I no longer use the traditional wooden-handled shovel. It has been upstaged by two shovels that now serve all of my digging needs. One shovel is made by Radius, http://radiusgarden.com, and the other is made by Fiskars, http://fiskars.com. Each has features that traditional shovels do not have.
Neither tool has the traditional stick handle. The Radius shovel has a circle at the end of a handle which allows two-handed control. The Fiskars has a large D-shaped handle — also big enough to allow two hands to do the heavy work. Because both tools have steel handles instead of wood, you really can get some good leverage in tough soil without worrying about ever breaking it. The unusual handles on both tools also have ergonomic value in that your hand or hands are at an angle to the ground that is easier on the joints.
Why do I use two different shovels? The Fiskars shovel is heavier and has a much larger step on the top edge of the tool, so I can literally jump up onto the step with both feet when I am struggling with our terrible heavy clay soil. With my lithesome 205 pounds, that shovel will definitely go deeply into that clay. It might not be the shovel of choice for women because it is quite heavy.
The lighter Radius shovel, with a stainless-steel blade, is perfect for digging in soil that is not similar to cement. Because you can hold the circular handle at many different angles, your hands don’t get tired so fast because they experience less strainBoth shovels have the blade mounted to the handle at a slight angle — again offering an ergonomic benefit reducing wear and tear on the old body (well, my body is old). Both of these tools are as tough and strong as any digging tools I have ever used.
I would be remiss in a column about digging tools if I didn’t mention the Radius trowel. Nancy and I can’t imagine ever using any other trowel. It is light but very strong and has a thick handle that is curved quite a bit. That design allows you to get amazing leverage while putting very little stress on your hand. Your wrist does not have to bend to use this tool. Radius also offers a transplanting tool (a longer trowel) that Nancy has found to be valuable when planting a bunch of seedlings at one time. She just reverses the tool in her hand and sticks it into the soil and just pulls it toward her, making a nice little hole for the seedling.
The Fiskars shovel can be found at most Lowe’s for about $33. The Radius shovel is $35, and the trowel is $12, and they are available at English Gardens, Bordine and most quality independent garden centers at $35 to $40. Think Christmas.
Jeff Ball is a Metro Detroit freelance garden writer. Visit his Web site at. http://yardener.com E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.