Choosing a Spade

A spade is probably the most important tool in gardening so its worth getting a good one.

Few tools are more crucial to gardening than a durable, sturdy garden spade.

You don’t want to get something that looks OK but breaks in half or bends the first time it is used, or is uncomfortable to use.

The business end of a spade is shaped like a rectangle, with a straight flat blade and a square shallow pan for lifting, rather than scooping dirt.

Although it can be used to shovel materials its not its main purpose.

If you are doing lots of shovelling it is worth buying a separate shovel.

Major DIY stores and garden centers sell a wide range of spades.

I’m not a big fan of buying a spade on line because you need to pick them up and check they feel comfortable.

Spade handles come in different lengths to fit different people. If the handle is too short, it will be hard for you to handle the spade without hurting your back so make sure the spade feels comfortable.

Pick the spades up in the store, feel it, and handle as much as you need to be sure you get a good feel for it in your hands and with your body.

Spade handles come in ‘D’ and ‘T’ shapes . The ‘D’ shape is more durable and easier to use than the ‘T’.

Look for a garden spade with 200mm x 300mm inch blade asa larger one may be more difficult to use

The top edge of the garden spade should have a thick top to set your foot on so you can push down.

Without the thick top your foot quickly gets sore and you can’t get the push you need.

A stainless steel blade is the best and longest lasting all-around spade.

A sharp flat spade edge can cut and lift turf, cut through tree roots when digging holes for planting, and create more defined shapes in turf or soil.

Once you have got your spade look after it and make sure you keep the blade clean and the handle smooth, it all makes digging much easier.

I also run an angle grinder along the edge from time to time to keep it sharp.

The spade in the picture above is forged stainless steel with a GRP handle. I’ve had it for years and it will probably last me out.

See Tools for similar posts


Garage – Planning a Workshop

I was walking home the other day and saw this amazingly equipped workshop which made me feel quite jealous!

We can’t all have separate workshops so here are some thoughts about planning a workshop in your new house garage.

Solid Workbench

Your workbench,needs to be constructed to withstand the rigors and pounding you’ll put it through.

The legs should be sturdy and the top should be durable as I mainly work with wood I lite a timber top so it doesn’t damage my project.

If you are working with metals a steel top may be better.

Light and Power

Once you have got a location for the workbench you can plan the light and power.

I would aim to have a double power point at each end of the bench about 1.00m to 1.200m above the floor.

A point close to the floor for a Shop Vac is also useful to help keep the workshop clean and extract power tool dust. (For other garage power points see this link: Electrical Planning)

Some task lighting above the bench is also recommended.

Tool Storage

Your main investment if you are serious about DIY are the tools.

To protect that investment I would recommend a large tool box, preferably on wheels to make it easy to take your tool if you need to do work away from the garage.

For the tools that you use most often in the workshop a pegboard is useful for quick access.

Alternatively  you could hang items on the walls of your garage.


Plain concrete garage floors can work as a workshop surface, but can be dusty and over time they stain.

A floor paint such as an epoxy paint is easier to clean and looks better.

For a softer surface in front of the workbench a  rubber floor mats is great for easing strain on your legs and feet.

Comfortable Temperature

Garage spaces are not usually insulated, and garage doors on most homes have very poor insulation.

That means you may be hot and sweaty in the summer, and freezing cold in  winter.

If you are planning to spend a lot of time in the garage I would recommend you consider insulating your garage ceiling and door.

You should also consider a heater and a fan.


Have I left out any must-haves for your garage/workshop? . . . Let me know in the comments.


Unless you have enough money to pay someone to do the gardening I would recommend that you think about buying a wheel barrow.

You will have top soil, compost and plants to move. You might even be moving concrete if you want to build some paths.

Its certainly worth spending a bit of money and buying a good one. Probably the best barrow in my opinion is a builders barrow with a large heavy duty plastic tub like this and solid tyres:

I have had this barrow for about 20 years now and its been used at three houses for:

    • Barrowing large amounts of concrete for paths and patios.
    • Mixing small quantities of concrete to avoid staining paths.
    • Moving huge amounts of topsoil.
    • Spreading mulch.
    • Moving tonnes of gravel and pavers for paths.

In spite of being stored outside for most of the time the tub is still watertight and the barrow is always ready for use.

The advantages of the plastic tub over steel are:

    • No rust problems.
    • Lighter
    • Because of the flexibility of the tub concrete that has set in the barrow can be loosened by tapping with a hammer.

A few hints when using a barrow are:

    1. If you are pushing a heavy barrow over rough ground put a couple of planks down.
    2. If you are moving concrete don’t overfill the barrow.
    3. Keep the load as much as possible over the wheel.
    4. If the site is really muddy wrap the tyres in duct tape so bits of mud don’t get stuck in the tread and then fall out on your clean paths.


The Settling In Section contains lots of advice on what

to do after you have moved in your new house


Storage Hacks Using Pipes

When you are setting up a new workshop you need to store your tools.

You can put them in a toolbox, but its easier if you can store them so you can just pick them up without sorting through a box full of tools.

Some tools are hard to store easily so here are a couple of storage hacks using pieces of plastic pipe.

Battery Powered Drill

Just cut a slot for the handle and you can slide battery drills under a shelf.

Hedge Clipping Shears

As you can see I am a bit old school when it comes to clipping bushes. . . .. none of those electric shears.

A short section of pipe screwed to the wall protects the shears and keeps the edges away from small children.


Have you got any storage hacks from your workshop?


Electric Drill

One of the most useful tools for the new homeowner is an electric drill.

There are always lots of hooks that need to be put up, the odd shelf, house numbers to fix, etc, etc.

My old drill gave up the ghost the other day after many years hard use so I was round at the ‘Big Green Shed buying a new one.

Just a very basic mains powered drill.

Reasons for my choice

I will bet some of you thought I would be going for one of those expensive ‘professional’ battery powered drills.

Well I have been down that route in the past . . . but no more.

A tradie will be using their drill every day so they are likely to keep the drill on charge and its always ready to use.

For me I might use the drill for half an hour and then not use it for three months, so I’m not going to leave it on charge. . . . the result is that the battery is always flat when I need it.

If you haven’t got an extension cable you will need to pay a few dollars for that, but the total cost will still be cheaper than the battery powered drill.

I know I can’t use it outside in the rain, but then again if it is raining, I put the job off to another day.

What about if it doesn’t last

Well even amongst tradies there are two schools of thought.

  • One is the traditional – Always buy the best.
  • Others say the cheapy does OK, but if it breaks within 3 years (In the case of the guarantee for my latest drill) just take it back and get a new one.

Also if someone steals it out of the back of their ute it will only cost $50 to replace, not $200.

5 Forgotten ‘Tools’ for Home Improvement

Guest Post by Hubert Dwight

Every household needs a home improvement kit.

You never know when you’re going to need to perform an odd job or task.

After all, while a good house will last a lifetime there is still always going to be those little repairs or acts of maintenance required to keep your place in fine condition.

Unfortunately there are some things that belong in your home improvement kit that often get forgotten.

Or they get broken, damaged, go missing or get borrowed and never returned.

Let’s take a look at five devices that are essential for home improvement, but are often forgotten.


A Good Torch

Every household needs a rechargeable torch on hand.

A nice bright torch is a great tool to have for those random tasks around the house. It can help to provide light when working under your house, or in your roof.

It’s also great for working at night.

In a perfect world, all home improvement jobs would occur in full daylight. . . . butlife isn;t perfect

With a good quality torch, you’ll be able to make those little home improvements, no matter the hour of day.


Did you know that good old fashioned WD-40 has over two thousand possible uses?

Yet some households forget to include a simple lubricant in their home improvement kits!

Ypu can be so easy get caught up in buying the latest and greatest tools and toys that you can forget the basics.

A good lubricant can help to fix that noisy door, unstick that stuck recliner chair and remove rust from just about anything.

A Spirit Level

This is another device that is easily forgotten. If you have all the power saws, screwdrivers and spanners in the world they don’t amount to much if you can’t make sure that something is straight!

If crooked photos really bug you then you’ll want to invest in a level.

A level makes sure that you don’t hang or install anything without it being perfect.

Did you know you can even download a smartphone app to use as a spirit level? . . . Despite this awesome technology, we recommend the real deal.

A good quality metal spirit level is well worth the investment. If you need hands-free levelling, you could consider a laser level.

A Hacksaw

This is another commonly forgotten-about home improvement tool.

A hacksaw canto cut steel and many other materials.

You never know when you’ll need to cut through something, and sometimes plain old scissors, or a knife, just isn’t up to the task.

A hacksaw can cut easily through metal, but can also be used to cut plastic pipe, wood and other household materials.

Just an old-fashioned hand hacksaw with replaceable blades.

Cable Ties

Again, another easily overlooked device.

Cable ties are a great tool.

They can get used to tidy up all those loose cords and wires in your study.

They can hold things in place while you work on your home.

You can use them as cheap child-proof locks.

Did you know you can even unclog your sink drain with a long cable tie? Just poke it down there and give it a wiggle and presto!


There you have it. for the next time you’re at your local hardware store, have a think to yourself.

Is your home improvement kit complete? . . . You might need to invest in the above five items to be fully prepared for those little jobs that pop up from time to time!


I think a Shovel, as well as a Spade, is a worthwhile addition to your tool collection for your new home.

You should be able to buy a ‘Concreters’ Shovel like this for $25 dollars, or less, so it shouldn’t break the bank!

As well as concreting it’s a good shovel for loading bark. topsoil, or any other loose material into a Wheelbarrow.

If your partners is helping you having both of you shoveling, one with the shovel, and one with a spade, will get the job done a lot faster.

The same goes for cleaning, as with a spade, make sure you clean it after every use.


The Settling In Section contains lots of advice on what

to do after you have moved in your new house


Hiring a Dingo Loader

Spreading a lot of topsoil or levelling a large garden yourself?………….One of the best tools is a ‘Dingo’ or ‘Kanga’ loader. These can usually be hired locally at very reasonable rates.

Can be a bit scary driving the dingo off the trailer. Just go slow and you should be alright. You will be jerky and wobbly at first but I found after 10mins I got the hang of it and started enjoying it.

These machines are narrow enough to go through most gateways (Less than 900mm wide), but as I was on a corner block so found it easiest to take out a fence panel.

As well as the basic machine some attachments that may be worth hiring at the same time are:

  • A bucket with teeth if you are planning to dig compacted soil.
  • A large capacity bucket for moving compost and mulch.
  • A rotary auger if you are putting in posts, or even preparing to plant trees or large shrubs.

Safety Warning:
Even though it’s fun its a heavy powerful machine that needs to be treated with respect so:

    1. Don’t try to climb too steep a bump or sudden hill on the ground, go too quick or do anything that will put it off balance or tip over. You don’t want it to roll on you.
    2. Make sure that pets and children are well out of the way.
    3. Don’t allow people to get behind you
    4. Take your time as you will feel like you are a cowboy riding a bull if you go too quick.
    5. Rest if you get tired.
    6. If you are crossing a footpath get some cones and rope to keep pedestrians away.

A final piece of advice “Don’t let the wife have a go or you will never get her off it”.

What piece of Hire Equipment have you found useful?


The Settling In Section contains lots of advice on what to do after

you have moved in your new house.