Let’s dig in and talk about garden spades! A quality spade is essential any time you need to dig around your home. It’s essential for turning over soil in your garden, of course. But you’ll find plenty of other uses, such as transplanting, digging up larger weeds, or widening trenches. What should you look for in a garden spade, and which are your best options?
Characteristics of a Garden Spade
On a technical level, a spade and a shovel are slightly different. A shovel is for scooping while a spade is for digging. There are slight differences in design to help make it easier to adjust to each use. However, in general use, the words are interchangeable, so we’ll use them both here. To learn more about the differences and other types of shovels and spades, be sure to check this article.
There are a couple of factors to consider when choosing your garden spade. You want it to get the job done while also being easy to work with. Here’s what you should consider:
Of course, you want a shovel that’s going to hold up to a lot of wear and tear. Digging through topsoil can be tough enough. But you’ll soon hit soil with more clay. You might even encounter unexpected roots or rocks.
There are three basic parts of the spade to consider here: the blade, the handle, and the joint between the two.
Blades are most often made of steel, but there are also hard plastic blades. We tend to be more traditional and prefer steel. Still, some of the modern plastics are just as durable. Of course, you don’t want it to be so heavy that it’s hard to work with. Still, it should be thick enough that it won’t bend or get nicks in it.
Handles are usually wood but can also be fiberglass. Again, we prefer a reliable wood like ash, but the others are improving as well.
The joint that fastens the two is a big key. Be sure the connection is strong enough to support the stress the spade will face. The best kind of joint is when the blade wraps around the end of the handle and is screwed in place. Avoid ones where the neck of the blade slides into the handle – they tend to slide out after a time.
Digging is hard work no matter how you handle it, though, so you want to be sure you choose a spade that makes it as easy as possible.
First, consider the handle length. There are standard lengths. But if you are in the upper or lower ranges of height, you might want to spend a little extra time looking for a shovel to suit your size.
You’ll also need to choose between a long-handled or short-handled shovel. A long-handled spade lets you stand more erect, which normally is better for your back. But if you need more leverage because of the type of soil you’re digging in, a short-handled spade may serve you better.
The short-handled ones also normally have D-shaped grips to make them easier to handle. Long-handled spades often have a rubber grip covering the handle. This grip can help keep your hands from slipping. Be sure to look for one that will fit your hand size well.
The shape of the blade is another key. As we mentioned, a spade is for digging. A curved blade is good, but shovels with raised sides are designed for moving, not digging. A spade’s blade also usually comes to a point. This will help break up the soil as well as small roots that you’ll encounter.
Our Picks for the Best Garden Shovels
Let’s have a look at the best garden spades we’ve found, based on their ability to get the job done, their durability, and their ergonomics.
Fiskars is a top pick in almost all types of garden tools, and they don’t disappoint when it comes to a quality digging spade. This long-handled model will last for years and make your digging tasks more pleasant.
The blade is 14-gauge steel, making it tough enough for the work but light enough not to cause fatigue. It’s welded to the handle, which is made of 18-gauge steel. So you’re getting a solid piece that won’t bend or break easily.
Overall, it measures 57.5”.
That strength does add a bit of weight to the shovel, though. Since it’s all steel, it’s slightly heavier than most shovels. It weighs just over 6 pounds. For most people, that’s not a big deal. But it’s worth thinking about, especially if you’re a smaller person or will be doing so much digging that it will add up.
Fiskars offers a lifetime warranty on this tool – can’t beat that, either, even though you probably won’t need it.
Bully Tools offers this sturdy shovel that will be great for general use around the yard. The blade seems like it might deserve a better handle, but neither part disappoints.
The 14-gauge steel blade is attached firmly to a strong fiberglass handle. It’s a reinforced connection so you won’t have to worry about it breaking.
This is described by the manufacturer as a “commercial grade” shovel. Most of the comments we’ve seen online bear up to that, too. A lot of reviews talk about it holding up well to heavier use. It’ll be good for your garden work and even tougher uses like digging out tree stumps.
It weighs 5.4 pounds, which is about average for a long-handled shovel. But the strong blade makes it seem like it should weigh more. That’s a definite advantage.
A D-grip short-handled version is available (button on the same page).
This product is made in the United States and has a limited lifetime warranty.
Ames presents this shovel that’s been a great seller. It’s good quality while also coming in at a great price.
The fiberglass handle is joined to a tempered-steel blade. The blade is 16-gauge steel, making it stronger than others we’ve reviewed here.
The overall length is 57.75”, which is standard. The handle measures 46.5 inches.
The handle does slide into the neck of the blade and is held tight with a band. We haven’t seen or heard of any issues with it coming loose, even though we had initial concerns about it because of the appearance.
The limited warranty is 15 years.
This short-handled shovel from Razor-back is dependable and easy to use when a smaller tool better serves your purposes.
The handle measures 25.75” and the overall tip-to-tip length is 45.25”. The blade is tempered steel. The handle is hardwood.
The handle slides into an unusually long handle neck and is fastened with bolts in two spots, helping to make it very sturdy.
The edge where you can use your foot to push is wider than most shovels, making it much easier to use.
There is a lifetime warranty on this shovel.
This is a short-handled shovel with the typical “D” handle. It’s a specialty tool since it measures 27” inches overall. However, if you have a raised garden or need to be digging where you don’t have a lot of room and don’t mind being on your hands and knees, it will serve you well. Of course, this won’t work for everyday use.
This is also a good choice for a camping shovel or as part of a car emergency kit in case you get stuck in snow or sand.
The blade is steel; the handle is fiberglass. The blade is bolted to the handle for stability.
A rust-resistant paint is used to help it hold up over time. There’s a five-year warranty on this tool.
This is also available in a square-headed version. Either one can also be bought in a pack of 12. We don’t know why, but yes, there is a pack of 12 available. Both options are available at the same link.
When it’s time to start turning over the soil, you’ll need a quality garden spade. Be sure to choose one that will hold up over time and that will be comfortable to work with. There are many great spades available. While it’s still hard work to take care of your yard and garden, a good spade can help relieve some of the stress!