The best garden spades 2021: make light work of garden tasks

Get digging. These are the best garden spades that will help you in your efforts to create a gorgeous outdoor space

best garden spades
(Image credit: Future)

If you’re doing anything more than container gardening, garden spades are a must-have part of your garden kit. But whether you’re a new gardener, or looking to upgrade your tools, which are the best around?

Garden spades should be cut out for tough jobs, of course, and that means durable. They also need to be comfortable to use, and this will be influenced by both handle shape and the length. A spade with a long handle is preferable if you’re tall, but can also spare you from back strain. The quality of the blade is important as well.

Where to start? Easy. Our guide has the best spade buys around right now for every budget. And if you're looking for the top buys to keep your lawn in shape too, make sure you head over to our best lawn mower buying guide. 

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: a stainless-steel head keeps weight down and the handle’s FSC certified wood

Best for: Easy digging
Materials: Stainless steel and wood
Height: 76cm
Reasons to buy
+Lighter type of head+FSC certified wood+Suits many heights
Reasons to avoid
-Handle not moulded

This traditional looking spade should be comfortable for all except very tall or short gardeners.

FSC-certified wood

Like a classic looking spade? In wood, this one looks the part and also, crucially, the ash wood is weatherproofed and certified by the FSC.

Polished head

As the head is made from stainless steel, this is a relatively light design so shouldn’t tire you out when you’re doing a lot of digging, plus the soil shouldn’t cling too much.

Easy clean

The rust-resistant head is also easy to keep clean, so you’re not starting a new job with soil clinging to your spade.

  • Buy the John Lewis Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Digging Spade

Harrod Horticultural Burgon and Ball Border Spade

(Image credit: Harrod Horticultural )

2. Harrod Horticultural Burgon and Ball Border Spade

Best border garden spade: if you don’t want to work with a bulky tool, this design has your name on it

Best for: Maximising comfort
Materials: Stainless steel and wood
Height: 100cm (overall)
Reasons to buy
+Smaller design+RHS endorsed+Lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defects
Reasons to avoid
-Work could take longer

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

Y grip

Unless you have large hands, a Y grip handle can be an option that’s more comfortable.

Made for strength

This spade is built to last with an extra long strapped socket that gives both strength and flex. 

Top treads

The treads on the blade will make pushing the spade into the earth cause less foot stress.

  • Buy the Harrod Horticultural Burgon and Ball Border Spade

Crocus Sneeboer Transplanting Spade

(Image credit: Crocus)

3. Crocus Sneeboer Transplanting Spade

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

Best for: Serious gardeners
Materials: Stainless steel and wood
Height: 110cm (overall)
Reasons to buy
+Made for transplanting trees and shrubs+10 year guarantee on steel parts+Long handle
Reasons to avoid
-You’ll need another spade-Investment buy

This is a design for keen gardeners who’ll be moving trees and shrubs to new locations.

Special shape

The head of this spade is shaped to allow you to dig carefully around the roots of trees and shrubs you’re moving so you don’t damage them, nor the plants nearby.

Long handle

To reduce the need for bending and to help prevent back strain, this design has a long handle.

Pressure on

Integrated treads on the top of the blade mean you can, ahem, give it some wellie when you’re working.

Wickes Powagrip Carbon Steel Garden Digging Spade

(Image credit: Wickes)

4. Wickes Powagrip Carbon Steel Garden Digging Spade

Best budget garden spade: an economical choice for all-round digging tasks

Best for: Making your money go further
Materials: Steel and carbon steel
Height: 99.5cm (overall)
Reasons to buy
+Amazing price+Easy to hang up+Soft grip handle
Reasons to avoid
-No treads

Lots to buy to get started in your garden? This economical spade choice will leave you more to spend on the rest of your list.

Hand saver

A soft grip handle could make this spade feel more comfortable for you than those without this feature.

Low shine

OK, the blade of this spade won’t have the shiny finish of stainless-steel designs, but the epoxy coating will stop it rusting.

Material concerns

A plastic coated steel shaft won’t feel or look as attractive as wood, but if your spade buying is all about price and function, this won‘t be an issue.

  • Buy the Wickes Powagrip Carbon Steel Garden Digging Spade

McGregor Carbon Steel Digging Spade

(Image credit: Argos)

5. McGregor Carbon Steel Digging Spade

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

Best for: Carrying on digging
Materials: Carbon steel and fibreglass
Height: 103cm (overall)
Reasons to buy
+Just 2.05kg+Five year guarantee+Back-saving long handle
Reasons to avoid
-Could be too long if you’re shorter

If your digging sessions are likely to be long, spare your energy by opting for a lightweight spade.

Pick fibreglass

The shaft of this spade is made using fibreglass which will prove lighter than a steel or wooden handle.

Go long

The design is made to make digging easier in two ways. First, the handle is longer for better leverage and, secondly, it’s forward tilting with a soft-touch handle.

Skip the rust

The head of this spade is rust-resistant, and the design comes with a five year guarantee.

  • Buy the McGregor Carbon Steel Digging Spade

Fiskar’s Gardener’s Pointed Spade

(Image credit: Amazon)

6. Fiskar’s Gardener’s Pointed Spade

Best garden spade for stony soils: if your garden’s challenging, this design will make life easier

Best for: Hard and stony conditions
Materials: Steel and plastic
Height: 117cm (overall)
Reasons to buy
+Pointed blade for tough conditions+Designed to be back-friendly+Light
Reasons to avoid
-Not every garden will need it

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

Dig in

With a sharp hardened blade and treads at the top, this spade is made to help you tackle challenging garden conditions.

Work longer

Weighing just 1.75kg and thanks to a plastic handle, this model is light so you can concentrate your effort on digging rather than lifting.

Tall tale

The long handle is made to keep your back safe while you’re working, and the D shaped handle to be comfortable for all hand sizes.

  • Buy the Fiskar’s Gardener’s Pointed Spade

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

Best for: Universal use
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

If you don’t have the storage space for more than one spade, this handy design is a great all-rounder.

Lacquered ash

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

Carbon steel

The head of this spade is made from heat-treated carbon steel and it’s epoxy coated to prevent rusting, plus resist scratches and soil humidity.

Comfort features

To make spade work easier, the handle is forward tilted, and is D shaped. 

  • Buy the Spear & Jackson 4190NB Elements Digging Spade

How to choose the best garden spades

Finding a garden spade that suits you is important – especially if the conditions of your garden make it particularly hard work, the space is large, or your garden design ambitious.

Spade height

Spades are often designed for taller women and average-height men. It can be a good idea to go for a border spade if you’re less tall, and a long-handled spade if you’re on the tall side. 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.

Consider weight

Once you’ve piled up soil on the blade of the spade you’re going to be lifting quite a weight between the earth and the tool, so think about what the spade is made from if this is going to be a concern. A wooden handle is lighter than a steel one, and fibreglass even less weighty. A border spade can be a lighter option, too, as it’s smaller than a standard spade.

Factor in comfort

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

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