I bought a new trowel last night. I’m still crushed by breaking my favorite Snow & Nealley trowel a few weeks ago, dividing hostas. Yes, I should have been using a shovel, but that was what I liked about the S&N trowel, it was rugged, with a sturdy ash wood handle, long enough to give you some leverage.
I haven’t given up completely, I might still have the S&N trowel repaired if I can find someone to weld the blade back to the handle, but in the meantime, I need a trowel!
That meant I had to go shopping, ugh. Even shopping for garden tools is not all that fun these days. The rise of the big box store and the demise of small independent hardware stores has left a vast chasm of unfilled needs. At the big box stores you can choose from 5-6 models, most cheaply made with little thought put into the design and manufacture, and the same choices are available at every big-box retailer. Most hardware stores are busy trying to compete with the big boxes just to stay alive, so they have basically the same selection, except maybe fewer models, to choose from.
The two garden centers I like had similar choices but with more choices at the high end. Really, the Dutch-made stainless steel trowel was beautifully made, well balanced with a comfortable wooden handle, but it was $40 –I’m not averse to paying for well made tools, but $40 seemed pretty steep, especially considering my Felco pruners, of equal quality yet a much more complex tool, were only $50!
Sigh. What’s a gardener to do? I looked online, but I need to feel the trowel, to hold it and see if it fits my hand, feels balanced, looks like it will last a few years. I just couldn’t make a decision, especially when taking into consideration the return shipping if I didn’t like the tool.
I finally settled on this Oxo brand trowel, purchased from Lowes –(I’m saving my next Home Depot experience and the $20 gift card for purchasing hoop-house conduit). I have an Oxo vegetable peeler that is so well designed it put mashed potatoes back on the menu at Hengogle, so I was inclined to give the trowel a try. This trowel is cast in one piece from aluminum, with a cushy rubber handle. The sides are serrated and feel pretty sharp — probably good for dividing hostas and removing toes from sandal or Crocs-clad gardeners. The handle is shorter than I like, but the cast design seems sensible, assuming aluminum is strong enough to stand up to the rigors of life in my garden. It did come with a warranty, so believe me, I’ll be happy to provide feedback to Oxo in the event it fails, and maybe even if I come to love it.