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24 November 2021

Best garden spades

We tested a range of garden spades from B&Q, Spear & Jackson, Screwfix and more, to see which are the easiest to use, and which are the most durable and suitable for a range of heights and abilities.
Joey Willoughby-Rainsford

A true workhorse of the garden, digging spades are used to prepare beds and borders, to move soil and compost and to plant perennials, shrubs and trees. They can also be useful when removing shrubs and trees, and the blade can slice through roots.

In September 2021, a group of researchers spent a week with experts from the Which? Gardening team testing 10 digging spades from B&Q, Screwfix and Homebase, as well as from big brands such as JCB, Hawksmoor and Fiskars.

We checked for durability, build quality and how comfortable and easy it was to use each spade.

Pricing and availability last checked 8th November 2021.


In need of a digging fork? Take a look at our best garden forks.


The best garden spades

Only logged-in Which? members can view the garden spades test results below. If you're not yet a member, you'll see an alphabetised list of the digging spades we tested. 

Join Which? now to get instant access to our test results and Best Buy recommendations below. 

B&Q Square Digging Spade

B&Q Square Digging Spade

Cheapest price: £7.92 available from B&Q

Weight: 2.07kg

Shaft length: 61cm

Handle width: 11.5cm

Blade: 29 x 17.5cm (HxW)

Total length: 101cm

This digging spade from B&Q is made from polypropylene-coated steel and it's easily the cheapest spade from our selection. 

How did it compare with its more expensive rivals in our rigorous tests?

To find out, log into your Which? account now or join Which? today to get instant access to all our reviews across our website.

Burgon & Ball Square Digging Spade

Burgon & Ball Square Digging Spade

Cheapest price: £39.99 available from Amazon. Also available from B&Q, Burgon & Ball

Weight: 2.15kg

Shaft length: 62cm

Handle width: 13cm

Blade: 28 x 18cm (HxW)

Total length: 112cm

The handle on this Burgon & Ball spade is made from sustainable FSC-certified hardwood. According to the manufacturer, the longer Y-shaped handle is designed to 'save your back'. 

But what did our researchers and Which? Gardening experts think of this RHS-endorsed spade? 

To find out, read our full review by logging into your account or joining Which? today.

Fiskars SmartFit Digging Spade

Fiskars SmartFit Digging Spade

Cheapest price: £44.99 available from Amazon

Weight: 1.87kg

Shaft length: 64 to 84cm

Handle width: 13cm

Blade: 29 x 19cm (HxW)

Total length: 105cm to 125cm

This spade is called 'SmartFit' because the length of the shaft can be extended from 105cm to 125cm so that you can use it at a height that's best for you. 

It has a metal blade, socket and shaft, with a plastic handle rather than wood. What did we think of this extendable Fiskars garden spade? 

Find out by logging into your account or by joining Which? today. 

GoodHome Durum Spade

GoodHome Durum Spade

Cheapest price: £30 available from B&Q

Weight: 2.07kg

Shaft length: 72.5cm

Handle width: 14cm

Blade: 29 x 18cm (HxW)

Total length: 110cm

The manufacturer claims this spade is made from FSC-certified ash wood, which means it's been sourced sustainably. It has a stainless steel blade that's double riveted to the shaft.

How did this GoodHome Durum spade compare with the other digging spades in our tests? 

Find out by logging into your account or by joining Which? today for instant access to all our reviews.

Hawksmoor All Steel Digging Spade

Hawksmoor All Steel Digging Spade

Cheapest price: £14.98 available from Toolstation

Weight: 2.21kg 

Shaft length: 61cm

Handle width: 13cm

Blade: 29 x 19cm (HxW)

Total length: 101.5cm

This digging spade from Hawksmoor is described as having a 'forged blade' and 'all-steel construction'.

Apart from the wooden handle, the spade is steel – from the tubular shaft to the cutting edge. 

Join Which? or log into your account to see what our Which? Gardening experts and team of researchers thought of it.

Kent & Stowe Garden Life Stainless Steel Digging Spade

Kent & Stowe Garden Life Stainless Steel Digging Spade

Cheapest price: £24.99 available from Amazon

Weight: 1.15kg

Shaft length: 50cm

Handle width: 13cm

Blade: 19.5 x 15cm (HxW)

Total length: 91cm

This petite spade from Kent & Stowe is the smallest and lightest digging spade included in our tests.

The socket and blade of this spade are stainless steel, while the handle and shaft are ash wood.

Was this Kent & Stowe digging spade small yet mighty? Check out our full review by logging in or joining Which? to find out.

Neverbend digging spade

Neverbend digging spade

Cheapest price: £26.99 available from Screwfix. Also available from Amazon

Weight: 2.35kg

Shaft length: 53cm

Handle width: 13cm

Blade: 29 x 18.5cm (HxW)

Total length: 101cm

The blade and socket of this digging spade are made of solid-forged carbon steel. 

The manufacturer says the hardwood shaft is weatherproofed and attached to a 'supergrip' handle.

Did the Neverbend garden spade live up to its name? To find out read our full review by logging into your account or joining Which? today.

Roughneck digging spade

Roughneck digging spade

Cheapest price: £22.49 available from Screwfix

Weight: 2.02kg

Shaft length: 58cm

Handle width: 12.5cm

Blade: 30 x 19cm (HxW)

Total length: 106cm

This spade has a lacquer-coated carbon steel blade and polypropylene (plastic) handle. 

The tag line written across the shaft of this spade is 'tough tools for a tough world'. 

So is this spade from Roughneck as tough as it claimed? Log into your account or join Which? for instant access to the full review. 

Spear & Jackson Select Carbon Digging Spade

Spear & Jackson Select Carbon Digging Spade

Cheapest price: £20 available from Amazon, Homebase

Weight: 2.37kg

Shaft length: 59cm

Handle width: 13.5cm

Blade: 29x 18cm (HxW)

Total length: 99cm

This spade from Spear & Jackson is the heaviest from our selection, which has its drawbacks and benefits.

The manufacturer claims it's been heat-treated for strength, and the blade is powder coated to resist rust and scratches. 

To read the full review of this digging spade and the rest of the spades in our selection, log into your account or join Which? now. 

Wilkinson Sword Ultralight Stainless Steel Digging Spade

Wilkinson Sword Ultralight Stainless Steel Digging Spade

Cheapest price: £19.99 available from The Range

Weight: 1.19kg

Shaft length: 62cm

Handle width: 13cm

Blade: 28 x 18cm (HxW)

Total length: 100cm

This spade from Wilkinson Sword is described as 'ultralight', and it's certainly the lightest for its size in our selection. It has a pointed blade with one serrated edge. 

It's highly rated by Gardener's World, but what did our researchers and Which? Gardening experts think of it? 

To find out, log into your account or join Which? today to get instant full access to all our reviews.


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Anatomy of a garden spade

Anatomy of a garden spade
  • Handle grip: The part of the spade you hold, located at the top of the shaft. 
  • Shaft: The section of the spade joining the handle to the socket.
  • Socket: The section of the spade joining the shaft to the blade.
  • Blade: The bottom part of the spade, used for digging.
  • Cutting edge: The sharp edge at the bottom of the blade, used to slice into the soil or through thinner roots.

What is FSC-certified?

FSC logo

FSC is a global forest certification system.

The label allows consumers to confidently purchase wood, paper and other products made with materials from well-managed forests.

FSC-certified products are worth looking out for, as it means that these trees were grown as part of a well-managed forest, protecting forest plants and animals.

For more information, visit its website and learn about the FSC certification system.

Is a wooden handle better than a plastic handle?

Is a wooden handle better than a plastic handle?

To find out which is better, we spoke to our Which? Gardening experts, who use gardening tools – including spades – all year round on an almost daily basis. 

They said that, while wooden handles can irritate the hands over prolonged use, this can easily be avoided with a good pair of gardening gloves. 

It's also worth noting that wood is better able to absorb shock and vibrations.

Plastic handles, on the other hand, often have a textured or rubber grip, but they can become brittle over time, especially if left out in the summer sun.

Which? verdict

On balance, our experts feel a wooden handle is better, due to the overall comfort and durability.

Does height matter when choosing a garden spade?

Does height matter when choosing a garden spade?

When buying a spade, it's important to consider your own height compared with the different lengths of spades. 

If you have back problems or can only work for shorter periods, consider a spade with a longer or angled shaft to help you bend less and take the strain off of your back. 

Bear in mind if the spade's shaft is too short for your height, this puts extra strain on your back. 

We recommend going to buy the spade in person if you can. This way you can get a feel for the length and weight that's right for you. 

To check the overall length, hold the spade as you would if you were about to push it into the ground. The handle height is right for you if you're leaning over it slightly. 

Then hold the spade as if you were lifting soil. Are the areas you're holding comfortable? And can you reach the base of the shaft easily without stretching?

How do I care for your garden spade?

How to care for your garden spade?

Our Which? Gardening experts shared these tips to ensure your spade is kept in good condition for the next job in your garden.

After each use:

  • Clean the blade: Wash off the mud from the blade and then make sure you dry it. 
  • Store inside: Keep it in a shed, garage or outhouse – just make sure you don't leave your spade to the mercy of the elements.

When storing wooden tools for winter:

  • Clean the tool: Remove soil and dirt with a stiff brush and/or damp cloth. 
  • Lightly sand: Lightly sand any rough patches across the wood.
  • Oil a wooden handle and shaft: Apply a coat of linseed oil or teak oil with a brush or cloth.

Pain-free digging

Pain-free digging

Are you a safe gardener? Here are our tips to help prevent injury and back pain while using a garden spade.

To avoid back pain:  

  • Never use a spade or fork that doesn't suit your height or strength.
  • Keep your back straight.
  • Keep the head of the spade as close to your body as possible.
  • Stretch your back, legs and arms regularly, and avoid digging for more than about 10 minutes without a break.

If you are concerned about this type of pain, please check out the NHS guide to back pain for further information and advice.

To avoid injury:

  • Always wear suitably strong footwear to avoid stabbing your feet.
  • Never use a spade as a lever, as it might snap.

How we tested garden spades

How we tested garden spades

Following feedback from our Which? Gardening members and working closely with the Which? Gardening magazine team we developed tests to put these products through their paces.

Build quality

To start the testing process, a pair of researchers weighed and measured each of the spades and then examined their build quality. 

Our Which? Gardening experts all examined the build quality of each digging spade. 

We considered the finish of each spade, including any rivets, edges, ridges and welding or forge marks. 

Comfort and ease of use

For these two tests, our researchers used each of the spades to dig a hole in a Which? Gardening vegetable patch.

The researchers worked in pairs and recorded their observations and opinions while using each of the spades. 

They dug holes as deep and as wide as each spade's blade. 

Consideration was given to how comfortable the spade was to use and how easy or difficult the length, weight and design made the digging.

Durability

To measure the durability of each spade, we examined them before they were used and then looked at them again after all other tests were completed. 

We also checked the strength of each spades' blade, socket and shaft, by trying to use them to move a very large slab of concrete. 

To test the strength of the shaft and welds, we placed each spade face down and jumped up and down on it.

Only one spade was damaged during our tests, and this was during its first use when digging a hole. 

How we choose the garden spades we tested

We considered garden spades (sometimes called digging spades) from a variety of major UK retailers.

To be included, the spades needed to cost £50 or less. 


We bought all the spades we tested.