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.
Best Garden Spade
Best Garden Shovel
Best Garden Shovels for 2021
Best Garden Spades for 2021
Differences Between 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
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
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
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.
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
Our Pick Best Garden 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
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
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:
Our Top Pick Garden 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
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
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
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!