In parts one and two of this three-part series, we were about all about pruners and garden trowels. This week, we’ll finish off our tool series by reviewing the different types of garden shovels and their uses.
As with both pruners and trowels, shovels, too, are a key tool in every gardener’s arsenal.
Whether it’s transplanting a tree, breaking ground for a vegetable patch, or moving piles of soil, it’s simply impossible to accomplish some of your garden tasks without the use of a shovel.
In other words, a shovel is the work horse of your tool gang.
If you’d like to know more about the basics of gardening, then take a look at my how-to post on the subject. It has some helpful information!
Parts of a Shovel
Before diving into the common types of garden shovels, let’s take a look at a shovel’s build. There are six parts to a shovel: the grip, handle, collar, step, blade, and tip.
You’ll find the grip at the top of the shovel. It’s the place where your hand should grasp the shovel. They’re usually D-shaped in design, and can be made from different materials.
However, not all shovels have a designated grip, particularly long-handled shovels. Sometimes, for comfort, long-handled shovels will have a foam or rubber coating on the end of the shaft.
The handle, sometimes called a shaft, can be long or short. It can also be fashioned from different materials including wood, plastic, or steel.
Most shafts have a straight design. However, ergonomic models can come with curved designs or secondary grips in the center of their handle.
Depending on the type of shovel, you may be able to replace the handle if breaks or becomes damaged.
The collar is the section where the handle connects to the blade. The two are usually held in place by a couple of screws.
Next in line is the step, which is sometimes called the footrest or kickplate. This is the flat portion at the top of the blade.
The step allows you to place your foot on the blade, so you can use your foot and body weight as an extra force when digging. And trust me, if you’ve ever tried to dig through rocky or clay ground, you know how handy the step comes in! Without it, your arms would tire much more quickly.
The blade is the meat of the shovel. In other words, this is the section that’ll break ground, or lift and hold whatever material you’re working with.
Blades come in different shapes and sizes and are usually made of metal or plastic. Some blades are more all-purpose in design, whereas others are fashioned for very specific jobs.
Last, but certainly not least, is the tip, sometimes called the edge or cutting edge, of the shovel. This is the endpoint of the blade.
Most tips are usually rounded, pointed, or squared, but there are other styles available that have specific purposes.
If you’d like a more in-depth review of the different parts of a shovel, take a gander at this article from Home Stratosphere.
Types of Garden Shovels & Their Uses
In general, there are three types of garden shovels: rounded or pointed shovels, square shovels, and scoop shovels. Most heads are slightly concave and can vary in width, depending on the shovel’s uses.
Tip: You’ll often hear the terms spade and shovel used interchangeably. However, they do actually have separate meanings. In general, garden shovels have rounded or pointed tips, whereas garden spades have a flat edge. Although shovels tend to be a little more versatile, both serve a purpose.
Pointed & rounded tipped shovels: As I said, pointed and rounded tips are more versatile. They are also the most popular type of shovel. These guys are good for digging, cutting through roots, moving mounds of dirt and other loose materials. In general, they serve all-around, multi-functions.
Square tipped shovels: Square tipped shovels and spades are ideal for cutting through sod, edging work, and creating borders, especially when working with softer soils. They’re good for squaring off the sides of trenches and leveling out the ground.
Scoop shovels: Scoop shovels tend to be wider, with square or rectangular heads. They’re meant for shoveling and moving larger amounts of materials. A snow shovel is an example of a scoop shovel.
Different types of garden shovels also includes different types of handles and shafts.
Long handles: Long-handled shovels are good for tree digging and reaching into deeper holes. Because you’re working in a more upright position, there’s less bending involved. In addition, long-handled shovels offer more leverage.
Short handles: On the other hand, shorter, D-handle shovels can offer a bit more control with lifting and maneuvering soils, mulch, sand, and other such materials. Shorter shovels are also designed for close-up work and quick jobs. Too, if you have a shorter stature, you may find a short-handled shovel more comfortable.
Ergonomics: Ergonomically designed shovels usually have specially constructed handles or shafts. They’re meant to help ease the strain on joints and muscles. If you have wrist, arm, or back concerns, you may want to consider this type of shovel.
Check out this great article by Green and Vibrant, if you want a little more info on shovel types.
Things to Consider
When choosing a shovel, it’s important to consider the job or jobs at hand. In other words, what are you planning to do with your shovel?
If you have multiple, varying projects, you might want to think about buying both a spade and a shovel. For most gardeners, these two instruments will be all you need.
If only one is in the budget or plans, pick a good quality, all-around digging shovel. You’ll get the most bang for your buck.
Personally, I’ve always found a pointed tip shovel the most useful. It’s good for transplanting and digging, and although not as quick as a flat tip, the point can help with any edging projects.
And don’t forget about handle length. Choose a shovel that’s comfortable for your height. Digging can be hard work, you don’t want your tool to make it any harder.
Before purchasing, pick up your shovel and carry it around for a bit. Get a feel for it in your hand.
If you need something portable think of a folding shovel. They’re great for camping and other outdoor activities.
Lastly, choose a decent quality tool, one with a strong, durable blade that’s attached firmly to the handle.
And if you found this article on the different types of garden shovels helpful, feel free to share it with your friends.