Shovel vs. Spade: The Key Differences

shovels and spades

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Whether you’re gardening, landscaping, or simply doing a bit of Sunday afternoon pottering, there’s a good chance you’ll have a spade or shovel by your side. But although both tools are used for digging and moving soil, it might surprise you to learn that they’re actually not the same thing.

So, what’s the difference between a spade and a shovel? And why are they so commonly confused? As someone who uses both on a near-daily basis, I’ve decided to shovel away the confusion and take a closer look at the key differences between these two important garden tools.

What exactly is a spade?

A spade is a hand tool used by gardeners for cutting roots, digging or moving soil. They have a flat blade that’s typically square or rectangular in shape, making them particularly suited to jobs like cutting, scraping, and edging beds and borders.

What’s a shovel?

In contrast to the flatter blade found on a spade, a shovel’s blade is typically curved, often in a rounded or oval shape. Shovel heads are also typically bigger than those of spades, and it’s this combination of size and rounded shape that makes them ideal for digging holes and trenches, and moving large quantities of soil.

What are the key differences?

As mentioned above, the key difference between shovels and spades lies in their blade design. A shovel has a curved blade that’s designed primarily for scooping and moving large quantities of material like soil or rocks. Conversely, spades have a flat blade that’s mostly used for precision cutting and digging.

The blade shape also affects the way you’ll be able to use the tool for digging. Where a flat blade offers more surface area for digging, the curved blade found on a shovel will help you to cut into the soil more efficiently.

Another notable difference between the two tools is the length of the handle. A spade will almost always have a shorter handle than a shovel, making it easier to use for any task that demands precision and greater control. Shovels, on the other hand, come with a longer handle, providing greater leverage and making it easier to move larger amounts of soil.

Which tool is best for you?

My advice is that every gardener needs a spade and shovel in their arsenal. If you’re working with soil, your life will be made a lot easier if you set to work with both tools by your side. Spades are great for breaking ground, cutting, and edging – basically anything that requires precision. Shovels, though, come into their own when you’re faced with moving large amounts of material. Yes, a spade can do a decent job of moving dirt and soil, but a shovel is built for shoveling.

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