In this guide we’ll take a look at the best garden spades for the UK market.
I’ve compared build quality, strength, durability and cost
to give you my top recommendations.
What is the Best Garden Spade?
In a rush? Here’s my top choice…
Well-designed spade with an ergonomic, comfortable handle
This Spear & Jackson Garden Spade is a classically designed spade from a quality manufacturer. It has an ergonomic handle and well-sized 70 cm shaft for comfortable digging. The stainless steel head is rust resistant and easy to clean, and both the head and polypropylene shaft are strong yet lightweight.
Everything I Recommend
More Detailed Garden Spade Reviews
Spear & Jackson Garden Spade Review
This quality Spear & Jackson Garden Spade features a 70 cm polypropylene shaft that is strong and durable yet also lightweight.
The mirror polished stainless-steel head looks great and has excellent rust resistant qualities. Even sticky clay simply glides off the head making it easy to use in wet conditions and with clay soil. It is also very easy to clean and maintain. The blade has a nice sharp edge that cuts into soil cleanly.
The best thing about this garden spade is the ergonomic handle and tilted shaft. This makes it so easy and comfortable to use and much less tiring than other tools.
The handle is wide enough that even those with larger hands won’t find their fingers squished. If you have a lot of digging to do this is the best garden spade for the money.
Bulldog Evergreen Garden Spade Review
This Bulldog Evergreen Garden Spade is a tough and durable tool that is perfect for any heavy-duty digging jobs you might have.
The spade’s head and socket are made from one solid piece of forged steel – there are no welds or weak points where the pieces join. This makes the spade a lot more robust than other designs where this is not the case.
In addition, the wooden shaft buries deep into the extra-long socket. Again, this well-planned design makes the spade extremely hardwearing and resistant to snapping.
The head is epoxy coated to make it rust resistant; this coating also reduces how much soil gets stuck to it.
The shaft is made from sustainable ash wood. It’s been designed with an ergonomic forward-angled tilt which makes digging easier.
To further improve the digging experience, it has a D-shaped plastic handle that is reasonably comfortable to use.
Overall, this is a great workhorse that has been created by a company who know how to make durable tools. Be aware that it weighs just over 2 kg, so is not the lightest of options on this list.
Wilkinson Sword Stainless Steel Garden Spade Review
This traditional looking Wilkinson Sword Stainless Steel Garden Spade is a hardwearing and efficient gardening tool.
The shaft is made from weatherproofed ash, and the handle is constructed from the same piece of wood. It’s a more comfortable handle than many other spades I’ve tried due to its wider design and smooth-wood finish.
The blade is made from mirror-finished stainless steel so it’s sturdy and rust resistant. Plus, mud won’t clump on the spade thanks to its smooth finish.
This is a well-balanced spade that is very comfortable to use. It efficiently slices into the ground making easy work of digging large areas. If you’re looking for the best garden spade with a wooden handle, this is my go-to choice.
Kent and Stowe Carbon Steel Garden Spade Review
This Kent and Stowe Carbon Steel Garden Spade is another brilliant garden spade, it’s made from sustainably-sourced wood and carbon steel.
The ash shaft is made from FSC approved timber, so you can be sure that the wood was responsibly sourced.
The handle is made from the same piece of wood as the shaft, with a traditional split-wood design. It’s comfortable and easier on the hands than a hard plastic one.
With a blade made from sturdy carbon steel, the spade slips easily into hard soil. It also has nice treads on the top of the blade which make it more comfortable to dig with, reducing the wear on your gardening boots.
If you enjoy a traditional-looking spade, this comes from a range of tools by Kent and Stowe that were designed based on drawings from the 1800s. It’s the best garden spade for combining classic traditionalism with modern materials and manufacturing.
Things to Know Before Buying a Garden Spade
A garden spade is a staple in any gardener’s tool shed. A versatile tool with a multitude of uses; from digging over soil in the autumn to helping plant shrubs and perfect lawn edges.
One thing that none of us need is a poorly made spade that won’t stand the test of time. And it can be a little tricky to gauge this when buying tools online – what’s good and what’s not?
Below I’m going to share some tips that I’ve learned over the years, to help make sure you end up with the best garden spade possible:
Certain spades are more appropriate for certain tasks than others.
A spade with a longer, curved blade is better for digging, lifting and shovelling soil. If you have a lot of loose soil in your garden that you are looking to move around, this is the type of spade blade you want to look out for.
Spades that have a sharp, flat-edged blade will do a better job at slicing into the ground. These are good for cutting into more compacted soil, better suited for breaking up lumps and defined holes.
There are spades with wider or narrower blades. A wide blade is generally better for digging, cutting into the earth, or edging larger spaces.
Narrow blades can be used for more precise jobs – edgings smaller sections or planting.
Spades have blades that are most often made of either carbon steel or stainless steel. So, what’s the difference?
Stainless steel is rust resistant. It contains chromium which doesn’t oxidise. This layer of chromium in stainless steel is what keeps it from rusting or corroding.
Soil does not stick easily to stainless steel, so if you have clay soil this may be something for you to consider. Stainless steel is also easy to clean.
Carbon steel is extremely strong – stronger than stainless steel due to its high carbon content. The carbon makes the steel harder. Carbon steel is more susceptible to rusting than stainless steel.
Some carbon steel spades, such as the Bulldog Evergreen Garden Spade, have an epoxy coating. This makes them more rust resistant and helps the soil to slide off more easily. If you’re buying a spade with a carbon steel blade, make sure it has a coating otherwise it will be susceptible to rust.
The shafts of gardening spades can be made from various materials. The most common are wood, polypropylene, fibreglass and aluminium.
There are pros and cons to each material, which we will take a look at below. However, if you want a quick takeaway: fibreglass and aluminium are the lightest; fibreglass is slightly heavier but much stronger than aluminium. Wood is more traditional than polypropylene and absorbs shock more effectively.
Wooden shafts are strong, shock absorbing, and don’t bend; however, they may warp if the wood is not treated, can rot, and are one of the heaviest construction types.
Polypropylene shafts are durable, can withstand heavy loads, and don’t require any maintenance; however, they may snap under too much force, can be too hard – sending shockwaves to the hands, and may become brittle over time.
Fibreglass is good because it’s lightweight, extremely durable and won’t shrink or expand. The downside of fibreglass is that it’s expensive, hard to replace if it does break, and becomes brittle in freezing temperatures.
Aluminium shafts are light, and durable; however, aluminium shafts are not as strong as other shafts of other materials and may bend under pressure.
The spade’s handle is worth giving some thought to, because no matter how amazing the rest of the spade is, if the handle’s not comfortable you’re not going to get as good use out of it.
Certain handles have been designed with ergonomics in mind – you will likely come across handles with rubber grip for comfort in your search. These can be great to use, and are excellent shock absorbers.
However, I do advise that you consider previous experiences you’ve had with ergonomic handles – if they normally fit your hands fine, this is a good sign. If you struggle to find ergonomic designs, no matter the tool, that fit your hands well, you may do well to steer clear of ergonomic spade handles. When the hand grips don’t suit your hands well, it can be very uncomfortable.
Wooden handles are warmer than metal ones and absorb shock well. They can also be kinder on the hands than hard plastic handles. Keep an eye out for splinters as this can be a downside to wood.
One further note on handles, which is less about the material and more about the shape; make sure that the handle’s D-grip is wide enough for your hands. Some spades have wider handles than others, and if you have to squish your hands into too small a grip, it’s going to be uncomfortable – trust me, I’ve learned the hard way!
Regardless of the handle material you go for, you should wear gardening gloves to avoid blisters.
There are a few construction features to look out for which are a mark of higher quality spades. These spades are likely to be longer lasting or easier to use:
- An all-in-one blade and socket. This means that the spade’s blade and socket (where the shaft slots in to connect to the blade) has been made from one piece of metal. When this is the case, there are no welds or joins. Welds tend to be the weakest points within metal work. So, if a spade doesn’t have any, it will be more durable.
- Epoxy-coated blade. If the spade’s blade is made from carbon steel, it will be beneficial for it to have an epoxy-coated blade. This coating will protect the spade from rusting and also makes the blade easier to clean.
- Split-Wood handle. This is where the handle has been formed using the same piece of wood as the shaft. In a similar way to the all-in-one blade and socket, this means that there are no joins to connect the handle to the shaft. As a result, these spades are stronger than ones which have separately connected handles.
I’m briefly mentioning spade weight here because it might not be something that you would immediately think about when buying a spade. It’s especially hard to bear in mind when buying things online – in a shop it’s pretty easy to feel when something is too heavy!
Make sure to check the weight specifications of the spade you are looking to buy. Some can be a lot heavier than others. A lot of spades weigh around 1 kg, but some can be at least double that.
A heavy spade may be very durable, but you’ll have to find a compromise between the construction and how much weight you can reasonably work with for extended periods of time.
Garden Spade FAQs
You should clean it regularly. Soil left on the shaft and blade may cause the metal parts to rust and wooden parts to rot.
Often dirt can be simply brushed off your spade; however, really caked on mud may require a wash with hot soapy. Rinse and dry well.
Some people keep a bucket of sand mixed with a little linseed oil in their shed. They then push each of their tools into this bucket after use and this protects the metal from rust.
Only use your garden spade for work that it is suitable for. Garden spades are not designed to dig up rubble or large tree roots. You may damage your tool if you attempt such heavy jobs.
Twice a year, in spring and autumn, sand the handle with a medium grit sandpaper and then rub a generous amount of linseed oil into the wood to create a protective, waterproof barrier. Make sure you store tools with wooden handles in a cool, dry place.
If your wooden handle breaks, you can usually buy a replacement part. These can be simply fitted, usually with just a couple of screws.