Gardening | Call a spade a spade and choose the right tool for the job

Do you know a spade from a shovel?

Do you know a spade from a shovel?

When it comes to gardening, digging plays a big part and history suggests humans have been using shovels since the Neolithic period over 12,000 years ago.

Shovels and other digging implements were crudely fashioned from animal bones, with shoulder blades a popular choice.

We have come a long way and shovel heads are now constructed from a range of metals and alloys with several different types, each designed with its own specific purpose, so as with any tool it is important to select the right one for the job.

Shovel blades for digging are designed to cut through soil and move loose materials around, so it stands to reason that the larger the scoop or blade, the greater the quantity of material that can be moved.

Sharp pointed blades such as on a round-mouth shovel make it easier to cut through soil and material like roots, and flat blades are ideal for edging and moving bulk materials.

The handles or shafts of shovels are usually long, to provide leverage when digging but can also be relatively short, particularly for broad-mouth shovels used for moving bulk materials such as sand or gravel.

The types of handle material are as varied as the tools themselves.

Traditional wooden handles require additional maintenance to keep them in good working order while composite materials, fibreglass and metal handles are also available. Weight and cost will depend on the material it is constructed from.

Spades are another versatile tool and unlike shovels, have a relatively flat blade with straight edges. The blade is usually in line with the shaft and not angled forward and this makes all the difference.

The design makes it efficient in cutting through sods and for slicing straight edges in trenches or holes and edging garden beds.

Spade shafts are usually short with a DY-Handle or T-handle but there is also an O-handle which gives more options on how you hold the tool.

The range of long-handled spades can make light work of digging planting holes.

The longer shaft eliminates the need for bending thereby making the tool more ergonomically efficient.

So dig a little deeper and choose the right tool for the job this weekend.