Magazine article Sunset

Trowel Savvy

Magazine article Sunset

Trowel Savvy

Article excerpt

A buyer's guide to the most-used garden tool

The trowel is practically the only tool you need for gardening in containers and raised beds, and for transplanting annuals, perennials, and vegetables. Considering how indispensable it is, it makes sense to spend a little time shopping for a trowel that best meets your particular needs.

Three main types

General-purpose trowels typically have 3- to 4-inch-wide blades. If you own only one trowel, this is the type to get.

Transplanting trowels have blades about 1 1/2 to 3 inches wide. Most of these have inch/centimeter markings on their blades to help you plant bulbs or seeds at the recommended depths.

Crevice trowels have the narrowest blades, about 1 1/4 inches wide. They're designed for work among the crannies of rock gardens.

Blade materials

Trowels with stamped-steel blades ($1 to $5 and up) usually have short life spans. Rivets hold the blade to the tang (the shaft that joins the blade to a plastic or wood handle), but rivets aren't as durable as good welds. Avoid these trowels, except for use as scoops for potting soil.

High-carbon steel blades ($10 to $20) are strong and can last for decades. The steel may be forged, so it's less likely to bend under stress, or it is tempered (heat-treated) to make it tougher and better at holding a sharp edge. …

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