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The Best Garden Shovels

Maria Sbytova/Shutterstock.com
🕚 Updated March 2022

Garden prep and maintenance jobs are easiest when you use the right tool for the task, and a garden shovel is an essential tool for covering all of your garden digging chores. Here are a few we recommend.

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  Best for Digging Best Spade Best Root Cutter Best Garden Scoop Also Great
 
  TABOR TOOLS
Shovel with Rounded Blade
Fiskars
D-handle Square Garden Spade
Radius Garden
Root Slayer Shovel
Black & Decker
D-Handle Mini Garden Shovel
Hooyman
Shovel with Heavy Duty Construction
 
Our SummaryThis commercial-grade, round point shovel is ideal for digging into and turning soil.This spade is just what you need for well-manicured garden beds or cutting through tough sod.Digging narrower holes and cutting through disruptive roots is a breeze with this tough, serrated shovel.This farm-tough yet lightweight scoop moves large quantities of landscape material with ease.This classic, durable garden shovel features a nonslip grip and a slightly serrated blade for more efficient digging.
ProsDurable, resistant to rusting, nonslip grip, good price, alternate types available.Very tough, won't bend, steel handle, easy to grasp at multiple angles, rust-resistant.Serrated blade both cuts and digs, carbon steel, comfy grip, gets into tight spaces.Lightweight yet strong, rust-resistant, tempered steel, molded grip.Round yet serrated blade, extra-long length, good price, alternate types available.
ConsShort and less sturdy handle, less effective on non-loose soil.Not ideal for digging or scooping dirt, plastic grip.Expensive, shorter length, may rust.Smaller size, less sturdy handle.Less secure shaft, can't hang on wall.
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The Best Garden Shovels

Woman shod in boots digs potatoes in her garden.
Maria Sbytova/Shutterstock.com

When you hear the word “shovel,” you probably think of the classic tool with a slightly concave round blade that comes to a point. But there are multiple types of shovels, each with different shapes and sizes and meant for specific uses. Garden shovels are one such type of specialized shovel designed specifically to make all of your garden-related tasks easier and more efficient. You may be wondering what exactly is so special about garden shovels and why a gardener absolutely needs one. If so, read on—we have the scoop!

Buying Guide for Garden Shovels

Woman wearing red rubber boots using shovel in her garden.
wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock.com

Why buy a garden shovel?

Garden shovels are all-around useful tools that help with many different gardening tasks. You can use garden shovels for planting, digging holes, transplanting plants from their current spot to a new one, scooping, lifting, and moving large amounts of materials like mulch, dirt, gravel, and soil, digging up weeds, loading wheelbarrows, cutting away old roots, and even spreading soil. Instead of requiring different tools for different gardening chores, a garden shovel allows you to use one single device to accomplish all of these tasks. Not to mention that a garden shovel can pick up and move larger, heavier quantities of soil and bigger plants or dig more precise holes than you’d be able to with your hands alone.

What should you look for in a garden shovel?

  • Blade: The blade of a garden shovel is generally around 8 to 10 inches wide and 10 to 12 inches long. Although there are several variations in shape, blades fall into three basic categories: pointed, round, and square. The blade shape determines its functionality: square points are ideal for making straight cuts or slicing through tough turf or roots; rounder points are great for pushing downward, digging holes, and scooping; sharper points are the best choice for digging into compact or rocky soils. If you want something with a bit more cutting power, look for a shovel with more of a point or smaller teeth lining the sides of the blades. A good garden shovel should also have a blade with a well-formed boot kick or folded-over rim, where you place your foot and step on the shovel to push it down with greater force.
  • Handle: Take your own strength and size into account when looking for a garden shovel with the handle type that’s right for you. As a general rule, long-handled shovels give you better leverage, and they tend to put less stress on your back since you’re less likely to bend over while using them. In a small space, a short-handled shovel will be the better choice. The better shovels will have a grip attached to the top of the handle. A T-shaped grip helps you push down on a shovel; a D-shaped grip helps you hold the top of the shovel in one hand and the shaft with the other as you lift. The type of grip you need is a matter of personal preference.
  • Material: Metal is really the only option for a garden shovel blade, as it’s strong enough to hold up to long-term, heavy-duty use. Steel is the strongest and thus an ideal blade material, though lighter-duty blades can be made of aluminum. You’ll also want to consider the handle’s material. They’re usually also made of steel or other metal. Hardwood and fiberglass are alternatives. Wood is less expensive, but it’s heavier than fiberglass and not as resistant to snapping. A steel handle is the most durable, but it’s also the heaviest. Fiberglass handles usually weigh the least, though they’re also not as strong as wood or metal.

How are garden shovels different from garden trowels and spades?

Many people use the terms “garden shovel,” “garden trowel,” and “spade” interchangeably, and it’s true that trowels and spades are useful gardening tools in their own right. However, they aren’t all exactly the same. Like garden shovels, trowels can be used to dig holes or remove weeds. They’re also great for smoothing soil over freshly planted seeds. However, trowels are much smaller in size than shovels. They’re little handheld tools; you’ll have to kneel in the dirt to use a trowel, while garden shovels allow you to work on your feet, standing (mostly) upright. Since trowels are so much smaller, they’re also capable of scooping, digging, and moving far less soil, dirt, or plants than a garden shovel. Trowels also tend to have longer, narrower blades rather than rounded ones. Basically, trowels are best suited for precision detail work in gardens or cultivating plants in window boxes, pots, and planters.

Spades, on the other hand, are full-sized tools like garden shovels. The main difference between the two is in the blade. Spades have flat or nearly flat blades with straight edges and are generally a bit smaller than those of garden shovels. They also tend to have shorter handles. Spades have two main uses; moving soil and other loose material and slicing through tough roots and soil. They absolutely can be useful for gardening—we even included one in this list—since they can cut away roots or soil that may get interfere with preparing and planting garden beds, but they aren’t meant to dig and scoop as well as rounded garden shovels.

Our Picks for the Most Efficient Garden Shovels

Best for Planting

TABOR TOOLS Shovel with Rounded Blade

This commercial-grade, round point shovel is ideal for digging into and turning soil.

Pros: Thanks to this shovel’s heat-treated alloy steel, you won’t have to worry about the toughness and durability of this traditional-shaped garden shovel’s blade. It’s even paired with a steel collar that fixes it to the handle. The blade has been treated with powder-coated paint to ensure it’s resistant to rusting, further increasing its durability and service life. The handle has a nonslip grip at the end to give your hands some relief and help prevent the shovel from sliding out of your grasp while you’re working. And you get all of these handy features for a quite reasonable price. If the traditional wide, round, pointed blade isn’t what you’re looking for, this garden shovel is also available in four other styles.

Cons: This garden shovel has a fiberglass handle that, while nice and lightweight, is also less sturdy than a wood or metal handle. Its length is also a bit shorter than average, so this shovel may not be long enough for taller people. It’s also meant for use in loose soil, so you may find it’s less effective on tough sod or packed soil.

Bottom Line: For prepping your garden beds and general-purpose planting and digging, you need a classic-style shovel, and this high-quality, pointed steel garden shovel is just the tool for the job.

 

Best Spade

Fiskars D-handle Square Garden Spade

This spade is just what you need for well-manicured garden beds or cutting through sod.

Pros: This spade is the epitome of sturdiness and toughness. The blade and the shaft are made entirely of steel and are treated to be rust-resistant; this spade won’t flex or bend at all during use. The only part that isn’t made of steel is the grip at the very end. The teardrop-shaped handle gives you a secure grip, and the angled D-handle situates your wrist in a neutral position that reduces strain. The square blade is naturally sharp and has been further honed to easily cut through tough soil and roots, create trenches, and break apart tough clods of dirt.

Cons: As is typical of spades, this tool isn’t ideal for digging holes. Its angled head makes it slightly better at scooping dirt than other spades, but you’ll still want to stick to rounded garden shovels for this particular task. And while the grip is well-shaped for maneuverability and your comfort, it’s made of plastic, so it’s not nearly as strong as the rest of the spade.

Bottom Line: This garden spade is designed to slice through soil and roots, so it’s the tool you need to cut through the grass to keep garden bed edges neat and clean or remove turf for new beds. Whether you need to divide perennials, break up surface soil, dig a trench, or edge a flowerbed, this spade’s ergonomic design will make these tasks easy.

 

Best Root Cutter

Radius Garden Root Slayer Shovel

Digging narrower holes and cutting through disruptive roots is a breeze with this tough, serrated shovel.

Pros: This unusual garden shovel is a versatile model. The long, narrowed blade made from carbon steel comes to a unique-shaped yet sharpened edge that will cut through the hardest soil, making it the perfect tool for digging smaller holes and cutting away thick, hard roots that you might run into while prepping or working in your garden. The sides of the blade are serrated, so you have the option to saw away roots or sod if you prefer. In addition, the relative narrowness of the blade ensures that it can more easily get into tight spaces than most garden shovels. And the circular grip is both easy and comfortable to grasp.

Cons: Handy as this garden shovel is, it does come at a higher price. It’s also another model that is slightly shorter than the average garden shovel. And while the blade is powder-coated, there is still a risk of rusting if it’s not stored properly, especially since the coating is more likely to scrape off due to this garden shovel’s extra heavy-duty uses.

Bottom Line: Some garden shovels are superior for digging, while some are better for cutting away old roots and debris. This is the rare garden shovel that is effective at both, so you don’t have to invest in a standard shovel for digging and a spade for cutting. It’s even effective on notoriously tough bamboo roots.

 

Pros: There’s a lot to love about this little garden shovel. Ideal for scooping dirt, soil, mulch, and more, you’ll be surprised at how much debris it’s capable of holding despite its smaller size. The rust-resistant, tempered steel blade ensures that it’s also as strong and durable as any full-sized garden shovel. The molded D-shaped handle won’t slip or overly stress or strain your hands, especially since this shovel weighs in at less than 2 pounds.

Cons: Since this is designed to be a miniature garden shovel, it’s obviously much smaller than full-sized ones; still bigger than a trowel, but it will require more bending over to use than regular garden shovels. And the handle is fiberglass, so it’s a bit less sturdy as well.

Bottom Line: This shovel is just what you need for scooping and moving smaller quantities of landscape materials like leaves, dirt, mulch, stones, compost, manure, and general debris. Thanks to its smaller size and lighter weight, you can even take it to the beach for sandcastles, pack it on your next camping trip for covering up old fire pits, or bring it off-roading should you need to dig your vehicle out.

 

Also Great

Hooyman Shovel with Heavy Duty Construction

This classic, durable garden shovel features a nonslip grip and a slightly serrated blade for more efficient digging.

Pros: At first glance, you may think that this is a typical rounded garden shovel with a point, but upon closer inspection, you’ll notice that the blade has some small serrations along the bottom edges. This means that you can use this garden shovel for its typical digging and scooping tasks, yet cutting away old roots and debris or digging into tougher soils should be easier than its non-serrated cousins. The entire shovel is also extra-long (60 inches), so it’s suitable for even taller gardeners. The price is nice, and there are shorter models available if desired.

Cons: This is another garden shovel with a fiberglass handle that won’t be as sturdy as wood or metal shafts. Also keep in mind that the handle doesn’t have a small ring or hole like some shovels, so you won’t be able to hang it from a hook in your shed or garage.

Bottom Line: This is a classic garden shovel with a twist: the slight serration on the edges of the rounded blade allows for superior root cutting or even minor sawing than most. This serration also helps ensure that this shovel is effective at digging in tougher or well-packed soil, not just loose-packed dirt and soil.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re an avid, experienced gardener or are just starting to plant flower beds for the first time, a garden tool is a useful, must-have tool for gardeners of all levels. You’ll be amazed at how much easier, quicker, and more efficiently you’ll be able to prep and maintain your garden with one of these handy, specialized shovels.

Lisa Walenceus Lisa Walenceus
Lisa Walenceus has 20 years of research and writing experience as an educator, news reporter, and freelancer. She writes to learn and digs deep to find how things work. Read Full Bio »
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