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What Makes Your Garden Spade Do More Work?

* Design features of a modern garden spade,
* Quality - the best in spades,
* Easy to handle solid gardening tools...

You'll find garden spades in many shapes and sizes nowadays. They range from the traditional to modern ergonomic designs, as well as specialised spades for post holes, trenching, and transplanting... ... You can also get tools specially designed for gardeners of taller stature, as well as for the lighter ladies, and for children. You'll see some of these outlined below.
Radius Garden Hand-Tool Set

Ergonomic Garden Hand-Tool Set

  • Lift plants roots without breaking them apart e.g. prize Dahlia, Paeonia tubers; and tap roots of Dock, Dandelion and Thistle weeds,
  • You'll also need a spade to transplant shrubs etc... and dig over your garden plot,
  • Specialised spades are available for jobs ranging from planting perennials to making post holes...

You should also be aware that there is a wide range of quality, from throw away tools to the solid forged strength and durability. Below, you'll find links to some good solid tools. Send me your feedback and comments with this link.

First, let's check out the main design features to look for in a quality garden spade.

English style spade available in America.

Garden Tool - The English Spade

Solid Forged Garden Spade - available in U.K.

Bulldog Garden Spade

The Essential Garden Spade and Shovel


Comfortable D shaped handles enable a powerful all-around grip. Some have a collar and rivet fixing and are of 'man-made' materials with a non-slip velvety soft feel. These handles are usually inclined to reduce reach and give more leverage for border spades. 'Radius' garden Spades are fitted with O handles - consider them if you dig on tough ground with both hands on.

Alternatively hardwood shafts are spliced into a 'wish-bone' to make varnished handles that look really good but have a harder and colder feel. These straight D handles make chopping easy and give better balance to larger heavier spades.

Traditional T shaped handles with tongue and groove and wood sprig or rivet fixture are very much back in fashion. But they lack some of the durability, versatility and control of D handles. To preserve these handles properly and prevent shrinkage and loosening it is essential to treat them with Linseed Oil see below.


Wood is organic and needs proper care. U.K. gardeners click here for garden tool maintenance kit - includes linseed oil to condition wood, blade sharpening stone, cloth and keep-clean containers.

Hardwood offers down-to-earth good looks, and some tools are given heritage antique finishing. Ash wood gives the highest strength to weight ratio and is highly resistant to shocks. But the structure and machining of wood limit the design and shape.

Moving on, synthetic materials such as polypropylene have brought moulded ergonomic designs. Fiberglass and Nyglass make particularly strong light-weight shafts. But read the section on joins below.


English spades have squared off blades that steady your digging stance. They're ideal for digging neat square trenches.
Alternatively, the pointed American shovel blade concentrates down force and works better in stony ground.

Irish Spade blades have more curvature on the face to focus greater force on the soil volume in front. Combine this with a longer narrower blade and longer shaft and you get the leverage and reach you need for deeper digging.
There's more specialised spades here.


Shovels commonly use open back joins. These are weak but easy to replace.
Spade shafts are driven into round sockets and fixed with a rivet. Alternatively, the shaft is fixed front and back to 2 metal flanges known as strapping. Extra long strapping with 3 rivets makes the strongest join, and used on Irish spades that have longer blades and shafts.


Polished stainless steel gleams smartly, is easy to clean, and resists corrosion. But when made into garden forks it may be vulnerable to metal fatigue (i.e. crack after repeated bending).
I don't know anyone who's broken a spade blade by normal wear (contact me). But most stainless steel spades are welded onto the flange of the socket or strap and there lies a weakness.

Carbon steel is more durable and lighter, but not as rust resistant and less likely to make a strong weld. But to get a garden spade that lasts - go for a carbon steel blade and socket solid forged as one. Boron steel is another alloy with greater internal hardness.

Every garden tool is made for a purpose. Do remember that spades are simply not intended for jobs like hammering posts into the ground... When underground rocks snag a spade of fork tine do resist the temptation to apply brute force. If you've broken a garden fork consider the Spork instead.
Bulldog Garden Spade

Solid Garden Spades U.K.

Bulldog 7101 Evergreen Digging Spade is here


Protective epoxy powder coats are applied to steel by spraying highly charged epoxy/metal powder at the electrically grounded tool, followed by baking. Teflon and enamel/gloss coatings may also be used. Coatings wear off during use. Alternatively carbon steel may be burnished and stainless steel polished. Antique finishes are popular.
More spades below...

Buy Solid Garden Spades -   +  + Mattocks/Azadas on this link

Specialised Garden Spades Make Gardening Even Easier

When it comes to garden hand tools Europe and U.K. are well ahead. Here are just a few specialised garden spades that make a gardener's life that much easier.


A typical trowel is not suitable for planting anything bigger than bedding plants while a spade is cumbersome in confined spaces. Try the Perennial Planting Spade instead. A broad pointed head allows it to work in tight spaces without wider disturbance. The robust handle gives adequate leverage to dig deeper. This stainless steel Perennial Planting Spade (U.K.) is just right for close-up work when a decent sized hole is required.
* Fortunately this comfortable Perennial Planting Spade is available in America on this link.

Backsaver Spring Loaded Spade

The Backsaver Spring Loaded Automatic Spade (formerly the Wolf Terrex Spade) is in production again on this link - U.K. only.


Irish Spade - a robust tool for digging tough ground, going deeper and for planting trees. You can get them here.


Specially designed for making deep narrow post holes - it's a treat to watch an expert use these tools. Available everywhere on the links below.

Buy Specialised Garden Spades -   +   + Mattocks/Azadas on this link

  • You'll find lot's more pages of information on other gardening tools by following these links:-

  • To tackle large areas on your own,
    You may not need manual digging tools if you have a garden rotavator,
    They tackle stiff stony earth no problem,
    Otherwise you may need enough digging tools for the family or your gardening community to work. - Or find a garden helper below (U.K.) below.

Check out my Garden Tool Shed for information on larger tools, power tools, and other useful gardening resources for the potting shed and garden.

Get more information about weed problems and how to tackle them.

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