Spades How to buy
This article, Spades, was last updated on 30 November 2010 and is now out of date and held in our online archive for reference. Explore our latest Home & garden articles.
Ideally, wear your gardening shoes or boots while making your choice.
Hold the spade as you would if about to push it into the ground. You should be leaning forward slightly if the handle height suits you.
Now try holding the spade as you would if lifting soil (see our guide to back-friendly digging in the FAQs section). Ensure the handle feels comfortable and you can reach the base of the base of the shaft easily.
Check this feels comfortable and isn’t so high that you have difficulty using your body weight to push down on it firmly.
If you tire easily, have difficulty lifting or have a lot of digging to do, a spade that not only feels light but has a small blade is probably right for you. Remember: larger blades hold more earth and so may tempt you to carry more than you should.
Angled handle and/or blade
These encourage a better posture than conventional spades and you won’t have to stoop as low when lifting soil.
Should I opt for stainless steel or carbon steel?
The price of stainless steel tools has plummeted during the last 20 years or so. Nowadays a decent stainless steel spade can be bought for under £20.
In our trials, when we’ve asked gardeners to compare stainless steel spades and forks with carbon steel ones, they’ve usually preferred stainless ones. The blades have a smoother finish than carbon steel ones and so push into the soil more easily, are easier to clean, and don’t rust. And – let’s face it – if nothing else, stainless steel tools usually look more classy.
What’s the difference between a border spade and a digging spade?
Border spades have a smaller blade than digging ones so are lighter and easier to handle. They’re a good choice if you find conventional spades too heavy and/or are often tempted to try and lift more soil than you should.