Apparently we’ve all been spending more time in the garden than ever before, and with summer just around the corner, there’s never been a better time to upgrade your collection of gardening tools.
Trowels are a great place to start – they’re multi-purpose miracle workers which can be used to transplant seeds, dig holes, root out weeds and smooth freshly-seeded soil.
We tested our trowels in a wide range of conditions. Our Surrey test garden has plenty of chalky soil to dig into, as well as multiple bedding areas. This allowed us to put our trowels to the test with what is usually stony soil and a range of tasks, ranging from transplanting delicate seedlings to rooting out triffid-like weeds.
Depending on your gardening habits and soil type, you’re likely to prioritise different features, but there are a few we came to value for every type of gardening work.
A comfortable handle (ideally with a generously-sized hanging loop) now comes top of our horticultural hit list. Similarly, the combination of a wide shovel and a tapered end is a top priority – a combo which means great digging capabilities, but which also comes in useful when it comes to transplanting seeds and tamping down uneven soil.
To be clear, we’d recommend all of the trowels listed – our thorough testing allowed us to weed out (excuse the pun) the ones which simply weren’t worth your hard-earned cash, so you can rest assured that every single one of the trowels below will serve your garden well.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
The best garden trowels for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Burgon & Ball corona comfortGEL trowel: £13.99, Burgonandball.com
- Best for seedlings – Fiskars seed planting trowel: £13.09, Amazon.co.uk
- Best for transplanting small plants and bulbs – B&Q goodhome durum trowel: £7, Diy.com
- Best for gardeners on a budget – Elements fork and spade set: £10, Dunelm.com
- Best for easy use – Wilko hand fork and trowel: £2, Wilko.com
- Best for transplanting larger bulbs – Draper Tools heavy duty transplanting trowel with ash handle: £4, Drapertools.com
- Best for bedding areas – Wilkinson Sword stainless steel long handled trowel: £8.39, Robertdyas.co.uk
- Best appearance – Wilko carbon steel hand trowel: £3, Wilko.com
- Best for tough jobs – Spear & Jackson traditional stainless steel tanged trowel: £10.50, Wickes.co.uk
- Best for digging holes – Sneeboer transplanting trowel: £36.50, Sneeboer.co.uk
- Best for tough soil – DeWit bad ass trowel: £31.99, Crocus.co.uk
- Best for heavy duty gardening work – Kent & Stowe carbon steel hand trowel: £4.99, Squiresgardencentres.co.uk
Burgon & Ball corona comfortGEL trowel
Why don’t more trowels have cushioned handles? Traditionalists might well wince at the thought of anything other than suitably weathered wood, but this brilliant trowel was the reason our wrists were entirely ache-free after a seriously strenuous digging session.
Another feature worth highlighting is the ridge designed to prevent sweaty, soily hands from slipping in the direction of the shovel end – a simple but genius addition which allowed us to apply extra downward force. Believe it or not, it gets better – the shovel has engraved measurements and the narrow indent to the left of the handle can be used to cut material such as string.
Fiskars seed planting trowel
Best for: Seedlings
This is the lightest trowel we’ve come across. Initially, we were slightly annoyed to see it skitter across our lawn thanks to a particularly heavy gust of wind, but all is forgiven. It’s a trowel jam-packed which features worth their weight in gold, whether it’s the measurements on (both sides of) the shovel end, the handy thumb grip or the two-tone plastic – the flash of bright orange on the handle means it’s impossible to misplace.
The best bit? The orange-coloured plastic section slides out – we used its pointed end as a dibber to make holes for seeds, and the flat, wide end to help ease seedlings into freshly-dug holes.
GoodHome durum trowel
Best for: Transplanting small plants and bulbs
We loved the fact that B&Q’s trowel comes with a care guide (hence we’re now regularly treating our trowel to applications of linseed oil), an unexpected extra for a garden tool which costs just £7. The combination of ultra-sharp edges and an extra-long handle makes this one of the best gardening trowels in terms of versatility – we used it to transplant seeds, dig out pot-bound bulbs and carve out a hole for an apple tree, and it coped with these very different jobs incredibly well.
An extra-long handle allowed for plenty of grip and we loved the generous size of the hanging loop – all too many garden trowels have ridiculously short lengths of cord which we’d struggle to sling over the tiniest of twigs.
Dunelm elements fork and spade set
Best for: Gardeners on a budget
We never thought we’d find ourselves fawning over a garden trowel (and fork) but Dunelm has changed all that with its super-shiny double act – a stainless steel trowel and fork. Why aren’t more garden tools this shiny?
Admittedly it’s finish doesn’t serve much purpose (although the trowel doubled as a good mirror when it came to wiping smudges of soil from our brow), but there’s substance as well as style here. The trowel’s sharp rim cut through soil like butter, and the closeness of the trowel’s shovel to the handle allowed for unbeatable control.
Wilko hand fork and trowel
Best for: Easy use
Yes, you did read that correctly: Wilko’s fork and trowel set costs just £2, although to be honest, we’d pay double this amount just for the trowel. It’s a reminder that plastic trowels shouldn’t be written off – the fact it’s crafted (okay, moulded) from a single piece of plastic means no weak spots, and it’s incredibly light – the trowel weighs just 63 grams (yes, we really did weigh it). Despite this, it feels surprisingly rugged – there wasn’t a hint of flex when we stabbed it into a pot of dense, sandy soil, and the highly tapered end made it a great tool for transplanting seeds, too.
Draper carbon steel heavy duty transplanting trowel with ash handle
Best for: Transplanting larger bulbs
With its tapered, narrow shape and thick shovel, this is a sturdy trowel which is perfect for some seriously precise planting. The heavily angled neck made it easy to root out seedlings from the smallest of pots, and the reassuringly chunky handle – a chocolate-brown wood sourced from sustainable forests – was a joy to hold.
We’d recommend this to gardeners prone to clumsiness – the shovel’s edges are rounded, minimising the risk of painful nicks, and the deepness of the shovel reduces the risk of accidental soil spillages.
Wilkinson Sword stainless steel long handled trowel
Best for: Bedding areas
An essential tool when it came to getting to the bulbs/clods/weeds other trowels couldn’t reach, Wilkinson Sword’s stainless steel long handled trowel is a thing of beauty. With an elegant pine handle, a chestnut-brown leather strap and a shallow, tapered shovel, we found it especially useful for tending to areas which required a certain amount of care, such as flower-filled borders and strips of bedding plants. The longer handle provided fantastic stability and meant less crouching and bending – a godsend for anyone prone to aches and pains.
Wilko carbon steel hand trowel
Best for: Appearance
Proof that trowels can be both beautiful and practical, Wilko’s carbon steel hand trowel pairs a curve of beautiful marble-effect metal with a polypropylene handle – one imprinted with deep finger grips which allowed us to keep a tight hold on this trowel during a particularly wet and windy seedling transplanting session. The shallow curve on the shovel end meant it could be used as a great soil smoother – we used it to tamp down freshly-seeded compost. It’s built to last too – we were especially impressed with the epoxy powder-coated head, which will keep rust at bay. More stock is expected from 11 June.
Spear & Jackson traditional stainless steel tanged trowel
Best for: Tough jobs
We never paid much attention to branding before, but the branding on this reassuringly weighty trowel is truly sublime: Spear and Jackson in deep, dark lettering forged into the knotted wood. This top gardening tool brand has clearly gone for strength over sharpness here – the tapered end of the trowel’s shovel might not be as sharp as the edges on other trowels, but the shorter handle meant more power, allowing us to dig out a particularly tough section of chalky soil in no time at all.
Sneeboer transplanting trowel
Best for: Digging holes
Another fearsome gardening tool which definitely needs to be treated with caution, Sneeboer’s transplanting trowel has razor-sharp edges which have been precision-sharpened to a degree rarely seen in the world of gardening tools. The pointed tip and knife-like edges will slice through soil and roots (and possibly fingers, too), making it ideal for transplanting seeds into less-than-perfect soil. The deep, trough-like shovel made it easy to scoop out large amounts of compost in one go, and the ultra-short bridge between the ash handle and shovel – the next best thing to single-piece construction – ensured maximum stability and control.
DeWit bad ass trowel
Best for: Tough soil
The first thought which came to mind when we saw this trowel was whether we need a license to own one. Hand-forged from a single piece of boron steel – boron being a naturally-occurring mineral sourced from the earth’s crust – DeWit’s 1kg trowel looks more like an exhibit we’d expect to see in an archaeological museum.
But it’s seriously tough, and has been designed to tackle unforgiving, rock-littered soil, while its pointed end is perfect for digging up weeds. The bevelled edges cut through a patch of turf like butter, and the tapered end allowed us to extract some daffodil bulbs with a surgical level of precision. It’s also one of the few trowels we’ve come across with a lifetime guarantee.
Kent & Stowe carbon steel hand trowel
Best for: Heavy duty gardening work
A soil-slicing mean machine with a weirdly beautiful matte grey finish, the carbon steel hand trowel is the kind of garden tool you’ll want to hang from your garden shed’s most prominent peg. But don’t be afraid to use it, there’s little this trowel won’t handle – although a special shout-out should go to the ultra-solid construction and the smoothness of the shovel. As much as we love a marbled or roughened shovel, the smoothness makes it incredibly tactile (yes, we did just say that about a trowel).
It also reduced the amount of soil which stuck to the metal, even when we were digging our way through a particularly damp flower bed, moments after a thunderous downpour. The shovel end also has just the right amount of taper – it’s got enough of a point to serve as a useful weed-removing tool, without the unnecessary, worm-mutating sharpness increasingly seen on garden trowels.
The verdict: Garden trowels
Burgon & Ball’s corona comfortGEL trowel is a brilliant garden trowel which doesn’t just minimise the risk of blisters and wrist sprains, but will tackle every type of gardening chore with ease.
Fiskars seed planting trowel, meanwhile, is the multi-purpose tool no gardening guru should be without, thanks to its built-in dibber and a flash of orange which means it won’t end up lost in your rose bushes.
Finally, there’s B&Q’s goodhome durum trowel – a fantastic, user-friendly garden trowel which proves the best gardening tools don’t need to cost the earth.
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IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.
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