Gardening is one of the most rewarding hobbies you can get into, but it’s important to have the right tools. The best garden trowels have comfortable handles for long hours in the garden and durable stainless steel blades that won’t bend or rust.
I’m an amateur gardener myself, but to learn what qualities to look for in a great garden trowel, I reached out to some experts: Nicole Zelyez of Colorado-based Larkspur Landscaping, Jon VanZile, author of the book Gardening Hacks, and Angela S. Judd, author of the book How to Grow Your Own Food: An Illustrated Beginner's Guide to Container Gardening.
These gardening experts had lots of opinions about trowels, but everyone I interviewed agreed that the two most important considerations are a durable blade and a comfortable handle.
“Hands down the best material for a garden trowel is stainless steel. It's lightweight but strong enough to work in hard ground,” advises Zelyez, “Breaking a trowel in the middle of a project is a big letdown.” That’s because stainless steel is a highly durable, rust-resistant material that should be able to withstand season after season of regular use in the garden.
Trowel blades can have different shapes and other special features for specific jobs. According to Judd, “Look for a serrated edge to cut roots as you are digging. Depth markings along the blade are also helpful.” Not only can a serrated edge help cut out weeds, but it’s also a handy feature for separating roots during transplanting and cutting open bags while you’re out in the garden. Depth markings are also key for transplanting projects, since they make it easy to measure your soil depth at a glance.
Next, think about the handle of your trowel. “Look for handles that are comfortable to hold, yet make it easy to apply pressure if you’re dealing with heavier soils,” notes VanZile, “Because of their size, trowels don’t have the same leverage to break into tough soil as a conventional shovel, so you’ll find yourself applying pressure one-handed. A comfortable handle makes a big difference if you’ve got a lot of work to do.”
It’s also helpful to look for a trowel with a colorful handle because, as Zelyez notes, “locating a brown trowel in a garden can be challenging.”
Finally, think about what kind of garden work you’ll be doing, and what type of trowel will work best for those tasks. Traditional scoop-shaped trowels are great for all-around gardening, while transplant trowels with serrated edges are perfect for getting seedlings into the ground. Trowels for weeding come in a variety of designs, from long, narrow ones with forked tips to blade-like Japanese hori-hori gardening knives.
Ready to pull on your gardening boots and get your hands dirty? Here are five of the best garden trowels you can buy on Amazon.
1. The Best All-Purpose Trowel
This inexpensive garden trowel is a favorite of the team at Larkspur Landscaping, and it offers great quality for the price. An excellent all-around gardening tool, this trowel has a head made from bend-resistant stainless steel with a large blade that can tackle a variety of tasks. The ergonomic handle is brightly colored so you can easily spot it, and it has a soft texture and thumb and finger grooves so you can get a secure grip. There’s also a hole in the handle for easy storage.
One fan raved: “I believe this trowel deserves all the positive reviews. I have owned MANY garden and digging trowels in my years. My wife has owned, used and worn out many more than I. This is a quality tool. I especially like the shank to blade weld and the attention to finishing and polish. With the exception of the modern soft-grip handle which is very well sized, shaped, and balanced; this reminds me of tools from the early twentieth century and even earlier. I am a picky old codger. I believe if you are also one who appreciates good tools, you might like this one.”
2. The Best 3-Piece Set
If you’re looking for a garden tool set that can handle everything from transplanting to cultivating, this three-piece set is a great choice. It includes a transplant trowel with depth markings on the blade in both inches and centimeters, an all-purpose trowel with a wider blade, and a cultivator rake that’s great for pulling up weeds. All three tools are made from stainless steel and have ergonomic, nonslip handles with neon orange accents for visibility and holes at the ends for storage.
One fan raved: “I'm not a professional gardener, but I must say that I’m quite impressed with the quality of this set. I was afraid that it may be thin and flimsy. But the whole set feels very durable and each tool is stamped with “Stainless Steel”. The metal is thick and strong enough not to bend by hand or from a rock and all the welds are thick and strong. The handles are fairly comfortable and are made of a two molded materials [...] These tools are well designed and are easy to work with.”
3. The Best Transplanter
A favorite of Judd, this trowel for transplanting has a ton of useful features. The stainless steel blade has depth markings in inches, plus a serrated edge that’s great for cutting through tough weeds and separating roots as well as ripping open bags of soil and fertilizer. The comfortable handle has a nonslip, trigger-style grip for optimal stability and a hook at the end so you can hang it in your garage or garden shed.
One fan raved: “Sturdy, and metal part is one cast piece so there are no places where a weld can come apart. The serrated edge is fantastic and useful in opening bags of mulch, dirt, etc. I like this trowel so much, I have three of them.’
4. The Best Hori-Hori
If you’e looking for something that’s equally good for digging holes and cutting through weeds, you might want to try a traditional Japanese Hori-Hori gardening knife. This one boasts a near-perfect 4.8-star overall rating on Amazon with thousands of ratings in total, and it comes with a faux-leather sheath that can clip directly onto your belt or gardening apron. The stainless steel blade has one serrated and one straight edge, and there are depth markings on the front in both inches and millimeters. The wooden handle has a convenient hole at the end so you can hang it when not in use, and while it doesn’t have the same soft, nonslip grip as the other options on this list, Amazon reviewers noted that it’s comfortable to hold.
One fan raved: “I am very impressed with this tool, it is indispensable in the garden. I have used it to dig up weeds, dig holes in garden, split perennials and cut sod. This knife was very effective for all of those tasks. This knife is sharp, it cuts right through roots, tubers and most plant stems.”
- Nicole Zelyez, co-owner of Larkspur Landscaping
- Jon VanZile, author of Gardening Hacks
- Angela S. Judd, author of How to Grow Your Own Food: An Illustrated Beginner's Guide to Container Gardening