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Buying a Dibbler Tool: What You Need to Know

January 3, 2020

The Garden Tool Used For Centuries With Many Names (Dibble, Dibbler, Dibber)

We’ve all used many different things to make holes in the ground for seeds or bulbs. I know I have. Nothing has been off limits: a stick, screwdriver, dowel, shovel handle, and yes, even a finger. But a dibber, also known as a dibbler or dibble, is a unique garden tool made for this very purpose. Its first recorded use was back in roman times, usually made from old tool handles, and its design has not really changed.

all types of dibblers
Dibblers come in all shapes and sizes (Click to browse)

History of the Garden Dibbler

The garden dibbler, a simple yet essential tool for gardeners, has a history rooted in agricultural practices that span centuries. Its basic design, a pointed stick or handle used for making holes in the soil, likely dates back to the earliest forms of agriculture when primitive tools were used for planting seeds.

stick dibble
A stick being used as a dibbler in Medieval times

Over time, the dibbler evolved from rudimentary sticks to more refined wooden or metal versions. In the 19th century, with the rise of ornamental gardening, the dibbler became popular among home gardeners for its ease of use in planting bulbs, seeds, and small plants. Its enduring design, virtually unchanged over the years, testifies to its effectiveness and simplicity. Today, the garden dibbler remains a staple in both traditional and modern gardening practices, celebrated for its straightforward, efficient approach to planting.

Are There Different Types of Dibbers?

The Plastic Dibber

The Plastic Dibber

This small dibble is great for seed tray work, or working with small seeds. They are relatively cheap, and will last as long as you dont leave them in the sun. Call me a traditionalist though...I like my wood turned dibber 😉

The Steel Tipped Dibble

The Steel Tipped Dibble

Ah, the modern dibber. This dibber is a low cost option for those with hard soil or small hands. Its steel tip wont get worn down over time, and it provides a great set of uses out in the garden. Click the image for more info.

The Wood Turned Dibber

The Wood Turned Dibber

The wood turned dibber is popular for its aesthetics and durability. Typically made of hardwood (maple or mahogany) it is crafted to be an heirloom, and be passed down to generations of gardeners. We make our own and use these on our farm and in our garden. Click the image for more info.

The Multi-point Dibbler

The Multi-point Dibbler

The multipoint dibbler provides great efficiency when planting seeds or creating troughs for seats. You can use the points to make multiple holes at once in soil or in your seed trays, and it also doubles as a seed rake where you can make parallel troughs for seating en masse.

Seed Tray Dibbler

Seed Tray Dibbler

The seed tray or grid dibbler, is used to make many holes at once. The grid is typically laid out for potting trays, or seed spacing when planting many plants.

What Should I Look For When Buying A Modern Dibber/Dibbler?

Dibbles come in all shapes and sizes, and materials. High quality dibbles have the following features:

  • Made of hardwood (maple, mahogany, etc)
  • Hand turned, handmade
  • Inch marks and quarter inch marks
  • Flattened tip for solid seed contact
  • Ball or grip handle
  • Specifically made for seeds or bulb
  • Finished with Linseed Oil to protect

Find a shape and size you like, and add a nice handmade dibble to your garden tool kit.

Are Dibblers Just Used For Seed Planting/Starting?

There are two different types of dibblers, those for planting seeds and those for planting bulbs. Bulb dibbles are typically longer with a fat body and point to create a large hole. They have a flat point to create a firm contact point for the bottom of the bulb, and lines at one inch intervals for reference.

Seed dibbles on the other hand, are typically skinny and pointy, and create a small hole for starting seeds. Quality dibblers will have quarter inch marks, and then inch increments. These dibblers also have a flat tip for solid seed contact in the soil.

How Are Wood Dibbers Made?

All natural wood dibbers are made through the process of wood turning on a lathe. Here is a time-lapse video of a seed bidder being turned in our shop.

What is a garden dibble? A seed/bulb planter. Here is a video of one being made in our shop.

What Are Dibbers Made Of?

Dibbers are made of all different types or materials, including wood, metal and plastic. It is all a matter of preference which one you would like in the garden. I use a wood dibber garden tool for my outdoor bulb planting, and a nice small plastic one for inside seed planting. Here are the attributes of a quality dibber in the modern age, and one any gardener would appreciate:

  • Dibbers are made of a solid hardwood (maple or mahogany) and weather the elements quite well
  • A solid wood dibber handle for leverage in making deep holes or penetrating hard soil.
  • A pointed tip to keep going and going
  • Turned wood handle for aesthetics
  • Thick wood for a solid grip

What is the purpose of a Dibbers/Dibble?

I know we use ours on the farm constantly (I just used it for planting Ranunculus and Anemone today), and after a 1000 bulbs, i am thankful for this handy tool. Dibbers have a wide variety of uses. Here are all the uses for a dibber:

  • To make holes in soil for seed planting
  • A hole-maker in soil for bulb planting
  • You can break up potted plant roots as you plant them in the garden
  • For cleaning dirt from tubers
  • For leverage in propagation with large roots.
  • To aerate the soil around a plant
  • For creating deep water holes for plants in hot climates

Dibbler Gardening and Seed Starting FAQ

1. What is a Dibbler and How is it Used?

  • A dibbler is a pointed gardening tool used for making holes in the soil, typically for planting seeds or seedlings. It’s used by pressing it into the soil to create a hole of desired depth and width.

2. What are the Benefits of Using a Dibbler for Seed Starting?

  • Using a dibbler helps ensure consistent depth and spacing for seeds, which can lead to better germination and growth. It’s also a quick and efficient way to plant multiple seeds.

3. How Do You Make a Dibbler?

  • A dibbler can be made from various materials like wood, metal, or plastic. A simple homemade version can be fashioned from a handle with a pointed end, such as a dowel or old tool handle.

4. What Materials are Dibblers Made From?

  • Dibblers are commonly made from wood, metal, or plastic. Wooden dibblers are popular for their natural feel, metal ones for durability, and plastic for being lightweight.

5. How Deep Should Seeds be Planted Using a Dibbler?

  • The depth depends on the seed size and type. Generally, seeds should be planted at a depth of about two to three times their diameter.

6. Can Dibblers be Used for All Types of Seeds?

  • While dibblers are versatile, they are best suited for medium to large seeds. Very small seeds might require a more delicate approach.

7. Are There Different Sizes or Types of Dibblers?

  • Yes, dibblers come in various sizes and designs. Some have markings for depth, while others might have different shaped tips for specific types of planting.

8. How to Maintain and Store a Dibbler?

  • After use, clean the dibbler to remove soil and moisture. Store it in a dry place to prevent rusting (for metal dibblers) or rotting (for wooden ones).

9. What are Some Tips for Using a Dibbler Effectively?

  • Ensure consistent depth for each hole, keep the dibbler vertical for uniform holes, and space the holes according to the needs of the specific plants you are sowing.

10. Are There Any Alternative Tools to a Dibbler for Seed Starting?

  • Alternatives include seed syringes for small seeds, seed tapes, or simple tools like a pencil or stick for making holes.

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Dibble or Dibbler?

The garden dibble or dibbler has some key uses outside of seed planter and bulb planter.  Here are some unique uses for this ancient garden tool:

  • Create irrigation holes around the base of trees
  • As a string post when marking rows
  • To chip away soil from roots
  • As a hose guide at garden corners
  • For twine storage

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