Best garden spades 2021: get more done with these top diggers

Check out our pick of the best garden spades guaranteed to help you create the outdoor space you always dreamed of

best garden spades
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The best garden spades are reserved for those gardeners that like to get up close and personal with the earth and soil in their plot. They give the green-fingered the ability to turn the soil over, dig out stones, replant or reposition growth whenever necessary, and saves you a lot of back breaking work if you only had a trowel in your toolkit.

Contrary to popular belief, garden spades come in all shapes and sizes, each one with their own unique benefits. The should be able to handle tough jobs, and be super durable, too.

Comfort while using a garden spade is an essential, and this is all determined by both handle shape and the length. Spades with long handles are preferable if you’re tall, and they can also spare you from unnecessary back strain. The quality and durability of the blade is important as well.

a gardener in shorts and navy wellington boots with their foot resting on an old garden spade

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But whether you’re new to gardening or looking to upgrade or expand your garden tool kit, where do you start? Well, if it's advice and guidance on where to find the best garden spades, we have it in, well... spades!

This guide has a list of our favourite garden spade buys on the net for every task and budget, with a handy buying advice section to help you pick the right tool for your needs.

And if you're looking for ways to keep your lawn in tip-top shape too, head on over to our best lawn mower buying guide for out favourite picks and must-know advice.

The best garden spades 2021

Garden spade from John Lewis

(Image credit: John Lewis)

1. John Lewis Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Digging Spade

Best garden spade: the stainless-steel head keeps weight down and the handle is made from FSC certified wood

Specifications

Best for: Easy digging
Materials: Stainless steel and ash timber
Height: 106cm (overall)

Reasons to buy

+
Lighter type of head
+
FSC certified wood
+
Suits many heights

Reasons to avoid

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Handle not moulded

Looking for a good all-rounder? This trad look spade will make light work of the majority of digging tasks and will be comfortable for all (unless you're either very tall or short).

FSC-certified timber
Prefer a classic looking spade? Made from ash, this one looks the part and also, crucially, the timber is weatherproofed and certified by the FSC.

Polished head
With a head made from steel, this a relatively light design so it shouldn’t tire you out too much when you’re doing a lot of digging. 

Easy to clean
Soil won’t cling on to the rust-resistant head too much either as you work, leaving you less to tidy up at the end of each gardening task. 

Fiskar’s Gardener’s Pointed Spade

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. Fiskars Gardener’s Pointed Spade

Best garden spade for stony soils: make your life easier with a spade that's designed to tackle all types of soil

Specifications

Best for: Hard and stony conditions
Materials: Steel and plastic
Height: 117cm (overall)

Reasons to buy

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Pointed blade for tough conditions
+
Designed to be back-friendly
+
Lightweight

Reasons to avoid

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Not every garden will need it

Dealing with hard and stony soils? This spade has a pointed blade to tackle the tricky conditions.

Dig in
With a sharp hardened blade and treads at the top, this spade is designed to help you handle any challenging garden tasks.

Light work
Weighing just 1.75kg - thanks to its plastic handle - this model is super light so you can concentrate your effort on digging rather than lifting.

Clever design
The D shaped handle is designed to be comfortable for all hand sizes, while the long shaft will keep your back safe while you’re working.

Garden Trading Hawkesbury border spade garden spade with a wooden handle and meal spade top

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

3. Garden Trading Hawkesbury border spade

Best spade for raised beds: a shorter handle makes this spade much more manageable when digging in raised areas

Specifications

Best for: Digging in raised beds or borders
Materials: Stainless steel and ash timber
Height: 94cm (overall)

Reasons to buy

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Classic, compact design
+
Made from FSC timber
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Perfect for shorter gardeners

Reasons to avoid

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Not big enough for other gardening tasks

A classic looking spade with a shorter handle, ideal for digging in raised areas.

Compact design
With a shorter handle, this spade is ideal for petite gardeners as its scaled-down proportions are ideal in size. It's also great if you need to tackle soil in raised beds as the smaller size won't strain your arms so much.

Neat and tidy
Measuring just 14cm in diameter, the steel head on this spade will fit into the smallest of borders and beds.

Traditional looks
Not keen on modern or colourful garden tool?  The classic ash wood handle and stainless steel head will please all garden traditionalists.

Crocus Sneeboer transplanting spade with wooden handle and metal spade head

(Image credit: Crocus)

4. Crocus Sneeboer Transplanting Spade

Best garden spade for protecting roots: shaped specially to avoid damage when you’re relocating trees and shrubs

Specifications

Best for: Keen gardeners
Materials: Stainless steel and ash timber
Height: 110cm (overall)

Reasons to buy

+
Made for transplanting trees and shrubs
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10 year guarantee on steel parts
+
Long handle

Reasons to avoid

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You’ll need another spade
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Investment buy

This design is the ideal buy for experienced gardeners who plan to move plants, trees and shrubs from one area in their garden to another location.

Clever head design
The head of this spade is specially shaped to allow you to dig carefully around the roots of trees and shrubs you’re moving without damaging them or the plants  next to them.

Long handle
Reducing the need for bending and to help prevent back strain, this spade has a longer handle that measures 88cm.

Dig deep
Integrated treads on the top of the blade mean you can apply more pressure as you dig without the risk of hurting your feet.

Wickes Powagrip Carbon Steel Garden Digging Spade

(Image credit: Wickes)

5. Wickes Powagrip Carbon Steel Garden Digging Spade

Best budget garden spade: an affordable option for all-round digging tasks

Specifications

Best for: Making your money go further
Materials: Steel and carbon steel
Height: 99.5cm (overall)

Reasons to buy

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Great value
+
Easy to hang up
+
Soft grip handle

Reasons to avoid

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Lacks treads

Updating your entire tool kit? This great value spade won't make too much of a dent in your garden tool budget, leaving you with more to spend on the rest of your list.

Hand saver
Thanks to the soft grip handle, this spade is bound to feel more comfortable for you compared with one that lacks this feature.

Rust resistant
While blade on this spade won’t have the shiny finish of a stainless steel design, the the epoxy coating will stop it rusting (and that's a lot more important).

Form and function
Let's face it – the plastic coated steel shaft won’t feel or look as luxe or classic as a timber version, but if both price and function are more important to you, this won‘t concern you in the slightest.

McGregor Carbon Steel Digging Spade

(Image credit: Argos)

6. McGregor Carbon Steel Digging Spade

Best lightweight garden spade: spend longer at your garden work with a design that needs less hefting

Specifications

Best for: Carrying on digging
Materials: Carbon steel and fibreglass
Height: 103cm (overall)

Reasons to buy

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Super light.
+
Five year guarantee
+
Great value

Reasons to avoid

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Could be too long if you’re shorter

If you tend to dig for long periods of time, save your energy by opting for a lightweight spade.

Lightweight
Thanks to its fibreglass shaft, this spade weight just a fraction over 2kg, which is far lighter than a spade with a steel or wooden handle.

Go long
This spade is designed to make digging easier in two ways – firstly, the longer shaft will give you better leverage and, secondly, it’s forward tilting with a soft-touch handle.

Long lasting
Carbon steel head of this spade is rust-resistant, and the design comes with a five year guarantee.

Spear & Jackson 4190NB Elements Digging Spade

(Image credit: Spear & Jackson)

7. Spear & Jackson 4190NB Elements Digging Spade

Best all rounder: smart design for grow your own jobs and other garden tasks

Specifications

Best for: All garden digging tasks
Material: Carbon steel and wood
Height: 102.5cm (overall)

Reasons to buy

+
Rust-resistant head
+
Weather-proofed wood shaft
+
Ergonomic handle

Reasons to avoid

-
Functional appearance

Lack the storage space for more than one spade? This handy design is a great all-rounder and will be able to handle most jobs with ease.

Smooth finish
A clear lacquer protects the wooden shaft of this spade so it will last longer. The material helps make this a pretty light spade to use, too.

Steel design
Made from heat-treated carbon steel, the head of this spade is epoxy coated to prevent rusting, as well as resist scratches and soil humidity.

Comfort features
To make digging work easier and less back straining, the handle is D shaped and forward tilting.

RHS Burgon and Ball Border Spade

(Image credit: Harrod Horticultural )

8. RHS Burgon and Ball Stainless Border Spade

Best border garden spade: if you're not keen on working with a bulky tool, this design has your name on it

Specifications

Best for: Maximising comfort
Materials: Stainless steel and ash timber
Height: 100cm (overall)

Reasons to buy

+
Compact design
+
RHS endorsed
+
Lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defects

Reasons to avoid

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Work could take longer

Smaller in size, a border spade is often a better proportioned choice for women, as well as being ideal for working between plants.

Hold on
Unless you have large hands, a Y grip handle, like the one on this spade, can often be a far more comfortable to use.

Built to last
With an extra long strapped socket that gives both strength and flex, this durable spade will tackle the toughest of jobs with ease. 

Stress less
Handy treads on the blade avoid any foot strain anytime you push the spade into the earth.

How to choose the best garden spades

how to plant grass seed: digging with spade

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Choosing the best garden spade your your needs is important – especially if the conditions of your soil make it extra hard work, your plot is large, or your garden design ambitious.

a wooden handled spade leaning against a white timber wall in a shed beside a pale green folding metal bistro chair

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

Height

The majority of garden spades are designed either for men of average height or taller women. If you are above average in height, go for a long-handled spade, while if you're less tall, opt for a border spade as they tend to be shorter in length. 

However, bear in mind that many spades come with long handles and other ergonomic features in order to spare your back from strain, and one of these designs can be good for gardeners at a variety of heights.

a gardener wearing jeans and green wellies digging into soil in a garden with a garden spade

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Weight

While a spade may not feel too heavy on it's own, remember that once you’ve piled up soil on the blade of your spade, it's going to weigh a lot more and you’re going to be lifting quite a weight between the earth and the tool.  

If this is going to be a concern, check what materials the spade is made from first. Wooden handles are lighter than steel, while fibreglass is even less weighty. A border spade can be a lighter option, too, as it’s smaller than a standard spade.

Comfort

Treads on the blade will make the spade easier to put your foot on. Handles, meanwhile, can be either D or T shaped, with the latter possibly more comfortable for those bigger hands. Moulded and soft grip handles can also feel better for a long digging session.

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart, decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper.