Spade shovels are a handy tool that every gardener should have in their tool shed. Whether you’re digging trenches, spreading mulch, planting a vegetable garden, or scooping soil, your life will be much easier when using the right spade for the job. In addition to getting gardening and DIY jobs done faster and more efficiently, using a spade also has ergonomic benefits that will minimize back or muscle pain resulting from poor posture, heightened strain, and incorrect muscle use.
Although spade shovels are multi-purpose tools, they come in different designs for specific purposes. Each tool has a handle, blade, and shaft; however, the shape, length, material, and weight may all differ according to what it’s intended for. To help you choose the finest gardening and DIY tools, we’ve listed some of our top picks for the premium spade shovels in 2023 based on quality, price, durability, and handling. In addition, check out our tips for choosing the best shovels for your job at hand.
While you could get most jobs done with a sharp or flat-blade shovel, choosing a tool specifically for the job can make things a little easier and faster to complete. Not sure where to start? Here’s everything you need to consider when picking the best spade to make your work a little less strenuous.
Types of Spade Shovels
Digging spades usually have a pointed tip blade that makes it easier to cut into the soil. They are wider than other spades to move and turn the soil as well as roots. These spades are also a good option for skimming weeds and edging lawns. Handles on shovels used for digging are best designed straight up instead of being offset from the blade to offer the required leverage needed.
Very similar to digging spades, border shovels have the same pointed tip and shape in general. They are however smaller, lighter, and slightly flatter. Their smaller design makes them suitable for working in tight spaces or for longer periods of time when a heavy tool may be too burdensome.
With a slightly pointed tip and a blade width of 4-6 inches, trenching shovels are used to create trenches for laying irrigation systems. Some types have square sides which may make it easier to remove soil and form a clean and tidy trench.
Another type of shovel used for clearing debris from trenches or for transplanting is a drain or transplanting spade. This type of spade has a rounded tip and curved edges.
As its name suggests, once all the dirt, gravel, snow, or mulch has been dug out, this is the spade to use to move it in big quantities for fast and efficient action. They’re available in different sizes and weights, depending on the material you are working with. If you are working with something very light like bark or wood chips, there is obviously no need to lug around an extremely heavy shovel.
How To Choose the Right Spade Shovel for the Job
If you are working with loose soils, scooping, or edging, flat shovel blades are your best option. Pointed shovels are the most effective when working with hard and compacted soil while round blades will do just fine for new, soft earth.
If you use shovels often, a heavier option may be suitable for you. Heavy digging spades provide more impact and cut through the soil more easily. If you suffer from back issues, are not used to working with spades, or can only dig for short intervals, choose something that is light to hold and maneuver and that won’t place any stress on your back.
The weight of the spade will largely depend on the material it is made from. For heavy work and digging into hard soil such as clay, opt for a stainless steel blade. These cut well through the soil, don’t rust, and are easy to maintain. The downside to stainless steel is that it is heavy and is welded onto the shaft socket which makes it more prone to breaking if caught on a weak spot under pressure.
Carbon steel blades can be solid forged which avoids the aforementioned problem. They are also somewhat lighter than stainless steel. These shovels can last a long time if you take care of them. A little neglect can however also see rust forming.
Some scoops used for lighter work can be from plastic or polyurethane. Although this is handy for basic tasks, they aren’t nearly as solid for heavy-duty work and will break easily if used for tasks beyond their capacity capabilities.
Spade shafts that are too short will require you to bend a lot while working and place strain on your back. Although longer angled shafts may take some time to get used to as the digging angle is different, they will take the strain off your back.
The shaft is the stick or neck of the spade connecting the handle and the blade. They come in a wide range of materials, with wood often being a popular choice. Wooden shafts are strong, heavy, and absorb shock well. If working in wet conditions, you will want to make sure it is weatherproofed. FSC hardwood is one of the stronger wooden options and is easily replaceable if it splinters.
Metal shafts are very strong with good weatherproof qualities. They can get very hot and don’t absorb shock which can lead to discomfort or injuries over time. Fiberglass and plastic shafts are best for lightweight work and have good vibration absorption qualities, but are hard to replace and can snap under excessive pressure.
Regardless of the handles, you consider for your spade, wearing protective or gardening gloves while working is never a bad idea. Not only will this improve your grip; but it will also protect your hands from splinters, impact, and abrasion.
A YD design handle offers the best grip and versatility. This type of handle has a loop in a ‘D’ shape at the top. If your hands are on the smaller or larger size you may find this uncomfortable. A T-grip, on the other hand, is a good option for any hand size and for applying extra force. When possible, opt for a handle with added grip to minimize slipperiness.
The socket is the joint where the blade attaches to the shaft. Some shovels have a solid design or a welded construction where the blade and shaft are joined together. However, many spades require a socket to keep the parts firmly attached. Longer sockets are best as they offer solid attachment and better flex. These are usually attached with rivets which should be flush or sunken into the handle to prevent injuries.
Garden Spade Maintenance
As with all things, to ensure your garden tools remain in good condition, you need to take proper care of them. Clean the soil or other material you’ve been working with off the blade, shaft, and handle after every use. Skipping this step can cause rust or rot. Use a brush to clean off larger pieces and then use warm soapy water to clean in detail.
Once every few weeks, check the handle for splinters and smooth it down with sandpaper if necessary. Something you want to do every season sharpens the blade with a sharpening stone, and oil the blade as well as any wooden parts. Wipe off any excess oil before hanging your spade in the shed until the next gardening season.
This spade not only looks like a hi-tech gardening tool but also offers great versatility. The Multi-Digger offers an arrowhead blade with an integrated root cutter edge. The one-of-a-kind handle combines two sets of grips. The ergonomic structure allows you to choose a grip that best suits the task at hand for increased control and flexibility. This handy tool is ideal for digging through hard or root-laden soils, creating tidy trenches, and being used as your general garden shovel.
The multi-purpose design allows you to use one tool for root cutting, dividing, transplanting, and digging
The root-cutting edges move through clay and compacted soils effortlessly
Footplates allow you to apply increased pressure with ease
Extra-large grip for easy handling
Those with small hands may find the comfort grip slightly bulk – wearing gloves can easily solve this
This 46-inch garden spade is ideal for all-around work from edging and digging to slicing through the turf and cutting trenches. The square spade offers a good grip with a D-handle design. Not only is the welded steel construction highly durable, but the powder-coated steel treatment is easy to clean and rust-resistant. Another unique design feature is the teardrop shaft that follows the shape of your grip, making it easy to hold and maneuver.
The extra-large ergonomic handle is big enough for two-handed control, even when wearing gloves
The built-in footstep platform allows maximum power application to break through hard soil
Easy to clean
Extremely durable construction
Fiskars offers a lifetime warranty
The plastic handle will fade if left out in the sun
This 43-inch spade shovel from Hooyman is ideal for general gardening, yard work, land management, and farming. The 11.5-inch-long blade with custom blade serration cuts smoothly through roots and makes easy work of digging through hard soil. The welded steel shovel is highly durable and has a weight of 4 pounds, allowing you to work without strain. Both the fiberglass handle and shaft feature a non-slip grip.
Ergonomic non-slip handles offer a secure grip even when wet
Built-in flanges on either side of the blade create a step for added leverage
Highly durable welded construction
Limited lifetime warranty
Fiberglass handles may become damaged more easily than plastic
This gardening shovel is an amazing multi-purpose tool for transplanting, cutting through roots, and getting into clay, rocky soils, and compacted ground. Its carbon-manganese steel blade is 25% harder and 33% thicker than regular shovels. Sharpened at a 35˚ angle, the blade reduces effort on your part with its effective cutting and holding features. It is attached to the shaft with an extra-long socket, increasing its sturdiness.
Highly durable construction
Easy to clean due to the epoxy resin coating
Blade footrests make digging effortlessly comfortable
The fiberglass handle is reinforced for extra durability and padded for optimal grip
Although ideal as a gardening and digging tool, this may not be big enough if you need to move excessive heaps of soil into wheelbarrows
This trench digging spade is ideal for clearing trenches, removing deep roots, and laying irrigation pipes. The long blade is designed with square sides and a rounded tip to create accurate trench walls without disrupting the surrounding soil. Blades have been treated with black corrosion and a rust-resistant finish, increasing the ease of cleaning as well as the longevity of your tool. The closed socket features a steel collar for reinforced sturdiness and the fiberglass shaft guarantees no splinters or chips while gripping and turning this drain spade.
The rust-resistant blade coating makes it easy to clean and longer-lasting
A footstep on either side of the blade allows you to apply increased force
The non-slip, D-handle design offers a spacious, secure, and comfortable grip
The tool is lightweight minimizing strain on use
This tool is a great lightweight digger, however, if you are planning to do some really heavy-duty construction make sure you have additional heavy-duty equipment
People Also Asked
Q: Is there a difference between a trowel and a spade?
A: A trowel is used mainly for spreading and dressing cement as well as breaking bricks for shaping, whereas a spade is commonly used for garden digging.
Q: Can I use my garden shovel for snow?
A: If you don’t have the appropriate snow tools, you can use a garden shovel for snow. Spray some non-stick cooking spray on the blade to prevent the ice from sticking. Just keep in mind that metal blades can cause scratches on certain surfaces.
Q: Can I use a shovel for concrete mixing?
A: Using a hoe to mix dry concrete and water works well, however, if you don’t have one, a flat shovel can work just as well.
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