Country Gardener

Widely regarded as the authority on gardening in the south west

Calling a spade a spade!

Consumer writer John Swithinbank launches a new product testing series in which he looks in detail at some of the most popular gardening tools and accessories.

I always loved to call a spade a spade, but I’m beginning to rethink this phrase because I’ve just come across three very different spades which make gardening easier.

Two are from a Dutch company Sneeboer and one comes from a British company Burgon and Ball.

Before I tried each one out I couldn’t help admire their beauty and craftsmanship.

I then got cracking and put each one through its paces.

Some proved more useful for general soil work but they all did a job on a variety of ground operations. So, what’s special and different about them?

Pointed SpadeSneeboer Pointed Spade rrp. £96.95

Digging with this one was easy as this lightweight number was able to slice into the ground by way of its point of its blade. An important added feature is t the rear of the blade is made to be 90 degrees perpendicular with the back of its handle. This allows the blade to penetrate the ground with the minimal of effort with the only drawback of it is not taking out as much soil as a traditional spade but with much less effort and each spade full I would guestimate at about 50 per-cent load of a normal spade. The woody roots of brambles did not stand a chance with this spade as it was accurate and very light to use. If it’s got a downside then I would say don’t put too much torque on it when digging out root systems of established plants.

Transplanting SpadeSneeboer Transplanting Spade rrp. £96.95

Have you ever wished for a spade that could dig up established shrubs and small stumps? Well, this could be exactly what you may have been missing. To me, this is the world number one spade. Its narrowish blade is slightly concaved and the bottom of the blade has been designed to slice though the toughest of soils. I used it on compacted ground full of brambles and was blown away by its willingness to blitz out the root systems. I’ve lost count of the number of times in the past that I have broken a spade or fork trying to dig out an established plant. Within a few seconds using this I knew. I found myself excavating and undermining the established root systems with ease and with confidence that this spade was indestructible. Put this one at the top of your Christmas list and you won’t need the gym this January!

Ladies Groundbreaking SpadeBurgon and Ball Ladies Groundbreaking Spade rrp. £34.95

This spade, in my book, isn’t specifically for ladies. It is simply a great spade for all gardeners and is an affordable alternative to rival the Sneeboer pointed and transplanting spades. The wooden handle has a long metal sleeve cover which gave me confidence to really get stuck in without the fear of it breaking.

Dandelion WeederSneeboer Dandelion  Spade rrp. £59.95

To look at this tool I doubt if anyone would call it a spade, yet, once put to use, it’s qualities are many. Yes, I did find it useful for dandelion removal it the lawn but it was also a bonus put to use in a crowded border where few other long handled tools would be too cumbersome. In the border it withdrew the roots of docks and other tap-rooted ‘nasties’ as well as titivating the soil around existing plants.

All the above tools and more information are available online in the UK from Harrod Horticultural - Tel: 0333 400 1500.

Burgon and Ball - Tel: 0114 233 8262.

Some garden centres also stock these tools where you can get a feel for them before you buy.

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