Spade vs Shovel: Which Should You Choose?

Ed Wike
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What’s the Difference?

If you have the option of choosing only one tool for gardening, you should choose the best tool for the job that you intend to tackle, (whatever it may be). For most cases in gardening- that tool would be a spade. Shovels are great for digging and moving large amounts of soil, while spades are great for digging up and removing plants from the ground. The differences between a shovel and a spade are subtle but equally as important when choosing between them.

A spade has a flat blade
A spade has a flat blade – Image from Unsplash

The spade in the photo above, clearly shows the flatness of the blade and the different angle between the blade and the handle. This flatness of the tool is important when digging up plants because the end of the blade should be pressed into the ground to create a lever.

The flat blade creates a better lever and keeps the edge of the blade from being buried in the soil. The deeper the blade can go into the soil, without being buried, the easier the plant will come up without breaking at the root. If you break the root of your plant, you will have a hard time saving the plant.

A shovel has a curved blade
A shovel has a curved blade – Image from Unsplash

The shovel depicted above has a curved blade. The curved blade allows the shovel to go too deep and thus the shovel doesn't work too well in all soil types.

Just remember to buy the right tool for the job that you want to do. When you buy the right tools, you are going to be much more successful and happy in terms of getting the job done.

In choosing between the shovel and spade, remember that you need to consider:

  • weight
  • handle type
  • length
  • appearance of the blade

Consider all these options and see which tool has the best weight, handle type, length and blade shape to get a specific task done.

A shovel has a curved blade
Look carefully at the tools – Image from Unsplash


There is a difference between shovels and spades (even if you don't notice it at first). Unless you already know the difference, you will most likely use the wrong tool, which can pose a real problem to the gardening task at hand.

A shovel is a tool with a blade that is strong enough to cut through soft ground and clay. The angle of the blade is also variable and can be adjusted. This shovel has a solid scoop or a flat blade. The handle is long enough for you to have a good leverage and the angle is usually adjustable, which means that you can use it as a ditchdigger as well, however, the shovel is most ideal for moving loose material.

Spades, on the other hand, refer to manual tractor shovels. Spades are ideal for digging holes and ditches in sandy or rocky soil.

In recent years, spades have been more predominantly used for gardening, too, as they are designed to be used like a shovel for planting small trees and shrubs. However, they are more versatile in that they can be used for dividing perennials and digging up bulbs. The core difference is the angle of the blade of a spade is not as adjustable as in shovels.

In North America, however, people tend to use to the term shovel when they are talking about both the shovel and spade. Thus if you are from North America and have never called a spade, "A spade," let's look at why you should.


What are they?

A spade is a garden tool that’s shaped like a shovel but one that has a longer and narrower blade, all of which is designed to make digging easier. Spades are used most often to dig holes and deep trenches. They are also used to remove weeds, pull up roots, and loosen hard soil before planting.

Sometimes, the terms, spade and shovel, are used interchangeably. As opposed to shovel being called by its name, a spade is seen as being a shovel in the United Kingdom and shoveling is used as the verb which denotates the act of using a spade.

Spades are ideally useful if you need to dig deeper. You will dig deep wh you are digging holes in which you can plant flowers or plants. Spades are also are great for digging small holes for planting seeds. The narrow blade allows you to easily control the depth of the hole that you're digging, and since you can plant deeper, you can plant more plants in a smaller space. The narrow blade will penetrate the soil more easily, making it easier to remove weeds. Since the blade is narrow and longer, the leverage is reduced, so digging the hole may take longer than it would with a shovel.

Choosing Either a Spade or Shovel

There are, of course, some tools that you definitely need to have. If you haven’t already invested in a few tools of your own, here are some suggestions to get you started on your gardening tool collection. What do you do with these tools? Well, use them of course!

Spades and shovels are great tools to have on hand. It is hard to imagine surviving in the wild confines of a garden without being able to dig a hole, dig stuff up, or move loose soil around. Both the shovel and the spade are pretty standard toos, and they both can be used for the same purposes. So, which one should you choose?

There are a lot of factors that go into this decision:

  • One factor to consider is the type of work you are planning to do with your tool.
  • Shovels are very useful in digging out your garden. In fact, on a small scale, they are better for working with hard, packed soil.
  • However, spades are better if you are digging very large spaces. A spade is also lighter and more versatile.
  • A spade may be a better investment as you can pretty much use it for just about anything that you would use a shovel for and more.
  • A spade while it seems to be just like the shovel, it also has a pointed end for prying.
Gardening tools to buy – Image from Unsplash

Shovels and spades are different tools used in gardening and landscaping. Both are used commonly by homeowners and professionals and in gardens every day for a number of garden projects. A shovel can be used for digging holes and planting, as well as digging out soil. A spade is more specialized for digging out dirt in hard ground, and it can be used for breaking up hard ground.

The spade is a tool with one sharpened edge, and it is used for fast digging. The shovel is used for moving or scooping dirt, and it can be used to smooth or level out a surface. The shovel is often used due to its versatility, and the spade is used for its precision.

One of the main differences in these tools is the shape of the tool itself. A spade is an elongated version of a shovel. However, there are a number of different shapes of spades and shovels on the market. A spade is the shape that is recommended for most garden projects. The sharpened edge makes a spade perfect for digging holes and planting bulbs. Both a spade and shovel can be used for digging and shoveling.


Both tools are needed if you are the type of person who loves to work in your garden. If you need to chose just one of the two tools to buy, opt to buy the spade and not the shovel.