A spade is an essential part of your garden equipment, and can help with a variety of tasks, from digging and shovelling soil, to defining border edges.
There are different types of spade, and depending on the task at hand, you might choose a shovel with a longer, more curved blade (perfect for digging, scooping and lifting soil), or a spade with a sharp, flat edge (better for edging and cutting in).
The majority of garden spades have strong metal or wooden handles, and metal blades, with a step on top for pushing the blade into the ground with your foot. The best garden spades are sturdy, durable, and should last for many years.
If you’re looking for a new spade, take a look at our pick of 5 of the best garden spades available today.
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We’ve based our selection on their sturdiness, design, durability – and how effective they are at digging and shovelling.
Our best garden spade is high-quality and durable, and has a pointed blade, to make penetrating stony soil easier
This Fiskars Ergonomic Garden Spade is undoubtedly one of the best on the market. It has a high-quality and durable Boron steel blade, and an ergonomic shaft, designed to allow the user to work in an upright position, to make digging and shovelling tasks easier.
The spade also has a pointed edge, which enables it to glide through hard, stony ground, as well as cut through grass and roots. A D-ring handle means it’s suitable for one or two-handed use, and all hand sizes.
At 125cm long, the spade is suitable for users of most heights too. The long handle means less bending is required, so it shouldn’t put as much strain on your back and muscles. At just 2kg, the spade is lightweight, which will further reduce user fatigue, and extend your working time.
Designed in Finland, this high-quality spade features a grey and black finish that will look great hung in your garden shed, or propped against the fence on a summer’s day.
Overall, this sleek and stylish garden spade is well-designed, hard-wearing and durable, and is perfect for digging in harder ground and cutting through weeds. We’re certain it will serve you well for many years to come.
- High-quality Boron steel blade.
- Long 125cm handle is suitable for most users.
- Pointed edge makes it easier to penetrate soil.
- Perfect for digging in hard, stony ground, or slicing through weeds.
- Ergonomic angled shaft allows the user to work in a more comfortable, upright position.
- D-shaped handle is suitable for one or two-handed operation.
- One of our priciest garden spades.
- At least one user reports the blade bending in hard ground.
Our best value spade is the most affordable way to dig loose earth – but it might come unstuck in heavier soils
This Kingfisher Carbon Digging Spade is considerably cheaper than our top pick, and offers you incredible value.
The blade is made from durable carbon steel, with a colourful green shaft, and a D-shaped handle at the top. The handle is soft-grip, for a more comfortable user experience. However, at 100cm, the total length of the spade is shorter than the Fiskars model, and might not be as suitable for taller users.
Unfortunately, the spade is also a little weak at the point where the shaft meets the blade – several users report it bending at this point, especially when used for digging heavy, clay soils. You may also need to sharpen the blade prior to use, as some online users report it being blunt on arrival.
Ultimately, if you’re using this as a back-up for if your main spade breaks, or for digging soft, loose soil, this spade should perform just fine, and is hard to beat on price. Anything more than that, and it’s probably worth investing in a stronger model.
- Durable, carbon steel blade.
- Colourful green shaft.
- Soft-grip, D-shaped handle for more comfortable operation.
- Ideal for digging soft, loose soils.
- Prone to bending at the point where the handle meets the blade.
- Some users report the blade being a little blunt – may need sharpening on arrival.
This high-quality garden spade is recommended by Kew Garden horticulturalists, and is perfect for heavy soil and roots
If you’re looking for something a bit more durable, this Spear & Jackson Kew Gardens Digging Spade comes with an impressive 15-year guarantee, and should go the distance.
The spade forms part of the Kew range of tools, which is developed in conjunction with the horticultural team at Kew Gardens – and their expertise is evident in the design.
It’s been forged from a single piece of steel, for improved strength and durability. This helps to avoid the bending and breaking problems associated with our last spade, and means it can handle hard ground. The blade is epoxy coated, so it will resist rust and damage caused by humidity and alkaline soils.
The handle of the spade is crafted from FSC-approved, weatherproofed ash wood, giving even more assurance of quality, durability and longevity. The steps on top of the blade feature a tread, to improve your foot’s grip, and make for an easier and safer digging experience. A long handle length also puts less strain on your back.
We’re not the only ones that think Spear & Jackson tools are great – they were also a winner of the Great British Growing awards in 2018. Overall, there is little wrong with this spade – it’s a high-quality and well-designed garden tool, suitable for amateur and professional-level gardeners alike.
- Forged from a single piece of steel, for better strength.
- Blade is epoxy coated, to resist rust and humidity.
- Handle made from FSC-approved, weatherproofed ash wood.
- Tread on the step offers better grip for your foot.
- Officially licensed and recommended by Kew Gardens.
- Winners of the Great British Growing 2018 award.
- Comes with an impressive 15-year guarantee.
- Not the cheapest option.
This curved spade will dig tight to the root ball, and is perfect for planting and transplanting
This Bulldog Premier spade is the one you should choose if you’re planning to do a lot of digging up and moving plants, or weeding.
The spade has a solid forged blade head, for improved strength and durability. Crucially, the curved shape of the blade allows you to dig tight to the roots of the plant you’re digging up, without disturbing or damaging those of the plants around it. This makes transplanting an easier and less stressful process for the gardener.
The blade on this also has a sharp tip, so it can easily penetrate most soil types, from sandy to clay. The handle on this spade is made from FSC-certified ash wood, which both gives it a stylish aesthetic, and makes it more environmentally friendly.
This is the first spade we’ve featured that has a T-shaped handle, which some users may prefer, as it doesn’t confine your hands in the way of a D-shaped handle, and could be more suitable for those with larger hands.
For edging or cutting in, you’ll want to use a spade with a flatter blade – but if you’re uprooting plants, transplanting, or weeding, then this has to be the tool for you.
- Strong and durable solid forged blade head.
- Sharp tip ploughs through all soil types easily.
- Curved blade is ideal for planting and transplanting.
- Handle made from FSC-certified ash wood.
- T-shaped handle may be preferable to some.
- At 1.8kg, this is our lightest garden spade.
- Curved blade makes it unsuitable for cutting tasks requiring a straight edge.
This professional-grade spade isn’t named ‘Neverbend’ for no reason – it’s one seriously strong and robust garden tool
Our final spade is another model from Spear & Jackson – the Neverbend. As the name suggests, this is a strong and sturdy spade, that rarely bends or breaks.
This professional-grade spade has a solid forged carbon steel head and socket. The blade is fairly flat with only a slight curvature and is part polished. Its shape and sharpness is ideal for a wide range of garden tasks, from digging to edging.
A robust hardwood makes up the shaft and MYD handle of this spade. This is weatherproofed for better durability, and to further improve the lifespan of your tool. The combination of the light wood with the grey and black metal also gives the spade an on-trend Nordic look.
Spear & Jackson are a leader in their field, distributing high-quality garden and agricultural tools throughout the world. Their products are designed to last, and they offer a guarantee against any manufacturing faults beyond normal wear and tear – so you can rest easy, knowing that your new spade will last.
Overall, this is another strong, robust and well-made garden spade, that is ready to assist you with digging and shovelling tasks in your garden for years to come.
- Professional-grade garden spade.
- Solid forged carbon steel head and socket.
- Part polished blade, with a sharp edge.
- Durable, weatherproof hardwood shaft for improved longevity.
- Long handle for more comfortable operation.
- Suitable for a wide range of garden tasks.
- From a long-standing and reputable brand.
- Our heaviest spade (2.5kg).
- Not as suitable for shovelling – if you’re going to be doing a lot of scooping soil, a spade with a more curved blade would be better.
How To Use A Garden Spade
Using a garden spade is a pretty straightforward process. Holding the handle with both hands, line the spade up where you want to dig, place one foot on the step at the top of the blade, and press downwards.
If your goal is to create a straight edge, push the blade in vertically. If you’re shovelling soil, exert force to lever the spade backwards at an angle, scooping up the earth in front. Lift it up, and transfer the soil to your desired location.
To use a spade more safely, you should always wear thick gloves to protect your hands from callouses, and sturdy footwear, so as not to hurt your feet – this is especially important if the ground is hard. When lifting the soil, keep your back straight and bend your knees, and don’t twist to deposit it.
When digging and shovelling large quantities of soil, it is important to warm up beforehand, take regular breaks, and not push yourself to lift too much at once, as this is how injuries happen.
How To Sharpen Your Spade Edge
Sharpening your garden spade can be a good idea if you’re struggling to cut through hard soil or plant roots. To sharpen your spade, you should first clamp it securely in a vice, to make sure it can’t move as you work. Place it horizontally in front of you, with the blade facing up.
Next, use steel wool to remove any rust on the blade, and apply a lubricant, such as WD40 to minimise further rust. To sharpen the blade, you can either use a grinder, or a mill file. If using a grinder, you will need to wear protective clothing, and follow up with a mill file, for a better edge.
To sharpen a spade with a mill file, choose a bastard mill file with a wide, flat edge. Hold the file with the end in line with the existing bevel at the end of the spade, or at a 45° angle. File the bevel by pushing the mill file away from you in straight, smooth strokes. Move from one side of the blade to the other, and repeat until the whole blade is sharp.
Sharpen the top side of the blade only. Filing in this manner will create a small ridge on the underside of the blade – remove this at the end by flipping the blade over, and using a couple of strokes of the file. Your resulting spade will be sharp, and ready to slice through soil.
April is a freelance writer who specialises in writing about home and garden design and the environment. She is an avid wildlife-enthusiast and adventure-seeker, and feels happiest when in the Great Outdoors.