Shovels, Spades, and other Tools – Save Money. Buy Quality.

Right after we finished up the major exhibit of Bill’s work at the end of October we set about doing some things in the yard that we had put off. Some shrubs that were not doing well and an ornamental grass that had not performed as I had hoped had to be removed.

A young fellow (about 25) had called us sometime ago to inquire about part time work. He told us that he had had some experience with yard work, so it sounded like he might be able to help us out. That way Bill could go ahead and cut the grass and a few other things that needed doing and we could wrap everything up in one day.

Our helper showed up at 9AM with a shovel.  One look at the shovel and we knew that he was not a “yard worker.”

I told him he could just leave his shovel at the back steps because it wouldn’t get through the first hour in one piece.  Goodness knows, I feel like an expert on shovels since I broke enough cheap ones in my first decade of gardening.

Bill explained to him how to do the job we had hired him to do.  Fortunately Bill checked back and saw that he was working on breaking even our heavy duty shovel by using it as a pry bar. Even the best of shovels should not be abused that way.

Save Money. Buy Quality.

One of the things I learned in our many years on the poverty level is that it pays to buy quality.  I realize their are times that it’s either cheap or nothing.  That being said — most of the time you are better off with nothing rather than cheap.

The reason is pretty simple.  You have to keep re-buying the cheap stuff.  But if you get a quality tool — say a shovel (also called a spade) — it will probably last you a lifetime and most of the good ones are guaranteed that long anyway.

A Tool That’s Not Properly Made and One That Is

Years ago I got what I thought was a fairly good transplanting shovel.  It has a long narrow blade for going deep under the roots.  For some reason, I never liked it and in the 20 years I’ve had it, I’ve only used it 2 or 3 times. (I call that a waste of money.)

I had the good fortune to be gifted recently with a Transplanting Spade (also called a rabbiting spade) made by Clarington Forge.  Boy!  All I can say is a well made tool really feels comfortable and makes a big difference.

It’s perfect for working in tight spots and it makes easy work of lifting lilies and/or phlox or anything else that needs to come out.

It’s so easy and comfortable to use that I find myself using it for lots of other things rather than my regular garden shovel.  I especially like it for loosening wire grass that has gotten into some of my borders. Those roots go down deep into the soil and a regular shovel doesn’t always go deep enough to get the roots – but rather cuts them off. This little shovel (or spade) gets right under those roots and makes it almost enjoyable to take out.

The ash handle is short — just the right length.  The T style grip is so comfortable to hold. Just by leaning forward and pushing I can apply more weight to the shovel after I step on the blade to push it into the ground.  With a regular handle your hands and arms have to be strong enough to apply the weight. And the slightly tapered blade itself is just the right length.  Not too long like the other one I had, but long enough to do what it’s suppose to do.

The last time I visited the Clarington site they had it on sale for $55. (Regularly $66.) Not bad when you consider you’ll have it a lifetime.  If anything does happen to it – it has a lifetime guarantee.

Clarington Forge – English crafted since 1780.

Clarington Forge has been making quality garden tools since 1780. Their English craftsmen forge the heads of the spades (shovels) and garden forks from a single piece of steel. This makes them incredibly strong. They are then securely riveted to an ash shaft.

They also have some nice garden forks, rakes, hoes, trowels and hand forks.

Final Thought

If you want something affordable, nice, useful, and lasting for a special gardener on your gift list check out the Clarington Forge website.


Important Tip for New Gardeners:

This shape shovel is best for all purpose garden digging.


If you’re new to gardening and don’t know –  shovels for general all purpose digging need a round pointed blade as shown in the picture.  The squared off spades are for shoveling loose sand or dirt, but not good for all purpose garden digging and use.


Organic Gardening is easy, efficient, effective and it’s a lot healthier.


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