by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
In the USA the common digging tool in the garden, especially the vegetable garden, is the long-handled “Irish” shovel, also known as “West Country” shovel, with a “face” similar to that of the sign for Spades on a deck of cards, and having a long handle.
Using a long-handled tool such as this shovel or a long-handled spade gives much better leverage and makes for a better standing position during digging then does the use of the kind of spade that we are used to, especially in Europe.
Now a number of makers have begun to bring out long-handled spade which are, well, ordinary digging spades (or shrubbery/border spades) with long “Irish” shovel handles, and they (that is the spades not the makers) do rather work a treat.
With the correct technique applied those spades lessen the strain on the gardener's back. However, this kind of spade is not to be used for the breaking of new virgin ground as the leverage applied could cause the handle to break (and lead to injury).
Obviously, like in America, you can use an “Irish” shovel for digging long-handled though a spade of this kind is better though especially if you want to have more or less straight edges. Long-handled garden forks are also in the coming and shrubbery/border ones are already available from at least one manufacturer.
In the UK the only long-handled spades that I have seen available on the market thus far are the “StandWell Long Pattern Spade” (a real beauty) and the “48”-long-handled garden spade” from Rollins-Bulldog. The latter also do the border fork and spade in long-handled version.
When it comes to serious digging in vegetable beds there's nothing better than a long-handled spade, especially for double-digging.
If you cannot get a long-handled spade in your location or do not want to buy one there is always the DIY option of converting an ordinary spade to long-handled, and it should not be difficult at all.