Irrespective of what we like to grow in our gardens this preparation and tidying will involve an amount of digging. It is therefore essential that you have a spade that suits you and your workload.
Many gardeners (particularly ladies) struggle to find the right spade and fork to suit them, but the correct tool is often easier to find if you ask yourself the following questions:
1. How tall am I? A standard digging spade is designed for gardeners of between 5′ 6″ and 5′ 11″. If you are between 5′ 2″ and 5′ 6″ try a border spade and if you are shorter than 5′ 2″ use a shrubbery spade. Taller gardeners will find long handled spades more comfortable.
2. How fit and strong am I? A spade full of soil is heavy! If you need a lighter spade try to remember: stainless steel is lighter than solid forged steel and pressed steel is lighter than stainless steel. The smaller the spade, the lighter it will be. So if you find digging spades heavy, a border spade will be lighter. Also a wooden handle is lighter than a steel handle and a fibreglass handle is lighter than a wooden handle.
3. How often do I use them? If you only use a spade occasionally you may want something heavier to get the work done quickly. If you are using your spade on a daily basis for long periods of time you might want a lighter tool to help save your energy.
4. What extras do I want? Do you need boot savers (or treads) on the spade? Do you prefer a ‘YD’ style grip or a traditional ‘T’? Do you prefer an epoxy coated finish or stainless steel? Do you want an open socket, a closed socket or a strapped tool which will affect the strength of the tool?
These questions should lead you to the right tool. It is also worth considering that while stainless steel has been popularised by television gardening shows, it is very hard and inflexible (unlike solid forged steel) and this can lead to the blade snapping if it comes into contact with something hard like a tree root or buried rock.
And finally, try not to be fooled by the style or ‘look’ of the spade – just because it looks like an old fashioned tool doesn’t mean it was made like one.