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10 best spades

14 of the best garden spades

Looking for a new garden spade? Browse our pick of the very best, from budget to premium models.

With its invaluable uses, a garden spade is often one of the first tools a gardener will purchase.

And while a digging spade is the most common style, there are many other models, each designed with a particular task in mind.

To help you identify which spade you need, we tested four of the most common types; digging, border, pointed and transplanting spades.

With its flat blade, a digging spade is ideal for moving and turning soil, while a border spade is its smaller and lighter counterpart. A pointed spade has a curved blade with a pointed end, and transporting spades have sharp, jagged blades.

The range of models was trialled and tested by our gardening experts to assess which spades were best at their specific jobs.

In this article, we review the best garden spades and clearly outline the pros and cons of each one. We have considered value for money, durability, comfort and handling before rating them out of five according to their performance. Only tools scoring over 4 out of 5 have made it onto our recommended list.

We suggest using this rating as a guide, while bearing in mind what tasks you will be using the spade for to help you choose the right one for the job.

For more garden tool reviews, browse our selection of the best garden hand trowels and garden hoes to make the next round of planting easier.

Need a hand to keep your tools nice and clean? Check out our guide to the best pressure washers.

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Many thanks to Rosie Yeomans and Sparsholt College for their help in making this video.

Digging spade vs border spade

Border spades are smaller and lighter than a digging spade. The blade is the same shape on both, but a border spade’s blade is smaller and flatter to dig straight down into the soil.

A border spade is ideal for working in any small space where ease and manoeuvrability is key, such as in raised beds or among plants in borders. It can also be a good option for anyone who wants to work for longer than a heavy digging spade would allow or for those who simply
prefer to work with a shorter, lighter tool.

In comparison, a digging spade is wider than a border spade and designed to move and turn the earth and slice through soil and roots. It’s also a good tool for edging lawns and skimming off weeds.

How to choose the best garden spade

Choosing the best garden spade for you and your garden will depend on the tasks you are looking to tackle. We have put to the test four types of spades – digging, border, pointed and transplanting – and each is designed with a specific set of jobs in mind.

Other considerations will include value for money, along with the weight, length, shaft and the materials the garden spade is made from. These variants will affect the garden spades handling, strength and durability.

Choosing the right weight and length for your garden spade

Heavy digging spades are favoured by some because their weight helps the blade cut through the soil more easily. However if you have back problems or can only dig for short periods, you should consider looking for a spade made from lighter materials like aluminium or that’s more ergonomically designed.

Longer and angled shafts help you bend less and will take the strain off of your back but it can take a while to adjust to the unusual digging angle. You should also ensure that the garden spade is tall enough. Too short a shaft for your height will put extra strain on the back.

Choosing the right material for your garden spade

Made from stainless steel or carbon, the right blade depends on your soil type and the job you are undertaking.

Stainless steel blades are shiny and cut cleanly through soil, in particular clay, so these are a good option if you are digging over heavy ground. Stainless steel garden spades are also easy to clean and won’t rust.

However, they are heavy so they’re not ideal for the less-able gardener. Stainless steel blades are also always welded onto the socket, which creates a weak spot vulnerable to breaking under pressure.

Carbon steel blades are a little lighter, tougher and can be solid forged – where the blade and socket are made from one continuous piece of metal – so there is less chance of snapping. A carbon steel blade can start to rust after a while so will need maintenance, but if looked after, it should last forever.

Choosing the right garden spade shaft

Spade shafts can be wooden, plastic, metal or fibreglass. Traditional wood is strong, heavy and absorbs shock and vibrations but it does not like the wet unless weatherproofed. It can splinter but it’s usually easy to replace. Look for FSC hardwoods and as, which is stronger than oak or beech.

Metal shafts are strong but they don’t absorb shock well and can be uncomfortable in hot weather. In comparison, fibreglass and plastic are light, durable and absorb vibrations well. However, they can snap under pressure and are hard to replace.

When it comes to handles, the YD design offers good grip and versatility but can be uncomfortable for small or larger hands. The T-grip is suitable for all hand sizes and is good for applying force to the spade but if you’re not used to the shape, they can feel flimsy.

Traditional wooden handles are comfortable but plastic is also popular. If you’re interested in buying a plastic-handled spade, look for one with added grip to make them less slippery in wet weather.

The final consideration is the socket, which is where the handle attaches to the blade. Longer sockets are stronger and offer better flex than shorter ones. They are often attached to the shaft with rivets. Make sure these rivets are sunk or flush with the handle so that they don’t snag on your hands when turning the soil.

How to prevent back injuries when digging

To prevent back injury, it’s important to dig with the correct technique. The spade should be held close to your body for control and to limit the amount you have to lean towards it to dig.

One foot should be positioned on the spade before digging so that your weight levers it into the ground. To lift the soil, bend deeply with your knees, so that they take the weight rather than your back. Don’t fill the spade too heavily to ensure you always have control over the load.

Be aware of the weight you’re lifting when replanting. Plants with their root balls still intact can be heavy if the soil is wet so lift slowly and carefully, keeping the spade close to your body.

Finally, don’t twist and turn your body at the hips. Instead, use your feet and move your whole body. For a visual demonstration of this technique, watch our experts in the Digging Spades Buyer’s Guide video above.

How to look after your garden spade

Looking after your spade will ensure that it lasts as long as possible and should save you money long term.

After each use, clean soil off the blade and handle as it can cause carbon steel to rust and wood to rot. This should be done first with a stiff brush, followed by warm, soapy water.

Give the spade a final clean at the end of the gardening season and sharpen the blade with a sharpening stone. A wooden handle and shaft should be checked for any rough patches and smoothed down with sandpaper.

The last step before hanging up your spade for winter is to oil the blade, along with any wooden elements. Wipe off excess oil with a cloth.

Best garden spade to buy at a glance

Through thorough testing for value, comfort and quality, we’ve found 14 of the best garden spades to help you dig with ease.

All the spades listed below received a rating of at least four out of five stars, so you can be sure of good quality and performance.

Buy now:

Best garden spade to buy in 2021

Browse our choice of the best digging and border spades, below.

 

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1

Kent and Stowe Stainless Steel Digging Spade

Our rating: 4.8 out of 5

RRP: £29.99

Buy now from Amazon (£29.99)

Kent and Stowe Stainless Steel Digging Spade
Kent and Stowe Stainless Steel Digging Spade

Pros:

  • Balanced weight
  • Good length shaft
  • Smooth socket
  • Feels robust
  • Sturdy foot treads

Cons:

  • Feels heavy in use

This beautiful, handmade spade has a stainless steel blade with an integral FSC ash shaft and Y handle. It has a long, double riveted socket and wide foot treads. Awarded the BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy badge, it’s well designed and extremely comfortable to use.

Read the full Kent and Stowe Stainless Steel Digging Spade review.


 

2

DeWit Solid Socket Spade

Our rating: 4.8 out of 5

RRP: £54.99

Buy now from Crocus (£54.99)

DeWit Solid Socket Spade
DeWit Solid Socket Spade

Pros:

  • Comfortable design
  • Solid forged carbon blade
  • Long socket
  • Feels robust and built to last
  • Sturdy T grip handle

Cons:

  • No treads

This Dutch made, hand crafted spade has a solid forged carbon steel blade and socket, and an oiled hardwood ash handle and shaft. It has a sturdy, T-shaped handle with a long socket, and a solid forged blade. It’s a high quality, great value tool.

Read the full DeWit Solid Socket Spade review.


 

3

Greenman Half Brite Border Spade

Our rating: 4.75 out of 5

RRP: £24.99

Buy now from Greenman Garden Tools (£24.99)

Greenman-half-brite-border-spade-review-BBC-Gardeners-World-Magazine
Greenman Half Brite Border Spade

Pros:

  • Strong and hard wearing
  • Long socket for strength
  • Comfortable and well balanced

Cons:

  • Rivets catch on hands
  • Small for taller gardens

If you’re looking for a border spade, we judged this our Best Buy. The shaft is long which helps prevent back strain and the long socket feels robust. The lower part of the carbon-steel blade is uncoated so it can be sharpened and it comes with a lifetime guarantee. The only slight draw-back are the rivets, which can catch on your hands while working.

Read the full Greenman Half Brite Border Spade review.


 

4

Sneeboer Pointed Spade with Steps

Our rating: 4.75 out of 5

RRP: £111.75

Buy now from Crocus (£104.99)

Sneeboer Pointed Spade review Gardeners World Magazine
Sneeboer Pointed Spade

Pros:

  • Strong, wide treads
  • Long handle
  • Sharp, sturdy blade
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • T-grip unusual
  • Expensive

This traditional-style spade has a short, wide stainless steel blade that has been sharpened to a point. It makes light work of tough roots and the wide, flat treads are strong and help you gain purchase. The long, wooden shaft eases back strain and absorbs shock. Our testers awarded this a Best Buy for clearing ground.

Read the full Sneeboer Pointed Spade with Steps review.


 

5

Wilkinson Sword Ultralight Pointed Digging Spade

Our rating: 4.75 out of 5

RRP: £29.99

Buy now from Keen Gardener (£20.20)

Wilkinson Sword Ultralight Digging Spade review Gardeners World Magazine
Wilkinson Sword Ultralight Digging Spade

Pros:

  • Substantial but light
  • Comfortable to use
  • Good for the less able
  • Cuts through soil and root easily

Cons:

  • Only as strong as the rivets

This spade has a stainless-steel blade with a serrated edge which cuts through the soil easily. It’s a lightweight tool which is easy to use and comes with a 10 year guarantee. The ergonomic shaft has a rubber covering and there’s a grip insert within the D handle. Our testers judged this a Best Buy as an ergonomic spade.

Read the full Wilkinson Sword Ultralight Pointed Digging Spade review.


 

6

DeWit Shark Tine Spade

Our rating: 4.75 out of 5

RRP: £59.99

Dewit shark tine spade review Gardeners World Magazine
DeWit Shark Tine Spade

Pros:

  • Razor-sharp zigzag blade
  • Hand forged
  • Cuts through soils easily
  • Comfortable to handle
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons:

  • Bolts catch on hands
  • No treads
  • T-grip unusual

The zigzag blade is hand-forged from carbon-steel and razor sharp, cutting around plants easily. The sturdy T grip handle and shaft has a long socket which feels comfortable and sturdy for long digging jobs. Coming with a lifetime guarantee, it’s good value for the quality and is our Best Buy for transplanting

Read the full DeWit Shark Tine Spade review.


 

7

Wilkinson Sword Carbon Steel Border Spade

Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

RRP: £17.99

Buy now from Keen Gardener (£14.40)

Wilkinson-sword-carbon-steel-border-spade-review-BBC-Gardeners-World-Magazine
Wilkinson Sword Carbon Steel Border Spade

Pros:

  • Strong and robust
  • Wide treads
  • Good value

Cons:

  • Rivets on shaft snag hands
  • Heavy

The Wilkinson Sword Carbon Steel Border Spade has a long socket to prevent snapping, a rustproof coating and weatherproofed shaft and handle. The handle is comfortable and the wide treads stop the feet from slipping and protect boot soles from splitting on the blade.

Read the full Wilkinson Sword Carbon Steel Border Spade review.


 

8

Burgon and Ball RHS Endorsed Border Spade with Steps

Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

RRP: £39.99

Buy now from Harrod Horticultural (£34.95)

Burgon-ball-rhs-endorsed-border-spade-with-steps-review-BBC-Gardeners-World-Magazine
Burgon and Ball RHS Endorsed Border Spade with Steps

Pros:

  • Easy clean blade
  • Light and comfortable
  • Handles well
  • Long strapped socket

Cons:

  • Rivets snag hands

This border spade has good balance and handles well. The shaft and YD handle are crafted from FSC hardwood but the strapped socket and the rivets that attach it to the shaft catch on the handle occasionally when lifting plants or soil. However, it does feel sturdy and the stainless steel blade and socket are rust resistant.

Read the full Burgon and Ball RHS Endorsed Border Spade with Steps review.


 

9

Wilko Carbon Steel Digging Spade

Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

RRP: £7.50

Buy now from Wilko (£7.00)

Wilko Carbon Steel Digging Spade
Wilko Carbon Steel Digging Spade

Pros:

  • Good balance
  • Comfortable handle
  • Cuts well

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Soil sticks to textured blade

This carbon steel spade has a textured blade with comfortable, flat treads. The shaft and handle are plastic but the YD handle has an ergonomic tilt to help you lean into the spade as you dig. This takes pressure off the back and a soft grip to stop your hands slipping. Another BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy, this spade is very well designed for the price.

Read the full Wilko Carbon Steel Digging Spade review.


 

10

Wolf Garten Straight Spade (ASD)

Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

RRP: £59.99

Buy now from Keen Gardener (£42.69)

Wolf Garten Straight Spade (ASD)
Wolf Garten Straight Spade (ASD)

Pros:

  • Balanced weight
  • Robust
  • Non-slip handle and tread

Cons:

  • Not for short users
  • Ergonomics take some getting used to

This is a great, comfortable, hard-working spade. Sturdy treads help make hard digging easier and the handle is spacious and comfortable. The shaft has a simple non-slip sleeve. However, shorter gardeners will struggle with its length and design.

Read the full Wolf Garten Straight Spade (ASD) review.


 

11

Bulldog Treaded Digging Spade

Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

RRP: £51.82

Buy now from Bulldog Tools (£40.55)

Bulldog Treaded Digging Spade
Bulldog Treaded Digging Spade

This is a traditionally styled, robust tool built by an English family firm. The solid forged, carbon blade is wide and flat and it has an ash shaft and Y-shaped handle. Wide treads have been welded on to the blade. It’s a well-designed spade with a strong, weighty feel, that’s comfortable to use.

Pros:

  • Robust and built to last
  • Smooth shaft
  • Comfortable handle
  • Wide treads

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Expensive

Read the full Bulldog Treaded Digging Spade review


 

12

Burgon and Ball RHS Endorsed Digging Spade

Our rating: 4.3 out of 5

RRP: £42.99

Buy now from Crocus (£44.99)

Burgon and Ball RHS Endorsed Digging Spade

Pros:

  • Good leverage
  • Comfortable to use
  • Feels robust

Cons:

  • Socket snags on hands
  • Narrow foot tread

Burgon and Ball RHS Endorsed Digging SpadeThis is a nicely designed spade that feels well balanced, digs sharply and has a comfortable handle and good length shaft. However, the strapped socket and raised rivets on the shaft snag on hands when lifting and turning the earth, and testers felt the treads were too narrow to stop slipping on wet muddy digs.

Read the full review: Burgon and Ball RHS Endorsed Digging Spade review


 

13

Pedigree Stainless Steel Treaded Border Spade

Our rating: 4.3 out of 5

RRP: £38.65

Buy now from Pedigree Garden (£38.65)

Pedigree-stainless-steel-treaded-border-spade-review-BBC-Gardeners-World-Magazine
Pedigree Stainless Steel Treaded Border Spade

Pros:

  • Digs well
  • Comfortable and light
  • Well made

Cons:

  • Rivets and strap snag
  • Handle rivets catch on gloves

This Pedigree border spade is made with a rust-proof stainless steel blade and a long, strapped socket to prevent snapping. The ash shaft and handle are made from one continuous piece of wood and the YD handle is capped with stainless steel to make it even more robust. Our testers found this spade to be comfortable, light and great for anyone who needs to dig in raised beds and other confined spaces.

Read the full Pedigree Stainless Steel Treaded Border Spade review.


 

14

Bulldog Tools Premier Border Spade

Our rating: 4.3 out of 5

RRP: £46.30

Buy now from Amazon (£39.54)

Bulldog-tools-premier-border-spade-review-BBC-Gardeners-World-Magazine
Bulldog Tools Premier Border Spade

Pros:

  • Substantial and strong
  • Performs well
  • Well made
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • No tread
  • Expensive

Made by an English family firm, this border spade has a solid-forged, carbon steel blade that’s coated with resin for extra protection. It has no treads but our testers did find it comfortable to use. The rivets are smooth in the socket and the spade is built for working in small spaces.

Read the full Bulldog Tools Premier Border Spade review.


How we tested the garden spades

When testing these garden spades, our experts considered a range of variables including price, comfort, the shape and quality of the blade. These factors were all considered in the context of where in the garden they could be used and for what jobs.

All the garden spades were trialled and tested in a number of scenarios, which included digging and clearing an area of ground, digging and turning over the soil to get it ready for planting and lifting and transplanting perennials. Each tool was assessed on how well they handled the tasks and how comfortable they were to use.

Finally, our testers used their expertise to judge the spades according to their price, durability and any warranty offered. For example, the Sneeboer Pointed Spade with Steps, our Best Buy winner for clearing ground, is expensive, but it comes with a lifetime warranty and our testers felt it was built to last. Therefore, it was deemed good value for money.

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Once the test is complete, each product is rated out of five and the garden spades that really impress our experts are awarded Best Buy status. Each review is also broken down into concise pros and cons lists to help you decide which garden spade is best for your garden.