Make light work of digging and planting with the right tool
Whether you're an experienced gardener or new to getting your fingers green, it's essential to use the right tool for digging and planting.
But with so many to choose from, it can be confusing to find the right one for your outdoor job. Perhaps you're digging over a patch of ground that hasn’t been worked on for a long time, or just want to maintain the established areas you have already. Either way achieving the garden look you want shouldn't be back-breaking work.
That's where we can help. Here's our guide to help you find the perfect tools for weeding, digging over, edging and breaking up your soil to make gardening simple and fun.
Before you begin
What gardening jobs are you doing?
Have a think about what jobs you'll be tackling in the garden - this will help you choose the most suitable tools. For example, are you picking through already loosened soil to remove weeds? Or are you digging very compacted soil that has had very little work done on it?
If you’re creating new beds and borders, you’ll need to stock up on tools that not only help you establish the area, but also help you dig over the soil. Digging over unprepared ground improves drainage and introduces air – this helps speed up the breakdown of organic matter, which releases more plant nutrients into the soil. This is obviously important prior to planting seeds, new plants, shrubs and vegetables.
With all this considered, we recommend smaller, thinner tools for manoeuvring around established plants and shrubs, while bigger, more hardwearing tools are better suited for digging over unprepared ground.
What’s your soil like?
Soil type determines the type of tool you’ll need. For instance, if you have heavy soil that is difficult to break up, or soil that is full of plant material, you’ll need heavy-duty, sharp tools that will make light work of it. Lighter, looser soil with little plant material can be worked on with lighter tools.
For more on how to understand your soil, head to the "Suss out your soil" section of our garden planning article.
Our planting and digging tools are made from carbon steel – an alloy made from iron and carbon at high temperatures. The result is a strong but pliable metal that has a good cutting edge, making it ideal for gardening work.
How tall are you?
Don't forget your personal comfort when planning to work in the garden for any period of time. Avoid an aching back by choosing the right length tool for you. If you're tall, we advise digging with a longer option, so you don’t have to stoop too low.
Planting tool types
Often confused with a shovel, garden spades may look similar but they're built to work very differently. Spades have a square tip are designed for cutting through roots and plant material and scraping.
There are two types of garden spade: digging spades and border spades.
Digging spades are heavy-duty and designed for heavier work such as digging unprepared or heavy soils. Border spades are smaller and lighter and are for working in confined spaces among growing plants in herbaceous borders and shrub beds. They can also be used for setting new plants, bulbs and seedlings.
Our garden spades are:
- Made with a carbon steel head
- Available weighing up to 2.3kilograms (kg)
- Available measuring up to 1.09metres (m) long and 28.5cm (centimetres) wide
- Corrosion resistant
- Designed with ergonomic or soft-grip handles
A garden shovel has a pointed tip and is suited for lifting and scooping soil. This makes them ideal for moving soil and incorporating organic matter into the soil to improve its condition.
Our garden shovels are:
- Made with a carbon steel blade
- Available weighing up to 1.65kg
- Available measuring up to 0.975m long and 23cm wide
- Are rust-protected with a protective coating of epoxy (a type of resin)
- Made with a fibreglass handle
Used in a similar way to a digging spade, the garden fork benefits from sturdy prongs that make it easier to push into the ground – making it a better choice for harder soil. Forks are also well suited at loosening, lifting and turning over soil, as they're less likely to be stopped by stones or other small obstacles when compared to a spade.
There are two types of garden fork: digging forks and border forks.
Digging forks are for heavier jobs such as digging heavy, compacted soil. They're particularly useful on clay soil, as it won’t stick to the tines of a fork as readily as it will to the flat blade of a spade.
Slightly smaller and lighter than a digging fork, border forks are a top choice for working in more confined areas where a larger tool may cause damage to plant root systems. They also have shorter tines, making them easier to use, especially when you don’t want to dig too deep.
Our garden forks are:
- Made with either a carbon or carbon steel blade
- Available weighing up to 2.775kg
- Resistant to corrosion
- Available with coating to reduce soil adhesion
- Made with a plastic-coated steel, polyfibre or soft grip handle
Ideal for keeping down weeds during the summer months, regular use of a Dutch hoe will keep the soil moving so that new weeds don’t germinate and become established. It also encourages air and water into the soil.
Dutch hoes are also your go-to tool for earthing up potatoes, onions and celery, and the corners of the blades can be used to draw a narrow trench or drill for sowing seeds.
Our Dutch hoes are:
- Made with a carbon steel blade and handle
- Available weighing up to 1.1kg
- Available measuring up to 1.425m long and 12.7cm wide
- Corrosion resistant
As well as being used to create brand new beds in a lawn, edgers can be used to create a neat edge for vegetable and flower beds, as well as pathways, driveways and patios.
Our edgers are:
- Available with a carbon steel blade and handle
- Available weighing up to 0.85kg
- Available measuring up to 0.985m long and 21.5cm wide
- Corrosion resistant
Garden hand forks
Designed for working the top six inches of soil, the curved shape of a hand fork makes it well-suited for cultivating and aerating soil. It can also be used for removing stubborn perennial weeds by scooping out and completely removing the root.
Our garden hand forks are:
- Made with a carbon steel head
- Weather resistant
- Made with a soft-grip handle for comfort
Garden hand trowels
If you need to manoeuvre around existing plants, or want to dig out weeds with minimal soil disturbance, get yourself a hand trowel. They’re also great for planting out bulbs and seedlings, as well as re-potting plants in beds and containers.
Our hand trowels are:
- Made with either a carbon steel or stainless steel blade
You might need
Now let's stock up on those extra bits and pieces that you might need.
Consider some gardening gloves to limit your chance of blisters when gardening for extended periods of time. Choose a leather and cotton pair for the best protection.
If you're going to be kneeling, invest in some kneepads or a kneeler to maintain comfort when digging and planting. And if you'll be digging up, opt for wellington boots - we offer them in a trio of colours to complement your outdoor look. Go green for traditional simplicity, blue for classic elegance and pink for stylish fun.
Soil and plant care
Depending on the type of soil you’ve got, you may need to do some work to ensure that it’s in the best state it can be for growing your chosen plants. Add compost and soil improvers to help with the structure of the soil, as well as fertiliser and plant food to nurture the plants when planted. And don't forget to keep them well watered with a watering can.