While looks might be deceiving a garden spade and garden shovel are not actually the same thing. When it comes to must-have garden tools, a good shovel and spade are definitely on the list.
Still, while you might have both shovels and spades in your garden shed, it’s not always common knowledge to know which one to use when.
Here’s our guide to help you know the difference, know which tool to use when as well as the best spades and shovels to buy today.
The Difference Between A Spade vs Shovel
The fundamental difference between the two is that each tool is designed to do something entirely different. Although the terms are often inter-changed as the same, their structure and design are quite noticeable different once you know what to look for.
Before we look at what makes them different, let’s consider their similarities first. Both shovels and spades are made up of similar parts, which are:
- The Handle/ Shaft
- The Step
- The Blade
However, when you look closely you’ll notice subtle differences in each. In general, shovels are longer, more angled and come with a curved blade. Whereas, a spade is far shorter and has a flatter, spear-head shaped blade.
What Does A Spade Look Like
To understand the difference in appearance, let’s consider the three main parts of a spade.
- Spades usually have a far shorter, straight handle.
- At the top, you will have a grip which is in a “D” or “T” shape so as to help you when working with the tool.
- As spades are used for more heavy-duty work, you’ll notice a small ledge at the top of the blade on which you can place your foot.
- Spades have a flat blade, which is often square shaped at the end.
- These blades are usually smaller than those on a shovel.
What is a Garden Spade used For?
Garden spades, being sharper, are used for edging, digging trenches or even slicing roots. Spades help to loosen and break apart big lumps within the soil.
In general, spades can be said to be used for light cultivation and not necessarily for soil moving. Spades are often used in flower beds or vegetable gardens and to keep the borders of your beds neat and clean.
What Does a Shovel Look Like?
Shovels are a little more heavy duty as opposed to a spade. Again, we’ll consider the three main features:
- Shovels have a long upward handle that usually sits at an angle to the blade.
- Some shovels may come with some padding at the top of the handle to help make garden work less strenuous on the hands.
- Shovels will have little to no step as the intended work doesn’t need as much downward force.
- Shovels will have a longer blade that is often bowl-shaped or curved.
What Is a Garden Shovel Used For?
A garden shovel has the primary purpose of being used for digging, lifting soil and moving loose materials. Due to its bowl-shape it can hold soil or other matter making it easier to move materials.
While spades may have sharper edges, a garden shovel has blunt edges as it does not need to cut through matter, but rather scoop it. Just make sure you know how to use your shovel safely.
How to Choose Shovels & Spades
Now that you know which tool you’ll need for which gardening task, it’s time to choose the right shovels and spades.
The key factor for consideration will be what kind of material you want. Classic shovels and spades are usually made up of a solid steel blade with a wooden handle. However, there are now a wide range of options available on the market.
When it comes to materials you’ll want to choose between:
- Wood. Wood is a classic option as it's strong and quite durable. However, wood does tend to splinter with age.
- Steel. Steel is a strong and solid option which is why many gardeners go for it. However, it can become quite heavy quite quickly.
- Fiberglass. Fiberglass is always a great option as it’s far more resistant to wear and tear. Fiberglass shovels and spades do tend to be a little more pricey.
- Aluminium. Aluminium is the cheapest option on market so it works for those on a budget, but don’t expect it to last too long as aluminium tends to bend.
The Best Garden Shovel
When it comes to choosing a garden shovel, you’ll want to ensure a quality blade and an ergonomic handle to make your gardening a breeze. Here’s our top 5 picks:
This shovel is a classic option with a long, hardwood handle and non-slip comfort grip for ideal gardening.
Plus, it comes with a reinforced, 100% tempered blade for maximum efficiency and longevity.
This is one hardy shovel with an incredibly strong carbon steel blade and re-enforced hardwood handle.
This shovel comes with a strong Poly-D handle which is big enough, even to fit a gloved hand.
This is an amazingly durable option with a blade made from high-strength carbon/ manganese steel.
Plus, it’s epoxy coated for added durability and resistance. This shovel comes with a stream-lined design ideal for garden work.
If you’re looking for a T-shaped shovel this one is an absolute go-to.
It’s sturdy and practical with a powerful, forged blade to make your gardening an absolute ease.
For those looking for something a little more compact, this shovel is an ideal option.
With a tough fiberglass shaft, this handy tool is great for smaller gardens and compact spaces.
Plus, with a pressed carbon steel blade, it packs the same punch as any of its bigger counterparts.
The Best Garden Spade
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 re-enforced handle. Here’s our top picks:
This is a fantastic spade with a stunning, stainless steel blade and an ergonomic, maximum comfort broad handle.
This spade is ideal for digging and cultivating and has incredible rust resistance.
This spade is an ideal option for those who are looking for something light yet durable.
With incredible, over-sized handles ideal for all kinds of garden work, this spade is an ideal option for edging and other gardening tasks.
Another amazing stainless steel option, this fantastic garden spade offers a soft grip but an incredibly durable blade and handle.
Hardened, tempered and polished, you can’t go wrong with this spade.
Want something with a bit of colour? This is another great option from Spear & Jackson and comes with a carbon steel blade and a soft, angled grip.
This is a fantastic fiberglass option and comes in a little more compact than most garden spades.
It has a sharpened blade to help easily loosen soil and has an amazing soft, lightweight handle.
Wrapping Up Our Spade vs Shovel Guide
Whichever garden spade or garden shovel you choose, always make sure you consider quality over cost. A good shovel or spade can last a lifetime when taken care of correctly.
Always be sure to store your shovels and spades indoors, whether in a shed or within your garage. Take care to always wear the right clothing when using these tools.
Consider wearing hard, closed shoes rather than something like flip-flops. To avoid hand strain consider wearing some gardening gloves or choosing a spade or shovel with re-enforced handle.