So when I noticed this inexpensive, ergonomic Y-Grip Trowel on the Botanus website, I wondered how it would stand up to my long-handled bulb planter. I added it to my shopping cart.
Is it worthwhile having a specialized tool just for planting bulbs? Unlike my long-handled planter, a trowel can be used for more than just bulbs. The Y-shaped handle provides leverage from different angles as well as the potential for two-handed power.
[Note: I’ve tried and rejected other specialty bulb planting tools such as the dibble (round and pointy for making holes – but a blister-maker in my root-infested soil) and the hand-sized bulb planter (fine in fluffy soil, I guess, but not enough oomph for mine). A regular trowel can also be useful using the method described below.]
|The Y-Grip Trowel did make digging easier|
First up was the trowel, put to work on my sharp slope. For the small bulbs that were going here, Chionodoxa and species tulips, you don’t need to dig a round hole. Just open a wedge in the soil by daggering down, then forcing the trowel forward.
Being narrow, the trowel shimmied between the roots, as any trowel would. Its Y-shaped handle, however, made it easier to use my own upper body weight and apply back-and-forth or side-to-side pressure. I planted two at a time, one at each side of the trowel’s width. The pointier end of the handle was useful to widen a channel for the small bulbs.
Especially when working in tricky locations, such as on the slope or when interplanting between closely planted perennials, or for planting small bulbs where a large hole isn’t required, I give the trowel method the thumbs up, and using the Y-Grip gets an extra thumb.
|Use your own weight for greater leverage|
Next came my trusty long-handled bulb planter. This is a heavy-weight forged steel tool, with a long steel shaft and wide, t-shaped handles. To show how old mine is: I bought it at Cruikshank’s when they still had a store on Mt. Pleasant – probably before you were born. Many similar tools are around today.
The long-handled planter works like a spade to dig a round hole. The key to its usefulness with tree roots is its weight and durability. Get the best you can afford. If you go for light-weight and flimsy, you’re throwing your money away. Once your foot rest reaches the soil, twist the handles and pull up the soil plug. Below is a perfectly round hole, ideal for larger bulbs.
If tree roots are your garden bane, avoid any planter with a crenellated edge, like the top of a castle. Those corners eventually bend and cause resistance, making your work harder. You want an edge that you can continually sharpen for a clean cut.
|Use a file or grinder to sharpen the cutting edge|
Once the bulb is planted, remove the soil plug from the top of the planter. Save work by placing a large bulb at the bottom of the hole, filling half way, then adding 2-3 small bulbs around the edges before topping up the soil completely.
Or, if your soil plug is held together with roots, plop the whole thing back as a unit to try to slow the squirrels down – slightly.
The bottom line for my test? On a flat surface where you can easily stand and dig, nothing beats my long-handled bulb planter, especially for large bulbs or layered planting. But the Y-Grip Trowel did make work easier with smaller bulbs where standing to dig was impractical or space was tight.
My other secret weapon? A daughter who volunteered to plant my daffs in the back garden. That literally cut my work in half. You should try it!