Many homesteaders use their names interchangeably, but spades and shovels are two individual tools, each with distinctive pros and cons.
So – which should you use? A spade or a
(Choosing the wrong digging tool for the job can cause unnecessary energy expenditure, frustration, and backaches. Nobody wants that!)
Are you ready to dig in and learn the distinctions?
Let’s do this!
Shovel – Quick Overview
The primary differences between these gardening tools are blade construction – and how they get used around the garden, farm, or ranch.
Overall, the garden
While spades and garden shovels can work for similar purposes, they are each designed for predefined purposes.
Now that we understand the primary spade vs
We’re about to get our hands dirty. Tremendously dirty.
Feel the excitement!
We Use Spades for Digging
A spade is the best choice when you face a precise gardening task, especially if you have to slice through rough turf and tough soil. A straight, narrow blade is best for this type of purpose. That’s why most spade blades are relatively flat. They have practically no concavity.
Spade blades typically project straight off of the handle shaft with no curvature. Some spades have long handles, and others have short handles. Mini spades have heavy-duty D-shaped handles, which are effective for enhancing your grip and power.
Some spades have a foot ledge on top that allows you to apply extra downward force to cut through tough roots and other obstacles. Spades are excellent when you need to edge, dig precisely, cut through roots or tough turf, or turn the soil.
And a sharp-bladed spade, especially one with a serrated edge, is an excellent choice for skimming turf, soil, and other materials to create a smooth top surface. Spades are also perfect for chipping ice off your sidewalks and driveways when it’s too hard for your snow
Types of Spades
There are various spade types to choose from – no matter your budget or task. Consider drain, garden, and root spades.
Let’s zoom in on each of them!
Drain spades are thin-bladed and narrow garden tools that work well for digging accurate, small holes, even in tough ground. This type of spade is also sometimes called a bullet
Drain spades are superb for digging trenches, like drainage lines, as long as you don’t need them to be more than a couple of feet deep or more than approximately 8 inches wide.
Because they’re small, they are outstanding for digging precise holes for shrub or flower transplantation. Drain spades are also excellent choices for unearthing straight rows for vegetable planting.
Garden spade blades are more sizeable with more concavity than most other spades. They are available in many styles – some with curved spade blades and shorter shafts. And others have rounded spade blades with long
There are several variations, making it difficult, sometimes, to differentiate a garden spade from a different type of spade. There are narrow, wide, rectangular, and pointed garden spades. Just choose the best one for your unique needs. I like mine with a sharp edge!
If you wish to go top-of-the-line, look for a root spade with serrated blade edges. They slice through thick, tough roots easily. And their grated edges grab into the root chunks, making it simple to twist and yank them out of the dirt.
Root spades are also excellent for cutting through incredibly tough root balls on invasive plants like some tall grasses. I have bent the tip of my spade
Watch your toes!
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We Use Shovels to Load & Relocate
Unlike spades, shovels are perfect for relocating material from one location to another. They feature curved, wide blades that lift and hold a significant volume of compost, garden dirt, gravel, rocks, sand, snow, and other materials.
Shovel blades curve off of the tips of their shafts. This curvature positions the blade tip forward, which, in turn, enhances its capacity for sliding under mounds of material. This mound sliding is (usually) more troublesome to perform with a spade.
Plus, shovels are excellent for digging, as long as high precision is not your priority. The curved blade scoop is perfect for digging wide, not precise, holes. The
Most shovels have long handles for increased leverage, and their blades may be flat, pointed, round, or serrated.
Let’s take a closer look at the different types of shovels now.
PS – We hope you are having a blast learning about the art and science of spade vs
Types of Shovels
I consider my long-handled
Let’s not waste time. We have digging to do!
Digging shovels are probably the most recognizable for most gardeners. They’re wide, scooping blades curved forward, projecting them out from each side of the front of the handle. The top of the digging
You can use this type of
Scooping shovels are commonly called transfer shovels, and they’re used to move large amounts of loose materials, like loose garden soil and snow. They’re also great for diverse farming purposes, like loading or relocating compost piles or manure. These shovels resemble dustpans, with their edges projecting upwards to form a short but wide U-shape, which enables higher load stacking and holding it in place.
Shovel – Which Is Best for You?
OK, now we know the differences between spades and shovels and their advantages. So, which one is best for you? Of course, that depends on the task you are doing.
You can usually accomplish your goals with either a spade or a
I’m not a fan of a fiberglass handle. I prefer wooden-handled spades and shovels because wood absorbs shock better than fiberglass or metal. It makes a difference after a long day of digging! Plus, fiberglass bends and warps over time. I’ll take a wooden handle
I prefer carbon steel blades on my spades and shovels relative to iron or other materials. When I grab a
My advice is that, regardless of the type of tool you’re buying, it’s always better to purchase a high-quality tool designed to last for years of use and, in my case, often, significant abuse.
Thank you for reading today about spade vs
(We invite you to comment below if you have stories about your favorite garden
Thanks again for reading.
Have a great day!
Thursday 2nd of March 2023
I guess I'm just totally ignorant: I STILL don't get the difference after reading THREE post about the difference. To me, ALL photos in all three post look like what I have always known and called shovels. Spades, to me are those small implements that dig holes for plants. They are not longer than about 8 -10 inches and are held in one hand. Still confused
Thursday 2nd of March 2023
Hi there, Carol! Thanks for reaching out! Essentially, a spade looks like a rectangle. A shovel has an arrow-shaped point at the tip. Also, we use spades and shovels differently. A spade is like a knife that cuts into the soil, while a shovel is more like a scoop or spoon that helps us move dirt or other stuff (like snow or mulch). I really hope that helps you! I will admit it is pretty confusing, and it took a lot of research for us to find a decent answer to this question. Thank you for your comment, and I hope you have a wonderful day!