Spades by Charles

by AnneWareham on January 15, 2016

Post image for Spades by Charles

A review of a Fiskars Spade by Charles Hawes

One of the few “real” garden tasks that I undertake, is to occasionally divide my hostas. I say mine because although we have hostas in several places in the garden, the only ones I give any attention to are those in what was our vegetable garden. The only veg I grow there now are runner beans but years ago (decades even)  Anne handed me responsibility for this corner of the garden and I have kept it as my job to look after pretty well everything that goes on there.

Hosta Krossa Regal in Charles' plot Veddw, copyright Anne Wareham

Hosta Krossa Regal in Charles’ plot

The hostas in question are the large leaved ‘Krossa Regal’ and sieboldiana. Large-leaved hostas make large clumps. And, underground,  these clumps are amazingly tough, almost woody things. The best time to divide them (in my opinion) is in the winter or early spring, before they begin to show leaf-growth.

I have always done this with a spade. This is not just a question of a gentle push through the clump and a bit of wiggling. This is a stand-on-spade-and-jump-up-and-down job and then a lot of hard levering to get the clumps out of the ground to re-plant.

We have had several spades. Quite good spades, with stainless steel blades. The one I used was made by Bulldog and has a useful edge at the top of the blade to stop your foot from being dug into when you apply pressure. At least I thought it was a good spade until in the midst of my strenuous levering and wiggling the blade cracked. End of spade.

Broken spade, Veddw, copyright Anne Wareham

Broken spade….you have to look carefully, but it’s bust.

Back to the potting shed where I grabbed Anne’s spade. Also stainless steel, with a polycarbonate shaft, and so used over the years (she used to do lots of gardening) that the blade is well worn around the edges. Its brand had been worn off it years ago. More jumping up and down on the spade and levering and then the shaft broke. This upset Anne quite a bit and I promised to repair it as best I could (a promise kept, as you can see, with a new wooden shaft, but not until months later).

Anne's spade, mended

Anne’s spade, mended at last.

This had become a very expensive way of saving money.  At roughly this time we had an email from the PR people at Fiskars, asking us if we would like to try out any of their products. Their range includes spades. I chose  the Xact, “extra strong, sharp blade with nonslip step board for hard soil”. A large one (for people 175 – 195cm high). I was impressed that they come in different sizes. It is significantly longer than the other spades we have. This is good as it means less bending over. It’s blade is also curved. I am sure that there is some Big Theory behind the curve but it escapes me.

Fiskar's Spade. With curve.

Fiskar’s Spade. With curve.

It weighs 1.9kg, which isn’t much different from our other spades, but neither did it feel heavy. By the time it arrived I had sorted the hostas and as we don’t do digging (bad for the soil) I was a bit stuck for what to use it for. Then late this autumn I came up with a BIG PROJECT. To dig a 40 metre trench to take an electricity cable and water pipe from the garden to a railway goods carriage that we have on the edge of our car park (and to subsequently convert the carriage to a workshop/office).

Trench

Trench

The ground wasn’t especially hard but it was extremely stony. And my trench was around 75cm deep. The Xact did a great job – well I did a great job with it. The extra length was really useful for when I was getting to the bottom of the trench. I did a lot of levering of rocks with it and it did so without me bending it or damaging it in any way. The step edge on the blade was good for the jumping-up-and-down-on bits. It has a nice big handle, too, with a good grip. So I was very happy with my spade. Thank you Fiskars. Dare I risk it on the hostas? According to the guarantee I have 25 years to find out.

Charles Hawes

Photographer and part time garden help.

Charles Hawes portrait, Veddw, copyright Anne Wareham winter

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Jo Turner January 15, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Trowels and tribulations of life…in spades! I know..can’t help it. It does makes such a diffferrence having the right tool, one that won’t give up the ghost mid-task. I hadn’t realized Fiskars made a range of spades with an assortment of handle lengths. Very good move. Shall look for this one. Thanks for sharing : )

AnneWareham January 15, 2016 at 6:13 pm

Thanks for writing! xx

John January 15, 2016 at 6:16 pm

Ha! Now I know it’s that green thing in your car park (thought it was but Anne wouldn’t say). I hope you’ve properly rehomed the bunnies that are usually hopping around it. Will it be your “man place”? Or will you rent it out as a super-modern answer to Canary Wharf?

A 75cm deep trench for a mains cable? RCD at the house end I hope. And battery backup for the PC!

As to spade, you should really look at a sukoppu! http://www.niwaki.com/store/japanese-spade/. Your Fiskars warranty probably applies to the original purchaser, which you’re not! 🙂

Jenny January 15, 2016 at 7:53 pm

What a lucky turn of events that brought the new spade to your garden at the right moment. Almost makes one believe that there is a garden god. Is that the rage in the UK to have a railway carriage? I read of a similar refit in The Garden in the Clouds!

AnneWareham January 15, 2016 at 11:02 pm

Our railway carriage has been here at least 30 years, so hard to think of it as fashionable. But I like the garden god: saved the other spade we have from getting vandalised.

Brian Skeys January 15, 2016 at 8:28 pm

I bought one of these about four months ago, I was looking for a long handled spade, very pleased with it so far.

AnneWareham January 15, 2016 at 11:03 pm

We’ll exchange notes in 25 years?

Katherine Crouch January 15, 2016 at 9:16 pm

mmm, might have to get one of those. I have a collection of broken spades and forks. I do not wish to add to the collection. Two handleless forks make a a good garden line. I have promised myself to rehandle the spades…..for 8 years….shed clearance is overdue!

AnneWareham January 15, 2016 at 11:04 pm

We just cleared our shed! #smugglow

David January 16, 2016 at 11:08 am

I have an old spade welded and reinforced at the step with 25 mm angle iron. This allows for pounding with a sledge hammer rather than jumping. It handles hostas easily and slices through roots should I need to dig out a shrub. Best thing I ever did. Need a picture?

Julia January 17, 2016 at 11:09 am

Very useful but remain Sneeboer to the core.