Three Things to Consider Before Buying a Garden Shovel

Whether you need a flat, square, cutting shovel, or a finely-curved spade, there’s a proper shovel for every job.

Shovel standing up in the dirt
The toughest chores are a little easier if you’re using a shovel built for the job.Bond Manufacturing

You can call a gardener or landscaper a romantic, but there’s just something about an old shovel that spells “story.” Whose shovel was it, and how did they use it? Digging up pirate treasure, perhaps, or burying the family silver or jewels to protect from marauders. Digging the first well on the old homestead site, or breaking virgin prairie for the garden that helped your family survive that first winter or tending the Liberty Garden during World War II. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination, and as you decide on a new shovel, imagine the next stories you’ll build with it. When choosing a shovel or spade, consider its primary use, and the kind of blade that works best as well as the style of the grip and the length of the handle.

Spade or Shovel

Radius Garden 22011 Root Slayer Shovel
This shovel features toothed edges designed to cut roots and is available in two grip options.Radius

Choosing a spade or shovel depends on the style of blade that works best for your gardening needs. For cutting and lifting sod, edging or trenching, a squared-end spade is best. Spades typically come flat-bladed and with a short handle. For digging up shrubs and cutting roots, breaking up soil, or lifting or scooping loose material like gravel, a curve-bladed, long-handled shovel is best. Sharp edges and saw-like toothed shovel sides are specialized for cutting roots.

Handle Style & Length

Fiskars 46 Inch Steel D-handle Square Garden Spade
This spade features a D-style handle large enough for a two-handed grip.Fiskars

Longer handled shovels usually have no grip, but often are padded for ease of use. The longer handle of a shovel aids in leveraging the lifting involved with digging up shrubs and such. Shorter-handled spades often feature a D, T or round grip to help with pushing the blade to cut sod or penetrate a pile of dirt or gravel.

Handle Material

Bond Manufacturing Mini D-Handle Square Head Shovel
This shovel has a steel handle for additional strength.Bond Manufacturing

Spade or shovel handles are made with wood, fiberglass, or steel. The fiberglass and steel handles are usually heavier, but often stronger for leveraging, an important function when digging.