Autumn and spring is a great opportunity for an allotmenter to get fit through digging! A typical allotment is approximately 250m2. That is a lot of digging…
In truth, digging over an allotment is not most people’s preferred way of exercising. The task of digging over an allotment is one of the biggest obstacles, both physical and psychological, for anyone wanting to grow their own fruit and vegetables. It saps the will of a many a new plot holder – causing them to give up – and causes many experienced allotmenters to eventually retire.
So can the backsaver spade help? (You may also like to see this article on Allotment Rotavators).
Introduction To The Backsaver Spade
See this video publicly available on Youtube (and for convenience embedded here) that shows the backsaver spade in action.
Many plot holders speak very highly of their backsaver spade and recommend it to others. Nevertheless, it does require some changes in digging technique:
- An initial shallow trench
The back saver spade throws soil forward, so the spade needs a clear space ahead of it to enable the soil to be flung upwards. The trench would typically be created by digging across with a spade.
- Working backwards one row at a time.
This is probably the most common method of digging anyway, but does require the discipline of planning the digging job before starting work.
- Preparation of the ground before digging.
The backsaver spade not only saves energy, but it also much quicker than digging with a spade. However, if the ground you are planning to dig is covered with tall weeds, or weeds with tap roots, you may want to deal with these before starting work.
The back saver spade is great at turning the soil over, makes digging much faster, and is less stressful for a gardener’s back. However, here are some things to consider:
- Tap roots
These still need to be picked up. However, there is nothing in the digging action that causes the tap roots to be more broken apart compared to traditional digging.
- Large clumps
Almost like ploughing, the backsaver spade turns the soil over is spadeful size clumps (see the picture at the top of this article). A gardener may need to go over the soil again with a fork or gardener’s rake to prepare the ground for sowing. Again, this is very similar to what would be required after traditional digging.
The backsaver spade does not work the soil into a fine tilth like a rotavator (see Garden rotavators on Amazon UK), some of which are available at a similar price point. However, the slower action of a backsaver spade makes it possible to see weeds with tap roots more easily, and also does not mince up the roots of bind weeds (perhaps the biggest downside of rotavators).
The backsaver spade seems to deliver on its purpose of making digging less stressful, and perhaps best of all, much faster than compared to traditional digging. It has received many positive reviews from allotmenters who have used it in action.
(Please note this blog has not been able to test the durability or safety of this tool under prolong periods of stress, and it is always advisable to consult a medical practitioner for advice on using the tool if you are suffering from a back condition).
The backsaver spade is available to purchase from Suttons Seeds:
“This ingenious tool (popular in the 1970s and now back in production!) has been specially designed to reduce back strain and effort with the bonus of digging at up to twice the speed of a conventional spade.
All you have to do is take a spit, pull back on the comfy handles and a large spring at the base of the shaft acts to throw the soil forward and turn it over.”