Spade vs Shovel: What’s The Difference For Gardening?

Spade vs Shovel

Spade vs Shovel: What’s The Difference For Gardening? Spades and shovels are the most common gardening tools in anyone’s backyard. Even if you don’t have any other gardening tools, you are sure to have some spades and shovels lying around in some corners! Now, people often confuse the two items. So, what is the difference between them?

Basically, spades are shorter and have a broader base. On the other hand, a shovel has a dome-shaped base with a pointed tip. In fact, the irony is that what you call spades in a card game is actually a shovel in real life!

A majority of the newbies don’t know the difference between a spade and a shovel. Not just this, even the most experienced gardeners can confuse a spade with a shovel. Also, you need to understand what you should consider before buying these essential gardening tools. However, keep reading if you want to resolve this battle between spade and shovel!

Are Shovel And Spade The Same Thing?


Are Shovel And Spade The Same Thing?


No, shovels and spades are not the same things. They are different structurally, functionally, and in every other way. A lot of people do not even know what they are digging in their own garden! The basic gardening tools that have been passed from generation to generation are still serving them well. However, it has led to the misuse of tools and improper care and gardening. Of course, gardening is not rocket science! But you need to know which tools should be used where. Beginners must first learn the names of each tool. However, the most common misconception is about shovels and spades.

To be fair, the misunderstanding arises from an age-old tradition, the card game. Many will tell you that the spade is the most popular shape you come across in card games when teaching beginners. They will say this is the same spade that is used in gardening. But this is absolutely incorrect.

In reality, the gardening tool with the same shape as the card spade is a “shovel.” The other device with a flat top is a spade. So, an authentic spade looks nothing like the one in card games!

If you do not believe this, you can Google their pictures now. You will see the difference for yourself! Eight out of ten people have this misconception that shovels are spades, and spades are shovels, or that shovels and spades are the same things! If you think the same, you are highly mistaken!

Shovels and spades both have different functions too. One is used to transfer soil and other stuff from one place to another, primarily. However, the other one is good for digging. In the next part, you will get to know all the differences between them.

Differences Between Spade vs Shovel


Differences Between Spade vs Shovel


Now, you might be thinking about how to differentiate between the two- shovels and spades. It is not a hard nut to crack. If you have used these tools yourself, it becomes easier to tell the difference. However, if you haven’t used any of these, there are some essential points to note.

Now let’s get a better look at the differences between these two items. Here, I have mentioned some essential differentiating points. Read the next part to know in detail!

1. Shape At The Top

All these items have a basic structure with a handle and a base. Basically, the significant difference lies at the bottom. All of these have a wooden or plastic handle and a base of steel. The shape of the steel decides the purpose of use and the name of each kind of tool.

Generally, shovels will have a dome-shaped top. The end is a bit pointed, so you can thrust it better at the surface when you dig. There are some plastic-made shovel bases too. But these are not very helpful for doing rigorous digging work. Also, the base is a bit angled, and it works more like a scooper. The scooping action will help you collect more soil when digging deep. It comes to great use when transferring loose soil.

On the other hand, a spade is just the opposite. It has a flat base which is usually used to cut into sods and tough soil. The flat base has pointed squared edges, so it can be helpful for those kinds of jobs where you need to cut in straight. Here, the base is straight, and the head is parallel to it. There is no pointed tip, so it is not really helpful for digging.

2. Handle

Usually, a spade is shorter than a shovel of the same kind. Both these items have a long handle. Typically, shovels have a D-shaped edge at the end of the handle. It helps to grip the shovel better. Although, many commercials have now started making spades with the same kind of D-shaped end.

Both shovels and spades can have wooden or plastic handles. Basically, gardening tools for children have plastic handles, so it is easier for them to carry. Besides, plastic handles are also used in exceptional cases or custom-made.

However, the main difference is that shovels have pretty long handles. On the other hand, a similar spade will have a shorter handle. The girth of the handle can be the same, though. Shovels are meant to be longer given their purpose of use.

Sometimes, shovels can come with a kind of padded top. It helps the user to grip it comfortably. Usually, spades don’t have this kind of padding. Now, there are various diversities in the structures of these items. In fact, many companies have even started to make a fusion of the two. So, it is quite natural for you to get confused. However, the basic structure remains the same, as mentioned earlier.

3. Functions

It wouldn’t be surprising if you said that you were using a shovel for the job of a spade and a spade for the job of a shovel. In fact, it has become quite common nowadays. Nevertheless, the two are totally different and should be used for their own purposes.

Basically, a shovel has a sharp tip. So, it is best suited for jobs like breaking soil apart, lifting, digging into hard surfaces, etc. To be fair, you can’t do these tasks with the help of an actual spade. And even if you manage to do it, either it won’t be done appropriately, or you will have to put ten times more effort into doing so!

On the contrary, a spade has a flat top. So, it is suitable for digging trenches, cutting into tough soil or sod, doing edges, transferring soil from one place to another, etc. Spades can be used to shape a sidewalk or some concrete-made slabs properly.

You must be thinking these jobs can be done with the help of a shovel too. But no, that’s not true. You will face the same difficulties here as well. The kind of uniform edges that a spade can create can’t be made with a shovel. Only a spade can do these tasks perfectly!

4. Ledge

You can often get tired during the long and exhausting hours of gardening. Sometimes, you may want to consider putting support somewhere. So, spades have a small ledge on top of which you can move. It is also called a step.

However, shovels don’t usually have this kind of step. This is due to the fact that shovels don’t require hard, exhausting work. So, basically, the ledges are pretty much useless here. Also, the shelf or ledge can interfere with your work when using the shovel. So, it is better for ledges to be deficient in their structure anatomically.

5. Blades

Often, people ask for steel blades instead of plastic ones. To be fair, if you want a heavy-duty shovel or spade, then go for a heavier one. The heavy ones can carry significant loads, that’s for sure. But it is not comfortable to carry these. You can get tired after just five minutes of work!

However, the lighter ones are really nice. Although they can’t carry heavier loads, they are very convenient to use. So, choose one that is not too heavy or too light. Some people can have their own preferences. Therefore, choose what suits you best!

When the blades are a bit rough and serrated, it helps to dig in better with comparatively less force. So, look out for serrated blades. There are also some root blades that come in a V shape. These have a gap in the middle. Usually, these are good for working on more enormous weeds and grasses.

Also, the blade is a bit angled in the case of a shovel. It is for its purpose of use. The edge of a spade is straight, and there is no angulation or scooping. So, it can be differentiated easily!

How To Use A Shovel And A Spade Properly?

Actually, every one of us will learn to use a shovel or a spade if we use them for a day or two. But there are some essential aspects that you must know. This will help you to make the best use of these gardening tools.

So, there are some points that you need to consider for yourself and some other attributes of the tool itself. Read the next part to find out in detail. First and foremost, put on your personal protective clothing and footwear. Do not wear sandals or expensive high-end shoes when working in the field. Wear protective gumboots or simple shoes. Also, do not wear clothes that you can ruin while working in the garden. Wear something comfortable that is washable.

To use both these tools, you have to apply an initial force to let them enter the ground. In the case of spades, you can step on the ledge for support and also exert more pressure. It will come to great use when the ground or surface is hard, and you have to break into hard soil.

Actually, the direction of the application of force is essential too. A little physics works here. In the case of shovels, as the blade has some sort of angulation, you should work in the direction of the angle. So, the resultant vector will work with less force in this direction. So, with shovels, hold the blade at an angle and push gently. It will give you the best outcome!

Nonetheless, in the case of spades, the blade is straight. So, holding at an angle will create more turbulence, and you will need to apply more force. Hence, you need to apply the force perpendicularly and vertically downwards when using spades. The resultant force will make your work much easier, and you can do it with less time and effort!

Also, it is crucial that you take care of yourself when working outdoors in the garden. On hot summer days, it can get sweltering. So, stay hydrated as much as you can and drink plenty of water or juice. Don’t spend too much time in the sun. Wear protective sunscreen. You do not have to work for a stretch. So, enjoy your work by taking leisure at intervals.

What To Consider Before Buying A Shovel?


What To Consider Before Buying A Shovel?


Buying the best shovel or spade can be tricky. Many would think of this as a trivial issue. But when you decide to work with perfection and have the best tools in hand, this part can get really tricky! There are some essential aspects that you must double-check before buying a shovel. Basically, the material of the shovel, its length, weight, grip, type, etc., are all very important. Read the next part to find out how these can play significant roles in choosing the best shovel!

  • Know Your Type

There are several varieties of shovels available out there and on the market. But you need to understand the purpose of your use and the kind of job it can serve you. There are digging shovels, tree-planting shovels, mini ones, trenching shovels, edging shovels, etc. All have different uses and purposes.

If you want to install an irrigation system or repair one, or if you’re going to dig a drain, you need trenching shovels. That is to say; you need a trenching shovel to make a trench. On the other hand, buy a digging shovel if you want to use one solely for digging. They come with ledges for support so you can step on them and apply more force.

Again, if you want shovels to make holes for your seedlings or seeds, you need tree-planting shovels. They can excavate a part of the soil and help you plant trees, hence the name. Usually, they are more pointed than any other variety.

The edging ones will help you shape any lawn or garden. Also, mini shovels are really cute and can be half the size of a regular shovel. Sometimes, they are even foldable so they can be carried to places quickly.

  • Material

It is essential. Because most shovels are steel made, there is a growing concern about developing rust on them after a few days. Naturally, your shovel will be exposed to wet surfaces and moisture. So, you need to be careful about choosing rust-repellent ones.

Usually, shovels have a protective coating that prevents the building of trust. Also, make sure you get some high-end forged blades rather than machine-stamped ones. They are more durable than the latter ones.

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Now, choosing between steel and aluminum can be challenging. Both have their own perks and demerits. Steel shovels are heavier but do not bend or dent easily and can be costly! However, the aluminum ones bend or dent easily but are very lightweight. They can be cheaper too! So, choose your favorite one as per your own requirements.

  • Shaft

The length and material of the shaft are other vital factors. A length between 44 and 48 inches is usually great for people of average height. However, you can customize your own size if you are a shorter or taller person. Or you may end up with a bad back and suffer for life!

Also, the material of the shaft can be wooden, plastic, or made from fiberglass. Wood is more prone to damage, and water can ruin it quickly. Also, wooden ones are not great for heavy-duty tasks.

On the other hand, steel shafts can be great for heavy-duty work. The most flexible or durable one is fiberglass. It is lighter than the other two and can withstand temperatures and rust!

  • Grips

When shovels come with a D-shaped grip at the end, it becomes very comfortable to use them. Typically, all shovels have this structure. It is easy to insert your hand within and hold onto it firmly through the D-hole.

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Basically, it has been attached for ergonomic purposes. It also helps you add more leverage and apply more force. Also, it is more convenient when the grip is made of rubber or has some foam padding. It will prevent blisters and sore hands from prolonged work. So, always look for a D-clutch when buying a shovel! Even better, use a foam-coated one!

  • Weight

Weight is actually a person-sensitive factor. It suits you more if you can endure and work better with heavier shovels. Then, go for the heavier ones! However, most people would prefer a lightweight and durable one.

Heavier shovels usually weigh between five and ten pounds. On the contrary, the lighter ones weigh about two pounds or even lower than that. So, it would be best if you decided which of these is your preferred choice for yourself. The materials used in the construction can also play a significant role in the weight of the shovel.

Conclusion: Spade vs Shovel

Gardening tools can be really confusing when you don’t know what to use and where. So, by now, you must have resolved the war between spades vs shovels. If you want to improve your gardening skills, you should learn how to use each tool properly. You should know the differences between the tools and also know where to use each one.

Find out what are the Best garden shovels available in the market. 

I hope this article helped you to learn in detail about shovels and spades. Thank you for reading the entire piece with patience. Have a great time planting new trees! Happy gardening!

Elysha Murphy

I'm Elysha Murphy, the creator of Easier Gardening. I am very passionate about gardening, and love sharing everything I learn about them.

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