Spade vs Shovel: What’s the Difference and Which Do You Need?

Spades and shovels might look similar, but they’re used for different tasks in the garden.

When it comes to gardening, having the right tools can make all the difference. But sometimes, choosing the right tool isn’t as simple as it seems.

Take spades and shovels, for example. They might look similar, but they’re used for different tasks in the garden.

If you’ve ever found yourself scratching your head, wondering whether to grab a spade or a shovel for a particular job, you’re not alone.

In this article, we’ll break down the differences between these two garden tools and help you figure out which one you need for your gardening tasks.

Spades: The Gardener’s Precision Tool

Spade 1 | Accessories


A spade is characterised by its flat head, usually square in shape, with sharp edges. Some spades come with a pointed tip, but the flat head is a common feature.


Spades are primarily used as a tool for digging planting holes. They offer control and precision, making them ideal for tasks that require careful digging.

The sharp edges of the spade make digging easier, and many gardeners keep them well-sharpened for optimal performance.


Spades generally have shorter handles, allowing for more control during digging.

They are designed for tasks that require accuracy, such as planting flowers or vegetables.

Shovels: The Versatile Digging Companion

shovel | Accessories


Shovels come in various types, each serving a specific purpose. Common types include:

  • Square Shovel: Square head with a sharp flat end, ideal for digging and scooping.
  • Trenching Shovel: Long, narrow head for digging uniform trenches.
  • Plumber’s Shovel: Narrow head with a rounded tip, used for digging drains and holes.


Shovels are versatile tools used for a variety of digging and scooping tasks.

From digging in hard soil to scooping materials like sand and gravel, shovels are designed for broader applications.


Shovels often have longer handles, providing leverage for digging. The design varies based on the specific use, such as the extra-long handle in a plumber’s shovel for additional leverage.

Spade vs Shovel: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Digging Power

  • Spade: Designed for precise digging, especially for planting holes.
  • Shovel: Excels in digging hard ground and scooping materials.

Physical Design

  • Spade: Flat head with sharp edges, shorter handle for control.
  • Shovel: Various designs catering to different needs, often with longer handles.

Specific Tasks

  • Spade: Ideal for planting, edging, and precise digging.
  • Shovel: Suitable for digging, scooping, trenching, and more versatile tasks.

Conclusion: Which Do You Need?

The choice between a spade and a shovel depends on your specific gardening needs:

  • For Precise Digging: Choose a spade if you need to dig planting holes or perform tasks that require precision and control.
  • For Versatile Digging and Scooping: Opt for a shovel if you need a tool for various digging and scooping tasks, such as moving soil, sand, or gravel.

Whether you need the precision of a spade or the versatility of a shovel, knowing what sets them apart will help you make the right choice for your garden. Happy digging!

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Steve Kropp

Based in Melbourne, Steve's passion is vegetable gardening, and he’s been writing about it for almost 5 years. He also loves all things DIY and is always looking for a new project. When not working on his own garden projects or blogging, Steve enjoys spending time with his family, cooking meals with produce harvested from his garden, and coaching his son’s footy team.


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