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A straight dibber

A dibber or dibble is a pointed wooden stick for making holes in the ground so that seeds, seedlings or small bulbs can be planted. Dibbers come in a variety of designs including the straight dibber, T-handled dibber, trowel dibber, and L-shaped dibber. In some countries (such as New Zealand) the term is also often used to refer to a mattock.


The dibber was first recorded in Roman times and has remained mostly unchanged since. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, farmers would use long-handled dibbers of metal or wood to plant crops. One man would walk with a dibber making holes, and a second man would plant seeds in each hole and fill it in. It was not until the Renaissance that dibbers became a manufactured item, some made of iron for penetrating harder soils and clay.

Straight dibber[edit]

This is the classic dibber. It is anything from a sharpened stick to a more complicated model incorporating a curved handle and pointed steel end. It may be made of wood, steel or plastic.

A T-handled dibber

T-handled dibber[edit]

This dibber is much like the classic dibber, but with a T-grip that fits in the palm to make it easier to apply torque. This allows the user to exert even pressure creating consistent hole depth.

The ideal T-handled dibber is fashioned from the remains of an old fork or spade handle, retaining the T, and with the shaft whittled to a point.

Trowel dibber[edit]

This dibber combines the features of a dibber and a trowel. It is usually forged from aluminum or other lightweight material. One end is for dibbing, and the other end is shaped like a trowel.

A plastic dibber with soil depth markings in centimetres

Electronic dibber[edit]

In colloquial use, the term 'dibber' is often now used to refer to electronic timing units worn on a finger such as the SI-cards used in orienteering events. The earlier units were shaped a bit like (small) wooden dibbers, while more modern rounded versions may be likened to sleek marbles and are carried in leather thumb pouches for safekeeping.

In popular culture[edit]

British comedian Lee Mack donated a T-handled dibber to the British Lawnmower Museum, Southport, and spoke about it on the panel game show Would I Lie to You? (Series six, Episode three, first broadcast 27 April 2012[1] ).

Sources and external links[edit]