Spade vs. Shovel: Which is Better for You?

Spade vs Shovel

It is typical for both beginner and professional gardeners and landscapers to use the terms spade and shovel interchangeably. Also, everybody else seems to use the two words to refer to the same gardening tool.

While the spade and shovel are quite similar in appearance and their uses are also quite similar they are not the same thing.

In most cases, you can use a shovel for almost everything that you would use a spade for and vice versa. But, each of these hand tools is meant to serve a different purpose from the other.

If you are a serious gardener, it is always a great idea to have both, but it is also essential to know how and when to use each and what sets them apart.

Below we showcase the similarities and differences between the two, the uses of each and also their pros and cons to help you understand the handy garden tools better.

Spade

Whether you want to do some digging or move manure and mulch when gardening you need a reliable tool that makes these everyday tasks quick and easy.

For most people, the spade is what comes to mind when they think of handy digging tools for the garden, but it is not always the right choice for breaking up soil.

Spades will feature a flat or at least a nearly flat blade that also has a straight edge, and they are better than the shovel when it comes to slicing through the soil and roots. It is also a handy tool when you want to move loose material or dirt.

Overall the blade on the spade will be smaller than what you get on the shovel, but some types can have large ones. Also, the shaft is typically shorter than what is in the shovel, and they can have either a T or D grip handle.

The flat edge blade on the spade also makes it the perfect tool for edging a garden and maintaining it. All you need to do when using it for edging is push it in to cut a clean edge and give a soft kick with your toe to push the dirt up and at an angle

Pros

  • Best for slicing and lifting. While both the spade and shovel are useful for lifting material when gardening, the straight design of the spade’s blade makes it more efficient for this. It is easy to get it below sod or mulch as it slices through with ease and so it makes the job easier. And its flat edge means that it will be better suited for moving more massive debris and dirt.
  • Ideal for edging. When you want to define the edge of a bed or make it distinct from the turf the spade is the tool to turn to as it makes edging quick and straightforward. With a spade, you only need to push in the flat blade to cut the edge and then kick it to define it by pushing soil up in an angle.
  • Good for leveling soil. Another significant advantage of the spade is that the almost flat blade will be handy for leveling the ground. It is an ideal tool for leveling any area on the garden with some freshly dug soil or laid down mulch.

Cons

  • Not very good for digging. It is true a spade can still dig and slice through soil and roots, but it is not the best tool for digging. The fact that the blade is in line with the shaft (not angled) and flat means that it will take more effort than the shovel to drive it through the ground.

Shovel

Fiskars Long Handle Digging Shovel

There are many digging tools out there that you can use for both gardening and other applications around the home. But if you were to pick one that you use a lot the shovel would be the first choice for most people.

When you have a task or project that requires some digging the chances are that the shovel will always be one of the tools that you grab.

While a shovel is quite similar to the spade in appearance the two still have some distinct differences. Their similarities include the fact that they are made from the same blade and handle materials.

What sets the shovel apart from the spade is that in most cases it will have a pointed edge, unlike the spade that features a flat one. But, it is also important to note that several types of shovels will have a flat blade edge.

The angled and pointed nature of the blade in the shovel makes it the perfect tool for digging as it breaks through the ground with ease and you will not have to put in a lot of effort.

And besides, from their ability to dig deep into the earth, shovels are also useful when you want to loosen soil and move it from one place to the other because their scoop tends to be deeper than what you get in spade.

Shovels are available in more types than the spade, and each will be suitable for different applications, and so they are also quite versatile hand tools.

Pros

  • Available in more types. You can get a shovel in various styles or types, and this makes it suitable for a variety of applications around the garden. From saw-tooth shovels to digging, trenching and scoop shovels there are many types of this handy tool available out there.
  • Best for digging. The pointed and angled blade design on the shovel makes it one of the most reliable and efficient hand tools for digging. It will dig deep into the earth with relative ease and also help you loosen and break up soil fast and more efficiently than the spade.
  • Deeper scoop. Shovels will in most cases have a more massive blade than what you get on the spade and also it comes with a slight angle or curve. What this means is that it will also be deeper than what you get on the flat one in a spade and so it will provide a broader scoop than the spade to help you move large amounts of dirt at a go.

Cons

  • Takes more effort to use. While the larger size of the shovel comes with many advantages, it can also pose a significant demerit because it means that it will take more effort to handle. But, for experienced gardeners, the difference in the ease of handling the two is mostly negligible.

The Bottom Line

Spade vs Shovel - infographic

The fact that many people will use the terms spade and shovel interchangeably to mean the same thing can be quite confusing since the two are different tools.

While it is possible to manage with a shovel or spade, your gardening will always be more efficient if you have both around as each will be suitable for different applications.

But, if you must pick one between the two the right idea is to go for something that suits a majority of your gardening tasks. If most of your work entails loosening soil, moving dirt and soil and leveling beds and mulch the spade is your ideal tool.

A shovel, on the other hand, will be the best choice when you intend to do a lot of digging and also need something more substantial and with a broader scoop for moving large amounts of dirt and soil.

Shovels are also the best pick for those that are looking for versatile tools suitable for various applications as they are available in many types for different uses.

Best Spades

1. Fiskars 46 Inch Steel D-handle Square Garden Spade

Fiskars 46

This 46-inch Fiskars spade is a handy tool to have at home, and there are countless ways of using it. The handy tool has a square blade, and it comes with a comfortable D-handle.

The D-handle on the spade is extra large to make it possible to get secure two-handed control, and this is regardless of whether you are wearing a glove or not.

It uses a 14-gauge steel blade and 18-gauge steel shaft, and so you can be confident that this will be a highly durable hand tool. And it comes sharpened to make it possible to penetrate tough soils straight from the box without having to re-sharpen the spade.

Like most other spades, this one will be ideal for cutting trenches, edging and also slicing through the thick turf.

2. Fiskars 46 Inch Steel D-handle Transplanting Spade

Fiskars 46

Transplanting spades make things way much easy for you when starting out new plants. And this 46-inch long from Fiskars is both high-quality and handy to use.
This spade also features a 14-gauge steel blade and an 18-gauge handle that combine to make it both sturdy and quite durable. Also, steel will not flex as fiberglass would when in use.
The spade also features an extra large D-handle that will fit both hands to offer excellent control of the tool even when wearing gloves.

Another thing that sets apart this transplanting spade from the many others out there is the teardrop-shaped shaft profile because it conforms to the natural shape and motion of the hand for extra comfort and control.

And besides from its efficiency when transplanting, this spade is also ideal for digging small deep holes.

Best Shovels

1. Fiskars Long Handle Digging Shovel

Fiskars Brands 96685935 Digging Shovel

This long handled shovel from Fiskars will be a useful tool when you want to dig into the hardened soil, and you can use it to dig into almost any soil type.

And it also features a durable steel construction that comprises a 14-gauge hardened steel blade and 18-gauge handle. And so besides from being tough enough to penetrate hard soils it is also a long-lasting shovel.

There is also an extra foot platform on this shovel that will make it easy to maximize the force when driving it into the soil.

The blade is sharp when you get the shovel to make it easy to penetrate even the most hardened soil and break up hardened dirt.

2. Bond LH015 Mini D Handle Shovel

Bond LH015 Mini D Handle Shovel

Sometimes a cheap mini shovel is all you need for your gardening needs. And when this is the case, the Bond LH015 Mini is an excellent pick for you.

Despite the small size of the shovel it still provides efficient lifting and moving of dirt and also comfortable enough to handle thanks to the D-handle design.

This shovel features a durable heat-treated blade that will penetrate the most hardened soils with ease and a sturdy lightweight handle for better control.

Other things that make this an excellent shovel option include the soft non-slip grip that makes it comfortable for your hand and also makes it easy to control.