16 May 2011

Hand weeding/digging tools -- a product review

Recently, I've started getting free stuff from companies to review here on the blog, and I've been trying to figure out how to do that effectively. What I've decided is to always do reviews in comparison with other similar products. Rather than saying "I liked/didn't like product X" I'm going to make a policy of comparing products X, Y and Z, and giving you the run down of which I liked best and why.

Todays topic is small weeding/digging tools. When I'm out in the garden, I like to have something in hand to help me pluck out an errant weed, plant seeds, or get my latest purchases from the garden center into the ground. I've tried many different tools to do this in the past, with mixed success. I garden in heavy clay, often running into things like stones and tree roots, so these tools need to be strong. I don't like getting out the full sized shovel, so I want something that can easily dig a big enough hole for a quart pot, sometimes even 1 gallons.

So, here's the run down of the products I've tried, and what I think of them. The Cobrahead weeder I received for free, but I paid for all of the other products. I receive no kickback of any kind for reviewing any of them.

Hand trowel, AM Leonard, ~$15
Hand trowels are classic, but I just don't like them. I've used several from different companies, and none have been sharp and narrow enough to easily slip into my heavy clay soil. Digging with these is a LOT of work, and fairly frustrating. Unless you have very light, sandy soil, not a good buy. I will add, though, that of the many different hand trowels I've had over the years, this is the only one that is actually strong enough that I haven't bent it. If you do want a trowel for some reason, this is the one to get. It is also perhaps the most attractive tool I own.

NRG Ergonomic Weeder by Radius Garden ~15$
This was my favorite tool for about an hour. The crazy looking handle is actually incredibly comfortable to use, the slim, serrated blade can very effectively pop an entire dandelion out of the ground, and easily digs a hole big enough for a sizable plant. BUT: the very first time I ran up against a tree root and put a little pressure on it, the blade bent like wire. I hate garden tools that aren't build to withstand actual gardening! If this same tool came in a much stronger steel, I'd be a huge fan. As it is, give it a miss.

Cobrahead Weeder ~$25. (I got mine free to review)
The Cobrahead is satisfyingly sharp and solidly built -- there is no bending this tool -- and after using it in the garden for a couple weeks I like it, but I don't love it. It works okay for weeding, but the curvature of the blade makes it impractical to getting the whole tap root of weeds like dandelions. It is brilliant for making a shallow furrow for planting seeds, but trying to dig a planting hole for something larger than a cell pack is incredibly frustrating. I find myself using it now and again, but not my first choice when I head out into the garden.

Soil knife. There are various brands, usually $15-20
This is the tool I grab when I head out to the garden. It weeds, digs, divides, does everything. Simple, no fuss, and (usually) solidly build to withstand abuse in the garden. I've had various brands over the years (I'm good at loosing tools) and some are better than others. The one pictured I got at our local garden center (I think), and has been pretty good to me. It has serrations on one side which are surprisingly helpful when dividing tough perennials. Not all soil knives are created equal, and a generic one I got at a local big box store literally snapped in half one day. The best I ever had was the incredibly solidly build version from AM Leonard. If this one ever breaks or bends, that's what I'm getting next.


Rachelle said...

Good review and interesting perspective of gardening in clay. I find myself gardening in rocky sandy or sandy loam, but many times tree roots are an enormous issue. I have actually grabbed the wide butcher knife out of my knife set and drafted it for garden chores. I know many gardeners who have done likewise. I hope some garden hand tool manufacturers are listening!

annie hayes said...

My absolute favorite multi-purpose weeding too is a steak knife from the dollar store . 4 to a pack for a dollar! Terrific for weeding and slicing out roots, especially between paving stones. you can loosen the top of the soil and aerate with it too. And hey you never worry when you lose it in the yard somewhere.

Alison said...

Good review! My favorite hand tool is a soil knife very similar to yours. I can't see in the photo, but mine also has inches labeled on the blade, so when I'm planting bulbs, I can tell how deep I'm digging. I have very rocky soil, and it has been very useful for prying out rocks.

allanbecker-gardenguru said...

Glad to have learned something new today. The soil knife is a winner. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

My wife and I prefer long slotted screwdrivers for the weed pulling business. They don't bend; the handle is easy to grip and you can find them at yard sales or discount stores for extremely low prices

Joseph said...

Annie, I love the dollar store steak knife idea! I do like cheap tools, because I never take very good care of them. I'm going to stop there on my way home and grab a pack.
I love the screwdriver idea as well! Who knew so many things could be repurposed as garden tools? I'm going to try all these great ideas and do a follow-up post!

Design to Grow said...

Ordered the AM Leonard knife per your advice. It came today and I got right to work hacking away at a formerly procrastinated MASS of Creeping Charlie. It worked wonders! Usually I swear by my dandelion digger, but this just moved to the head of the class. I used the serrated edge to clean up the weeds that had grown into the bed edge. I, too, am notorious for losing track of my tools, so I'll have to rig up some kind of rope to keep it tied onto my person at all times. Thanks SO much for the recommendation. I am enjoying your blog.

Joseph said...

I'm so glad you took my recommendation and liked it! Aren't they the best?

Unknown said...

Very good review! I actually have been looking at some paving stones so that I can get started on my backyard renovation. I definitely have a long list of things to do which is why I have been doing some online research to make sure I am getting the right tools necessary for the job.

michael said...

Hand planting apparatuses are not what they used to be any longer. Presently you can get simple to utilize smooth tools which are light and which can be put away effectively as well. The tools that were utilized before have been extemporized and made substantially more easy to use for us today.

Juana Wright said...

In this article, we introduce the best weed pulling tools available for amateur gardeners and farmers. Weeding is something every amateur gardener should be careful about. Weeds can't be completely eliminated if you leave even a part of the root and stem embedded in the soil.

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