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Spade vs Shovel | Getting the Right Tool for the Job

Most of us have a spade or a shovel for use in the garden, but did you know that these are very different tools with different uses?

In our guide, we’re taking a look at spades vs shovels as well as recommending the best quality products to help you buy the right tools for your yard.

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Best Garden Spade

Best Garden Spades of 2021
Spear & Jackson 4454BS Stainless Steel Border Spade

Best Garden Shovel 

Best Garden Shovels of 2021
ROOT ASSASSIN RA-002 Carbon Steel Shovel
Spade vs Shovel Getting the Right Tool for the Job

Best Garden Shovels for 2021

Product


Our Rating

Price

ROOT ASSASSIN Carbon Steel Shovel RA-002
Best Garden Shovels of 2021
Fiskars PRO Shovel 397960-1001
Best Value Garden Shovels for 2021
Radius Garden Root Slayer Shovel 22011
Premium Choice Garden Shovels for 2021
Spear Head Gardening Shovel
Worth Garden Short Garden Round Shovel

Best Garden Spades for 2021

Differences Between Spade vs Shovel

choosing spade vs shovel

The fundamental difference between the two is the jobs they are designed to do. Although they look similar and sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, the structure and design differences are quite noticeable once you know what to look for. 

Spades can be easily identified by the following characteristics:

  • Spades generally have a shorter, straight handle.
  • The handle grip is in a “D” or “T” shape.
  • There's a small ledge/step at the top of the blade where you can place your foot to dig deeper. 
  • The blade is flat and squared off.
  • Spade blades are usually smaller than shovel blades.

Shovels can be identified by their:

  • Longer shaft that sits at an angle to the blade.
  • Small or non-existent step, as the digging action doesn’t need more downward force.
  • Larger, narrower blade that is curved to create a scoop.

Uses of a Garden Spade

best garden spades for 2021

Spades are designed to cut through dirt and debris evenly, creating precise, clean lines. This makes them ideal for edging flowerbeds or digging trenches.

With this step, you can use your foot to push the spade much deeper into the ground, making it a good option for digging up roots and plants.

The flat blade is also useful for removing layers of soil, for example, when removing a layer of grass or weeds from a flowerbed. The wide, flat blade can help you move large volumes quickly, making it a good choice for laying out mulch, compost or topsoil.

Lastly, the spade is perfect scooping dirt which you can then place in a wheelbarrow or a pail.

Uses of a Garden Shovel

difference between spade vs shovel

Shovels are also used for digging, but in a different way. The curved, narrower blade makes it easier to slice into the ground, cut roots, and dig around obstacles like rocks or roots which can stop a spade in its tracks.

This shape also makes it easier to loosen soil and dig in compost or mulch evenly. Because of the angled shaft and blade, you get a lot more leverage as you dig, allowing you to lift and move heavier loads.

How to Choose Spade vs Shovel for Your Yard

best garden shovels for 2021

Now that you know how shovels and spades are different and the kinds of tasks that each is suited to, it’s time to look at what features to look for when you’re buying a new tool. 

Materials

Typically, shovels and spades have a solid steel blade and a wooden handle, but there are other options on the market. Here are some of the pros and cons to consider:

  • Wood – Wooden handles are strong and quite durable, but they can splinter or crack with age and intense weather.
  • Steel – This is an exceptionally durable material that will last a long time and keep the blade sharp. However, too much steel can make your tool heavy, tiring, and unwieldy to use. 
  • Aluminum – This material is very affordable, so these shovels and spades are usually the cheapest option to buy. Unfortunately, aluminum tends to bend, so it’s not a good option unless you have a very easy yard and only intend to do light work.
  • Fiberglass – Lightweight but very strong, weatherproof and rust-proof, fiberglass shovels and spades are one of the highest-quality items to buy. They can be a lot more expensive as a result.

Best Garden Shovel Reviews

Here are our top picks as the best shovels to buy in 2021

ROOT ASSASSIN RA-002 Carbon Steel Shovel

This V-shaped shovel has an angled blade and serrated edges for digging in deep and effortlessly cutting through roots and plant growth. Made of carbon steel, it’s durable, and lightweight at just 2lbs.


The edge can be resharpened when it gets blunt, and the curved tip allows you to get maximum leverage without putting your shovel – or your back – at risk. It’s sturdy, chip and rust proof, and has a practical 32 inch length.

Pros

  • Sharp serrated edge
  • Rubber-coated D-shape handle
  • Pointed tip
  • 2lbs
  • Lifetime replacement guarantee

Cons

  • More expensive than competitors

Fiskars 397960-1001 PRO Shovel

If you’re looking for an all-rounder that will last a lifetime, then this is a good model to consider. It doesn’t have the sharpened teeth and high-tech design of competitors, but it’s well-made, durable and sturdy.


With a practical 44inch teardrop-shaped shaft, ergonomic D-grip and reinforced connections, this is a real workhorse that will perform well for yards, farms and landscaping businesses. It also comes with a lifetime warranty.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • 44-inch length
  • Strong and durable
  • Heavy-gauge steel blade
  • Can be used to dig, chop and pry
  • Full lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Heavier at 5.69lbs
  • Basic design

Radius Garden 22011 Root Slayer Shovel

With sharp saw teeth and a V-shaped tip, this is a great shovel for digging up stumps, slicing through turf, and cutting through roots. The blade is powder-coated carbon steel for durability and rust-resistance, and the unique blade shape makes it easy to dig into hard-packed soil.


It’s designed to be a shovel, root ratchet and root saw, but isn’t recommended for prying up rocks.

Pros

  • Serrated edge for slicing through roots
  • V-shaped blade
  • Powder-coated carbon steel tip
  • 3-in-1 shovel, root ratchet and root saw
  • Lifetime manufacturer warranty (continental USA)

Cons

  • Can damage the blade when prying up rocks
  • Very expensive

Spear Head Spade Gardening Shovel

If you’re looking for a shovel that can work as a spade, this is a great hybrid design. With a thick, carbon-manganese steel blade, this spear shovel is 33% thicker and 25% more durable than competitors.


It has a lightweight fiberglass handle that has a comfortable, cushioned grip, a 40-inch shaft, and is powder-coated to prevent damage from weather and harsh conditions.

Pros

  • Hybrid shovel/spade
  • Award-winning blade quality and design
  • Reinforced fiberglass handle
  • Cushioned D-grip
  • 3.59lbs

Cons

  • More expensive than competitors

Worth Garden 27'' Short Garden Round Shovel

If you are looking for a shorter shovel, then this is a good choice. It’s a very traditional shovel in design, with a high-quality steel blade that’s powder-coated for rust-resistance, a comfortable D-grip, and hardwood handle.


It’s ideal for planting shrubs and small trees, or even outdoor camping. Basic, durable, and well-made, this is a great everyday shovel for regular yard use. It also comes with a 3-year guarantee.

Pros

  • Short 27-inch length
  • 3-year guarantee
  • High-quality powder-coated steel blade
  • Hardwood shaft
  • Comfortable, non-slip D-grip
  • Affordable

Cons

  • May be a little short for taller people

Our Pick Best Garden Shovel

Best Garden Shovels of 2021
ROOT ASSASSIN RA-002 Carbon Steel Shovel

Our team recommends the ROOT ASSASSIN RA-002 Carbon Steel Shovel if you’re looking for a shovel that is exceptionally good at slicing through roots and hardened soil but doesn’t break the bank.

Made of carbon steel, it’s a solid and well-made shovel that effortlessly cuts through the ground with its serrated edges, making it a great choice for planting trees and shrubs, removing stumps, and cutting through dense roots.

And the lifetime replacement guarantee is great for peace of mind!

Best Value Garden Shovel

Best Value Garden Shovels for 2021
Fiskars 397960-1001 PRO Shovel

If you want a basic, reliable and hardworking tool that’s easy on your wallet, we recommend the Fiskars 397960-1001 PRO Shovel. With a 44-inch shaft, reinforced connections and an extruded aluminum handle, it’s built to last a lifetime – and the full lifetime warranty reflects that.

Whether you’re using it to clear stumps, plant trees, or pry up rocks, this is a great tool that will get the job done.

Best Premium Shovel for 2021

Premium Choice Garden Shovels for 2021
Radius Garden 22011 Root Slayer Shovel

If you’re looking for something more innovative, then we recommend the Radius Garden 22011 Root Slayer Shovel. Although it's more expensive than other shovels on the list, it offers great performance for your money.

With sharp, serrated edges and a unique blade shape, it cuts effortlessly into the ground, through roots and growth. It features an unusual O-shaped handle for ergonomic comfort and a sharpened inverted V-shape tip for additional cutting power.

Made from carbon steel, it’s fairly light at 5lbs, and the powder-coated carbon steel blade comes with a lifetime guarantee too.

Best Garden Spade Reviews

As with a garden shovel, when it comes to choosing the best garden spade it’s all about finding one with a quality blade and a reinforced handle.

Here’s our top picks:

Spear & Jackson 4454BS Stainless Steel Border Spade

With its heritage good looks, this traditional spade looks like it comes straight from an English country garden. It’s ideal for digging and cultivating, spreading compost and working the soil between established plants, and is built to last.


It has a mirror polished stainless steel blade that is rust and weather resistant, an extra-long double riveted socket for strength and durability, and a single-piece hardwood shaft for digging power.

Pros

  • 38-inch length
  • Traditional English garden spade
  • Hardwood shaft
  • Stainless steel blade
  • Wishbone handle
  • Smaller blade for tight spaces
  • Affordable
  • 10-year guarantee

Cons

  • Hardwood shaft may splinter with age/exposure

Bully Tools 82535 12-Gauge 14-Inch Drain Spade

Ideal for homeowners and contractors, this drain spade is durably made with triple-walled fiberglass and a reinforced solid wood handle. The extra-thick 12-gauge steel blade makes it easy to dig, pry and scoop soil without risk of breaking the shaft or well-made handle.


The extra-wide D-grip handle is designed for comfort and additional leverage, and the fiberglass construction keeps the tool light at 4.05lbs. It’s also 100% made in the USA.

Pros

  • Made in the USA
  • Commercial grade quality
  • Narrow drain spade
  • Extra-thick 12-gauge steel blade
  • No-break polypropylene co-polymer D-grip
  • Extra wide design and no-slip texture
  • Affordable
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Narrow blade cannot shift large volumes

Gardena 17020 ErgoLine Telescopic Spade

Made by one of the most trusted brands in the gardening business, this spade is a great choice for everyday use in established gardens. One stand-out feature is the adjustable shaft, which can be set between 42-50 inches, which is ideal for comfort while you work.


It has an extra-large footstep for stability and digging power, and the extra-wide D-grip helps reduce wrist fatigue by letting you work with both hands.

Pros

  • Trusted brand
  • Adjustable shaft length from 42-50 inches
  • Hardened steel blade
  • Extra-wide D-grip handle for two handed works
  • Extra-large footstep
  • High quality construction

Cons

  • More suited to light use (plastic parts may break)
  • 25-year guarantee

DeWit Perennial Spade with Short Handle

If you are looking for a shorter garden spade, this is a good option. At 22-inches, it’s compact and easy to store, making it a mid-sized garden trowel rather than a heavy-duty spade.


It is very durable and hand-crafted made from hardened boron steel, and the ash handle is strong as well as sustainably sourced. It’s easy to use and lightweight at 1.45lbs, making it ideal for everyday gardening.

Pros

  • Handcrafted heritage tool
  • Sustainably sourced ash hardwood handle
  • Mid-sized trowel
  • Hardened boron steel blade
  • Sturdy but lightweight at 1.45lbs

Cons

  • Not suited to heavy-duty work
  • Can be a bit short for bigger projects
  • Slightly more expensive

Spear & Jackson 1071AL Neverbend Professional Treaded Digging Spade

Another great option from one of the best brands in the gardening industry is this professional trade spade. Designed for home and commercial use, it’s built to last a lifetime and has won awards for its design and durability.


It has a solid forged carbon steel head and socket, and the entire spade has been designed for improved resistance to scratches, chipping, rust, and weather.


Whatever you are working on, the shaft and blade is designed never to bend, easily exceeding the industry standards for the BS3388 load test. It also carries a 10-year warranty.

Pros

  • Durable spade designed for home and commercial use
  • Solid forged carbon steel head and socket
  • Riveted for additional strength
  • Hammer finish powder-coated head for improved resistance to rust, scratches, humidity, and alkalis 
  • Solid hardwood shaft
  • Treaded for more comfortable digging
  • 10-year warranty
  • Lightweight at 5.4lbs
  • Award-winning design

Cons

  • Edges are not especially sharp

Our Top Pick Garden Spade

Best Garden Spades of 2021
Spear & Jackson 4454BS Stainless Steel Border Spade

We recommend the Spear & Jackson 4454BS Traditional English Style Stainless Steel Border Spade as the best gardening spade for 2021! From its traditional English looks and heritage, this classic spade has everything the modern gardener needs.

The stainless-steel blade is sharp, durable and rust-resistant, while the solid hardwood shaft and wishbone grip gives you plenty of power and leverage as you dig.

The double riveting and weatherproofing help it last even in harsh weather, and it comes with a 10-year guarantee.

Best Value Spade of 2021

Best Value Garden Spades for 2021
Bully Tools 82535 12-Gauge 14-Inch Drain Spade

Made in the USA, the Bully Tools 82535 12-Gauge 14-Inch Drain Spade offers great value for your money. A narrower drain spade, this model is very useful for digging trenches, clearing out debris, and transplanting plants.

Made with high-quality but lightweight materials, this spade has a practical 40-inch shaft for taller gardeners, and the no-break polypropylene grip lets you work with one or both hands as needed.

Best Premium Spade for 2021

Premium Choice Garden Spades for 2021
Gardena 17020 ErgoLine Telescopic Spade

The Gardena 17020 ErgoLine Telescopic Spade is well worth paying the extra money for if you are a shorter or taller gardener, as the adjustable shaft really helps make working with the spade much more comfortable.

In fact, comfort is just as important as performance with this spade, as it has an extra-wide grip for using one or both hands to gid, an extra-wide step for more digging power, and an ergonomic handle.

Tips for Using Your Spade or Shovel

difference between spade and shovel

When working with a spade or shovel, remember to always wear tough, closed shoes with a good grip, like work boots or rubber boots. If it’s sunny, remember to wear sunscreen, a sun hat and sunglasses to protect yourself while you work – and stay hydrated with plenty of water.

Before you dig, remember to check for obstacles in the soil that you don’t want to damage, including electrical wiring, electric dog fences, irrigation, and pipes.

Once you’re finished working with your spade or shovel, wash it clean with water, leave it to dry, and then store it in a shed or garage, as exposure to harsh elements may damage these tools.

Spade vs Shovel – Now You Know What Your Yard Needs!

We hope this article helped you learn a bit more about spades and shovels, and how to use each in your yard. When you’re considering a spade or shovel, remember to think about what you want to use it for, as well as considering the quality and performance of the tool in addition to the cost.

With the right choice, your spade or shovel will last a lifetime. If you have any questions about the spade vs shovel debate, please get in touch with our team – we’re happy to help!

About the Author Pat Moreno

Pat is our gardening tool expert here at Sumo Gardener. Working for many years as a private and commercial landscaper, Pat has used almost every type of gardening tool there is. Along with a vast knowledge for types of plants and putting together an amazing looking and maintainable garden, Pat developed a passion for gardening tools as he found that using the right tools vastly improved the ease and outcome of any landscaping job he undertook. When spending hours, days or years using a particular tool, you want to make sure you’ve got the best one for the job, and Pat is the right guy to guide us to the best gardening tools.

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