8 Types of Shovels Gardeners Should Know

Types of Shovels

The shovel is one of the must-have tools when doing any gardening. Whether you are a professional landscape or just a homeowner that likes planting things it is one of the tools that you will use most.

Shovels will be useful for both digging and scooping dirt when gardening. And if you are an established gardener the chances are that you already have at least one or a couple of shovels.

Knowing that you need a shovel is one thing and picking the right one for your needs is another. With the many types out there sometimes choosing the right for your gardening can be a tedious task.

In this piece, we highlight some of the most common types of shovels and the anatomy of this handy tool to make it easy for you to pick something that will be handy for your gardening.

Types of Shovel

Shovels will come in different styles, shapes and sizes and each will be ideal for various applications. And so it is essential to understand the different types of shovels.

Although there are still many other types out there, the following are the most common.

1. Digging Shovels

Fiskars Brands 96685935 Digging Shovel

For most gardeners, the shovel is the tool to turn to when they need to do some digging. But, digging is not always the primary purpose of all shovel types. The digging shovel is the particular type that is designed for breaking earth.

Digging shovels will feature a slightly curved scoop and with the edges upturned. And the center of the blade can either be pointed for digging on soft, tilled soil or flat for heavy-duty digging in hard packed grounds that require more force.

Digging shovels (especially the flat tipped ones) can also be handy for transplanting small trees, lawn edging and cutting sod. 

Read More: 10 Best Lawn Edgers

But, the most significant disadvantage of the digging shovel is that it will not work well for any of these other functions besides from digging. And it will also not be very convenient to use for these other applications.

2. Scoop Shovels

Scoop Shovel

The digging shovel might be handy in digging our materials, but you still need to move the dirt. And this is where the scoop shovel comes in as its job is to move the soil that you have already dug out.

Scoop shovels feature a broad blade and the tip can either be rounded or squared to make it easy to scoop and move large volumes of material.

These shovels will be a good pick when you need to move mulch or manure, but there are also some types of scoop shovels that you can use for coal or stone and even snow.

Although they do their job as intended and are handy to have when gardening, they are terrible at digging.

3. Trenching Shovels

Trenching Shovels

As their name suggests, the trenching shovels are for digging and clearing trenches, and so their application goes beyond gardening and uses around the home.

The trenching shovel will feature a blade with squared sides and a sharp pointed tip to ensure that it can produce some clean trench walls and with minimal disruption on surrounding soil.

Trenching shovels are one of the handiest tools that you can have when digging trenches for compost, laying pipes for irrigation and even when you want to remove plants or weeds with deep roots.

These shovels are also useful when working in small or tight spaces and need to form deep holes but without disturbing the surrounding plants.

4. Edgers 


Edgers or the landscaping edging shovel originates from the traditional flat blade shovel just like the scrapers. And they are for cleaning up driveways, borders, and curbs as well as separating shrubbery and ground cover.

These shovels will feature a half-moon blade which is what makes them stand out and it will slice through a shallow turf with relative ease. You can get this shovel with either a long handle or as a mini handled shovel.

The edgers will serve their intended purpose well, but they are the type that will not be helpful for anything else because the design of the blade is not appropriate for digging, lifting or moving soil.

5. Scrapers

Scrapers have evolved from the need to use shovels with a flat blade to clear ice from roofs and driveways. This specialty is what makes them one of the most popular tools in winter.

Read More: 10 Best Roof Rakes to Remove Snow

Their most distinctive feature is the flat blade because their handle and grip are similar to what you get on most other shovels. And besides from scraping ice, scrapers can also be helpful in removing shingles from roofs.

Although they are handy in clearing snow, they are not as versatile as most other shovel types as they are also not very useful for digging or scooping things.

6. Mini/Handheld Shovels

Mini Handheld Shovels

You will not always need to dig large areas or scoop a lot of soil from the ground. And so a full-size shovel is not necessary all the time because a mini or handheld one can be more convenient in various situations.

These mini shovels are always a gardener's best friend, and they are what many will use most of the times.

They feature a mini handle that is in most cases between 4 and 6 inches long and a rounded or pointed blade that is about 4-inch wide.

Mini or handheld shovels will be handy for digging small areas, weeding, and also for moving plants from one pot to another. But, the small size also means that they will not be ideal when working on large gardens or when you want to dig or scoop a lot of soil.

Read More: 15 Best Weeding Tools

7. Tree Planting Shovels

Tree Planting Shovel

As its name suggests, a tree planting shovel is for planting trees. The shovel features a narrow blade that can have either a pointed or curved tip.

This shovel will drive deep into the ground with ease and cut through roots to make it easy to transplant trees.

For the shaft, you can get short ones for working on sloped hillsides or the long ones when dealing with big tree saplings or working on flat grounds.

And although the shovel will be handy when transplanting trees and a few other plant types there is nothing much you can use it for besides from this.

Anatomy - How to Buy a Shovel

How to Buy Shovel

Image source: wonkeedonkeetools

Understanding the anatomy of a shovel is the only way to make sure that you pick the right one for your jobs. And luckily there is nothing much you need to keep in mind besides from the five points below.

#1 Types

Shovels will come in various types and as discussed above each will be ideal for a particular application. Understanding the capabilities of each shovel type, its advantages and also the shortcomings if any, will make it easy to pick one.

Also, besides from knowing the common shovel types and their uses it is also worth understanding the difference between the shovel and spade. And this is because many people will use the terms interchangeably but they do not refer to the same tool.

#2 Handle

As you try to pick a shovel for use around the home, you need to consider the handle as it is what you will hold onto when working. And it also provides the necessary leverage.

When it comes to deciding the right shovel handle, you will need to consider both the material and length as they will affect the performance and convenience of use.

For most shovels, and this is more so the regular digging types, you have to pick between the standard-length handle or the D-ring handle that is shorter but with a D style grip.

The handle design that you chose depends on your preferences, but the longer ones will reach deeper into the soil and offer a lot of leverage while the short ones are more comfortable to hole

When it comes to the handle material, there are plenty of options to choose from, but wood, aluminum, and fiberglass are the most common. Each of the handle material has both merits and demerits and understanding them should make your decision easy.

#3 Blade

The blade is what comes into contact with the soil when using a shovel, and so it is a vital element to consider when shopping.

And like with the handle you will also need to consider both the blade material and shape. The blade size and shape will depend on the type of shovel you are buying.

For the blade shape the wide ones like what you get on a scoop shovel are the best for scooping or hauling materials while the long narrow ones with pointed tips will be the best for digging.

Shovel blades will come in various materials, and the right idea here is to go for something that is durable and also ideal for the intended use.

Majority of shovels will come with a steel blade as it is sturdy and durable. However, there are some exceptions such as scoop shovel that you can get in a variety of materials depending on how you want to use it. Also for the trowel/soil scoops, you can get both plastic and aluminum blades.

But, regardless of the shovel type that you are buying a steel blade will always be the most long-lasting.

#4 Weight

Like with most other tools for use around the home weight will probably not be in your mind when shopping for a shovel. But, it is still an essential factor that you should never overlook.

A shovel is one of those tools that you can use for hours in the garden whether you are removing sod or digging. And so you will want to get something that will not cause a lot of muscle strain.

Weighty shovels are not the best because if you add the weight of the dirt, they can become tedious to use for many hours.  And so the right idea is to go for a heavy-duty but lightweight shovel.

 #5 Durability

A good shovel should be able to withstand the rigors that come with its intended job and also serve you for long enough. And so you should never overlook durability when shopping for a shovel.

Ideally, the blade and handle materials are what determine the durability of the shovel. But there is more to it than this because the construction also has a role to play.

The point where the shovel's blade attaches to the handle is one of the weak points, and so you should make sure that the joint is top notch.

Also, the blade should not bend when you subject it to pressure, and it should also maintain its shape and remain sharp if it is sharp-edged.


If you are an experienced gardener, the chances are that you already know about the various kinds of shovels and have many of them. 

However, if you are just starting out this might not be the case. But now that you know what each is all about and its uses it should be easy to pick a shovel that suits your needs.

Another vital thing to keep in mind is that there are many tool manufacturers out there that produce these shovels and sometimes similar shovel types from different manufacturers can look different. However, the only difference in most cases is only the appearance.

Lastly, it is always a good idea to have more than one type of shovel but just makes sure that whatever you buy suits the intended job.

Last Updated on August 7, 2020 by

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Tom Bradly

My entrepreneurial journey started in 2006, when I dropped out of university. I wanted to work with my hands, to build things. Now I mix my background with computers with my first-hand experience with woodworking to provide insights into the tools I like best. I love everything about woodworking and have been building stuff for over 20 years of my life. I hope to pass some knowledge and expertise. See more at TomBradly.com

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