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.