It’s time to do some weeding in the garden.
You’ve seen a few unwanted sprouts popping up here and there, and you want to a little touch-up in some of the smaller areas, and in tight spaces around your plants.
The weeds you want to remove aren’t all that large either – small, tender shoots that are easily popped out with just a few passes of the perfect tool.
We link to vendors to help you find relevant products. If you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.
Something like your average hoe or cultivator may be too large – and probably lacks the finesse you need for such a job.
This is especially true if you’re trying to get at those weeds growing super close to your flowers or veggies.
So what do you turn to? The answer is simple:
A hand cultivator!
Sometimes called gardening claws – or even gardening cultivators, hand rakes, claw rakes, grubbers, or stubby rakes – a hand cultivator is a must-have tool for every gardener.
Instead of being designed to sweep up large materials like leaves, sticks, or hay with both hands like your typical rake, these little claws are wielded with one hand, and are typically small enough to fit in your palm.
These tools are adept not only at removing garden debris from around the base of your plants, but also for weeding and soil cultivation.
When compaction, moisture, or other factors weigh down soils around your plants, quickly going through and “fluffing” up the earth around their bases gives them a boost of aeration and nutrition, especially to their roots.
Let’s take a look at our favorite selections. Here’s a sneak peek:
The Best Hand Cultivators Reviewed
This is not a hugely diverse category of gardening tools. Nevertheless, there are quite a few different types you can choose from and purchase.
We’ve collected our favorites to share with you here.
1. Ames Ergo Gel Grip
Although some of the components may be sourced from overseas, Ames manufactures the bulk of their tools in Ames, Iowa, and in other factories across the United States.
This particular model, available via Walmart, features stainless steel prongs that are wider than those found on many models, allowing you to easily scrape around delicate plants without damage.
The handle is composed of polypropylene with fatigue-reducing gel padding designed to minimize hand cramps.
This is particularly useful if you are digging in harder ground – the soft handle reduces pressure on the palm and fingers.
You’ll find a hole in the end of the handle for hanging conveniently in a storage shed. The tool is 11.5 inches long and 3.2 inches wide at the ends of the tines, with a digging depth of 2.8 inches.
Ames offers a 90-day guarantee against manufacture’s defects.
2. Asano Japanese Ninja
Our top choice for a five-tine cultivator is this unique Japanese gardening tool from Haohiyo, available via Amazon.
Five tines make this model more efficient at weed removal and raking of light debris around plants, rather than cultivating the earth or completing other more heavy-duty tasks.
More closely spaced tines make it adept at capturing raked plant material.
Keep in mind that these tines are also thinner than what you might find on three-tine garden claws, and thus may be more vulnerable to breakage when used on harder materials like rocks and compacted soil.
The Asano Ninja features seven-inch-long tines made from tough high-carbon Japanese steel, and a beautiful wooden handle. The steel is forged to the outside of a larger mass of softer iron, a design that provides a sharp cutting edge.
Less curved and more angular than what you’ll see on most models, the tines are about three inches long.
With a total length of 13 inches and a width of five inches at its widest point, this tool weighs about half a pound.
This tool is ideal for any hand cultivator use that you can come up with: weeding, mixing, moving materials, aerating, cultivating, and more.
Though most laud the beautiful craftsmanship, a few users have stated that they wish the handle was a little longer, and that the unfinished wood may cause some problems like eventual rot, splintering, or blisters.
In response to these complaints, finishing the handle with an all-natural finish or linseed oil is recommended, as is wearing gloves while gardening.
Breakages have been reported in instances when customers used this model in really tough, rocky soils. Keep in mind that this is not a heavy duty tool.
3. Fiskars Composite
If you want to start out with a basic model – nothing too fancy or specialized – then the Fiskars Composite, available from Amazon, will be your go-to.
We like the Composite specifically for its wide-range use: cultivating and aerating soils up close to your plants, weeding small, shallow-rooted baby plants that you don’t want to compete with your main crops, and even some light-duty grass removal.
The Fiskars Composite covers the basics, and then some.
One of the most notable details about this cultivator, in contrast to others like it: it has one-piece construction to help prevent breakage.
This may seem like overkill for a small tool that’s designed for light tasks, but we’ve learned that valuing quality when you make a purchase leads to a longer period of usefulness in the garden – with no need to make repeat purchases due to breakage every couple of seasons.
The dimensions of the tool are 11.2 inches long and 3.2 inches wide, with a two-inch tine depth. This model has three tines.
With wider tines than most other cultivators, Fiskars explains that this is intended to increase soil contact, which may better assist with the clearance and capture of weeds.
Rather than being manufactured from the traditional steel, this model uses a FiberComp design.
Known as “Nyglass,” this nylon/fiberglass composite won’t crack, break, or bend. This makes the tool lightweight, rust-proof, and reportedly “stronger than steel.”
At the end of the handle, a hanging hole is included to make the tool easy to store without taking up much room.
It’s excellent for general composting, soil mixing, container gardening, and even worm composting, since it turns soil so gently in small places.
For vermiculture, this would not harm your worms at all! You are able to move soil and scraps without doing any damage.
Fiskars provides a lifetime warranty on this product with protection from any defects or workmanship errors.
With a beautiful and pleasing design, the FiberComp materials certainly make it sturdy without compromising aesthetics.
4. Gardener’s Lifetime Cultivator
The Gardener’s Lifetime Cultivator, available from Gardener’s Supply Co. is a three-tine hand cultivator manufactured in Holland by Dewit.
Made from durable, high-carbon boron steel sourced in Sweden, the rounded tines are rust-proof and resilient, withstanding tough garden chores. This tool features a four-inch metal tang securely fastened into the wooden handle.
The five-inch-long hardwood handle is made from European ash and sits comfortably in the hand. The overall length is 11 inches, and the claw is three inches long and wide.
A hole at the end of the handle allows for easy, space-saving storage.
This product comes with a lifetime guarantee from Gardener’s Supply Co. for peace of mind.
5. Radius Garden Ergonomic
What about a gentle, ergonomic option for those with inflammation and pain issues? Enter the Radius Garden Ergonomic Aluminum Hand Cultivator, available via Walmart.
This tool features a unique shape, designed to make its use easier on the hands and body. It’s also ideal for getting underneath and close to plants, without bothering their foliage too much.
For those who love a pop of color, it comes bright green. A red and black option is also available.
All products from Radius are designed in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and manufactured in China.
With an ergonomic handle designed to bring less stress and fatigue to the hands and wrists of gardeners with carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, or fibromyalgia, this tool is one of a kind in the hand cultivator market.
The colorful handles are made of Santoprene, a thermoplastic, non-latex – and thus hypoallergenic – material that provides a comfortable, non-slip grip.
The metal tines are made from a high-quality aluminum and magnesium combo that’s both strong and lightweight. Each tine is also uniquely ridged and angled to help it drag and glide through dirt effortlessly, while penetrating deeply.
This tool is 13.5 inches long and 6.75 inches wide, with a 3.125-inch-long tine depth. It weighs in at just over eight ounces.
Radius provides an unlimited lifetime warranty, guaranteeing the product against breaks or defects if used for its intended (and home-based) purposes.
6. Wolf-Garten Small Cultiweeder
The Wolf-Garten Small Cultiweeder, available via Amazon, is manufactured by Wolf-Garten, a German tool company founded in the 1920s.
It’s not just ergonomic, it’s also customizable to different lengths for a variety of uses. Handles are sold separately.
What you do get when you buy this specific model: a removable hand cultivator tool head that fits into various Wolf-Garten tool handles for a wide range of uses.
This means your humble hand cultivator could be transformed into something akin to a larger, stand-up hoe, if you so desire.
This customizable product has a lightweight but very sturdy design. It is 5.3 inches long, 4.3 inches wide, and has a 2.8-inch tine depth.
The three pointed prongs will break up hard, compacted soil and the weed blade slices off unwanted plants at their base. Manufactured from steel, this tool will make short work of tough jobs in the garden.
The key thing to keep in mind with this product is that you have to purchase the handles separately. This is ideal if you already – or intend to – have other Wolf-Garten products in your tool shed.
A 35-year guarantee is offered against product defects, as long as the original purchaser can provide proof of purchase.
7. Yard Butler Terra Tiller
Manufactured by Yard Butler, the Terra Tiller, available via Amazon, is our favorite heavy-duty option.
Just looking at it, you can tell that this grubber is built to tear through your beds and containers with ease!
It also comes with a multipurpose head attachment, made from heavy-duty steel. One side features three prongs for weeding and cultivating, while the other side provides a hoe blade for digging deeper into chunky soil.
If you want the roughest, toughest option available, this is the one for you.
Weighing in at one pound, it has a 15-inch handle with an extra-wide nine-inch head.
A nice extra perk: the hoe blade comes pre-sharpened!
Overall, this little cultivating machine deserves professional grade status.
With this tool in hand, you should make easy work not just of cultivating, but also hacking away at hard-packed earth as well – something other lighter-duty models may not be capable of without inflicting wear or damage.
Tough enough to pry big roots and rocks out of the ground, or even to dig through tough, gravely soil, this tool is surprisingly strong.
Keep in mind that this tool will need occasional re-sharpening with use.
And Yard Butler covers your purchase with a warranty as well as a lifetime guarantee.
Ready to Tear Things Up?
You came. You saw. You read up all about the best hand cultivators out there.
Now, it’s time to conquer!
Which hand cultivator fits your needs?
Will it be something ergonomic? Heavy-duty? Double-sided with two uses? Or just your average gardening claw with a wooden or composite handle?
Do you have your own insights to share? Something we might have missed? Let us know in the comments section below!
And check out our reviews of other tool shed essentials next: