6 Of The Best Shovel Any Gardener Can Have

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For many gardeners, it all starts with a shovel, some seeds or plants, and a love for making things grow. You may have had little or no idea about the right type of soil, or the specifics on watering, nutrition, and location. Also, there may have been a lot of trial-and-error, touch-and-go, and patience at first. But in success or failure, gardening always comes back to those three things.

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It’s probably time to retire your old, heavy, rusted, and rotting shovel that you’ve had for years. Here, I’ve listed 6 of the best shovel for all your gardening needs as well as a helpful guide to choosing the best.

Not only will you hone your gardening and landscaping skills, but your body will also be grateful for it! Naturally, we’ll focus on the shovels that’ll be of assistance to you and your garden.

The Guide to the Essential Shovel

Through the years, manufacturers continue to specialize their shovel designs to address specific fields and tasks. Of course, all-purpose shovels still exist, and you’ll surely need one in your yard. However, with the shovels now available online and on the market, specific tasks such as trenching, transplanting, and cutting through thickly rooted soil, have become markedly easier.

In this guide, we’ll look at the different types of shovels that you will need for specialized garden work as well as the features that you’ll want to look for in your next shovel.

Types of Shovels

The different kinds of shovels and spades fall into several categories depending on their intended use. However, as designs and purposes go, there will be some overlap between these categories.

As you’ll notice, our top six list features shovels from most of these categories.

Digging Shovels

You’ll find the conventional round-point or square-point shovels under this category. These are your go-to, all-purpose spades and ones that you should always have in your shed. Depending on their overall design, digging shovels are either intended for efficient digging, easy shoveling (moving material as opposed to creating cavities in the soil) or a middle-ground between these two tasks.

Since you’ll be using these shovels more often than not, it would be wise to invest in a high-quality product instead of going to the bargain bin.

Usually, you can quickly identify a digging shovel by the step or folded edge present at the shaft-side of the blade. This step is where you would place your foot to push the shovel deeper into the soil.

Garden Shovels

Garden shovels bear its nomenclature because manufacturers specialize these spades for particular gardening tasks. These tasks include penetrating soil that is rocky, compact or thickly-rooted; and also creating drains, borders, edges, divots, and trenches. Consequently, you’ll see many shovels that makers have categorized as drain or trenching.

Unlike digging shovels, garden shovels often feature squarer designs and at times, blades with serrated edges.

Scoop shovels

Scoop shovels are typically smaller-sized spades with relatively wider blades. You would use these types of shovels primarily for shoveling loose material, such as dirt, sand, compost, and mulching.

The Important Features

The Important Features

Naturally, one of the first features that you should inspect in a shovel is its blade.

#1

I. Blade

Material

First of all, consider what material makes up the blade. What you’ll want to look for is high carbon or hardened steel blades. Additionally, for top-notch quality, choose the blade that is at least 14-gauge. This measurement refers to the thickness of the steel plate; lower gauges mean thicker steel plates.

Design

The design of the blade will determine what task or work its makers intended for it. Hence, you should already know what type of shovel you’re looking for when you inspect the blade’s design.

Typically, square-point blades are best for transferring and shoveling material. On the other hand, round-point blades are best for digging. You’ll also notice that many digging blades feature sharpened edges or serrated teeth. You’ll want these designs if you plan to use your shovel for hard, rocky compacted, thick turf, and extensively rooted grounds.

Step

Although not a necessity, a blade’s step will significantly add to a shovel’s efficiency and ease of use. This feature is especially important when you’re digging in hard soil. We sometimes ignore this feature, but when you notice the difference between a step-less shovel and one that has a broad and neatly folded step for your foot, you’ll never want to use the former.

Again, wider and flatter steps will be the better option

#2

II. Socket

Connecting the shovel’s blade to its handle is the collar or socket. The socket is where the wood, poly, or fiberglass handle transitions into the neck of the blade. Typically, screws or rivets fasten the handle to the blade-socket.

​This section is usually where most of the force and tension goes which is why an excellent shovel will need an unyielding socket. Inferior shovels would often feature unwelded open-back collars, while superior shovels will sport welded, closed-back collars. Even better, some shovels reinforce this critical section by welding in i-beams at the collars weakest point.

#3

III. Handle

A shovel’s blade tells only half the story. You’ll also need a well-formed handle.

Material & Construction

Wood, composite, steel, and fiberglass are the common materials that make up a shovel’s handle. For the best shovel, you’ll want a handle that is robust but also one that will absorb impacts and vibrations.

When it comes to durability, wood is bottom-tier despite its fairly good capacity for absorbing shocks. Steel, on the other hand, is incredibly strong but you’ll quickly feel those vibrations moving up the handle as you work.

I’d suggest you choose from either fiberglass, poly, or a composite. Personally, a fiberglass handle with a wood core is the best choice. These two materials give you the best of both worlds: wood’s shock absorption and the durability and non-rotting trait of fiberglass.

Grip

Shovel handles terminate into the grip. This section is where you’re dominant will most likely hold the shovel while your other hand grips the handle. Hence you’ll want a soft, comfortable grip, preferably one that will contour to your hand, with rivets that are flush or almost flush with its body.

Typically, you’ll find D-handle grips and standard grips. Conventional grips are often sufficient, but if you are doing a lot of transplanting, moving, and shoveling, a D-handle will improve stability, control, and maneuverability.

#4

IV. Weight

A shovel’s overall weight will be crucial as to how easy and comfortable it is to use. Researchers recommend a weight of around three to four pounds for optimal ease of use as well as minimal stress on your lower back muscles.

#5

V. Length

When it comes to length, shovels with total lengths of about forty to fifty inches will be the most efficient and comfortable to use. Hence, you might want to minimize the use of shorter shovels as these will tire you faster and will do a number on your back. At best, you’ll want to use short-handled shovels for quick tasks, small spaces, or for when you need a portable tool.

#6

VI. Lift

Probably another oft-ignored feature in shovels is its lift. A shovel’s lift refers to the angle of a shovel’s blade about its handle. If you can’t imagine it, visualize a shovel that is lying flat on the floor. A low-lift shovel will resemble a straight line. On the other hand, a high-lift shovel will look more like a check sign.

Low-lift shovels will be ideal for digging tasks. You might be digging a hole, dividing plants, or creating neat edges in plant beds. Meanwhile, high-lift shovels are best for moving material. So you’ll want to do a lot of planting, spreading, or loading with this type of shovel.

When it comes to length, shovels with total lengths of about forty to fifty inches will be the most efficient and comfortable to use. Hence, you might want to minimize the use of shorter shovels as these will tire you faster and will do a number on your back. At best, you’ll want to use short-handled shovels for quick tasks, small spaces, or for when you need a portable tool.

The Reviews of the Best Shovel

So which of the six best shovel will be your next garden companion? Look through their list of features, pros, and cons to find out!

#1

Via Amazon.com

Details:
  • Best for Digging
  • Blade: 14-gauge hardened steel
  • Shaft / Handle: 18-gauge steel
  • Weight: 6.3 pounds
  • Length: 57.5 inches
  • Large step
Pros
  • Incredibly robust construction
  • Long handle
  • Sharp blade cuts through tough ground
  • Large step
Cons
  • Some shock and vibration through the steel handle
  • Heavy
#2
  • Best for Digging; garden work in thick turf or tough, densely-rooted soil; creating drains;
  • Blade: 14-gauge carbon steel sawtooth blade
  • Shaft / Handle: 14-guage carbon steel blade with a poly D-handle
  • Weight: 4 pounds
  • Length: 48 inches
  • Lift: Low
Pros
  • Effective soil, turf, or root penetration with its pointed tip and serrated blade
  • Comfortable weight as well as length
  • Heavy-duty, powder-coated steel blade and handle
  • Padded D-handle for easy grip
  • Overall sturdy construction
  • Prunes branches with its serrated blade
Cons
  • Low lift makes moving plants slightly difficult
#3

Via Amazon.com

Details:
  • Best for All-purpose, go-to shovel
  • Blade: Tempered steel
  • Shaft / Handle: Hardwood D-handle
  • Weight: 3.5 pounds
  • Length: 39.5 inches
  • Lift: High
Pros
  • Great for general garden tasks
  • Large-scooped blade for moving material and loose soil
  • Lightweight frame due to hardwood handle
  • Robust and sharp pointed blade
Cons
  • The handle may be too short for taller users
  • ​Step can be slippery
  • ​D-handle feels flimsy at times
#4

Via Amazon.com

Details:
  • Best for Shoveling, trenching, light garden work, tight spaces
  • Blade: High carbon steel with a serrated edge on one side
  • Shaft / Handle: High carbon steel handle
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Length: 18.25 inches
  • Lift: Low
Pros
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Extremely portable is it folds and fits in a small 10-inch pouch
  • You can rotate the blade to reveal a pick or to use it as a hoe
  • Solid build
Cons
  • The blade tends to loosen during use
  • Smaller and thinner than traditional entrenching shovels
#5

Via Amazon.com

Details:
  • Best for Garden work; drains; trenching; transplanting
  • Blade: high carbon manganese-steel
  • Shaft / Handle: Reinforced fiberglass with D-handle
  • Weight: 3.5 pounds
  • Length: 41 inches
  • Lift: Medium-high
Pros
  • Easily and quickly pierces compact and rocky soil with its pointed and sharpened blade
  • Ideal for dividing thickly-rooted perennials
  • Comfortable cushioned grip
  • Remarkably heavy-duty handle
  • Great for loosening soil
  • Lightweight build
Cons
  • The blade is too narrow for moving large or wide plants.
#6

Via Amazon.com

Details:
  • Editor’s Choice
  • Best for All-around digging and shoveling
  • Blade: 14 gauge steel blade
  • Shaft / Handle: Reinforced fiberglass handle with a wood core
  • Weight: 4.65 lbs
  • Length: 59.25"
  • Lift: High
Pros
  • Long as well as robust handles
  • Ideal for dividing thickly-rooted perennials
  • Handles absorb shocks
  • Cushioned as well as comfortable grip
  • Well-formed step
  • Perfectly balanced handle-blade weight
  • Overall tough build
Cons
  • Large hands may find grip too narrow

Hoang Quang

Hello! I’m Quang Hoang and Grow Gardener is my little nook for all the adventures, and occasional misadventures, on my journey in gardening! As I continue to awaken life in little seeds and struggle to keep flora alive, I’ll be here sharing with all of you what I’ve learned! Join me in my little garden, and let’s grow together.

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