy as its metal counterparts. This means it can be prone to breaking, and the edges don’t tend to be as sharp.
One last point to note regardless of the material, painted blades may look nice, but they can chip and rust over time.
As with blades, trowel handles also come with various options. Usually, handles are made of wood, plastic or rubber coated metal.
Your trowel’s handle should feel comfortable and secure in your hand. Don’t forget, you may be using your trowel for extended periods of time. So, it’s important to test the grip and feel before purchasing. This way you can ensure the trowel fits your palm nicely and is not too large, small, or hard.
If you’re concerned about hand or wrist strain, you may want to look for one with curved and padded handles. Handles that have rubber palm rests or contoured finger grips can also offer support.
A p-grip trowel has a “t” shape at the end. This allows you to use either one or two hands, which gives you the option of greater pushing and pulling power with less strain.
Handles with color markings can be very helpful with finding a trowel you’ve set down in the garden while attending to something else. I’ll admit it, I’ve been guilty of that myself. Something pops up, and you drop what you’re doing, including your trowel, only to find you can’t quite remember where you set it down. If the trowel’s handle blends in with the foliage, it might be hard to spot. But, that’s where a bit of color comes in handy.
Lastly, it’s important the rod connecting the head to the handle is sturdy and thick enough to take the pressure of digging and working with harder, more compact soils.
A rod that is too narrow can bend. I know, because I’ve had that problem.
Trowels made of one-piece construction can be a good option for better leverage and reducing the chance of loosening or bending.
No matter which type of garden trowel you choose, keeping it in good shape is important because taking care of your equipment will prolong its life.
First, you’ll want to clean your trowel after using it. Make sure to remove all dirt from the blade and handle.
Second, once done for the day, store your trowel in a dry area. Even rust resistant trowels should be stored out of the elements.
This concludes our basic rundown of the various types of garden trowels and their uses.
The main takeaway here is to look for a good quality blade that’s going to suit your purpose. Just as important, make sure the handle is comfortable and secure, and the weight of the trowel manageable.
I hope you’ll join me for the final part of this three-part garden tool series where we dive into garden shovels.
If you have any questions or thoughts, please leave a comment below.
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