Shovel vs Spade: The Small Differences Matter.

Unfortunately, the words “shovel” and “spade” have mistaken, reciprocal meanings creating a whole bunch of unnecessary confusion. Knowing which one to use will not only save time but also quite a bit of money. What’s more, knowing the difference between a shovel vs spade will make your garden projects run much more fluid and smooth, thereby creating a better and more enjoyable experience.

Just because they both create holes in the ground, can dig up roots and look similar in shape, doesn’t mean they are the same. This guide will help you consider and decipher which ones to use, what their best applications are and how to know the difference when making a selection.

Two Different Tools Entirely

Shovels are what you need for picking up piles of dirt and transporting them somewhere else. These can also penetrate grass or weeds with great ease. Shovels generally have a pointy tip with a broad, curved blade on a slight angle complete with long handle (about 48” or more).

Spades are good for cutting straight down, digging earth, creating clean lines and are best for specialized uses like getting into small flower beds. Not only can they break up soil, but they can also cut into roots or create precise edging. They have sharp, flat, rectangular blades that are smaller and less curved than shovels. Their handles tend to be 48” or less.

Compare and Contrast

So, although you can use either a shovel or a spade for picking up piles of dirt, if you’re trying to do something specific, you want to be judicious in your selection. The major variance between a shovel vs spade isn’t just the blade shape, but also the angle of the handle.

Shovels tend to be forward-angling in relationship to its blade. This is what makes it good for picking up soil, getting passed weeds or cutting into grass. The squareness of spades is topnotch for creating straight lines.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Both comprise a myriad of materials, thereby influencing the tool’s weight and your ability to handle it. So, it’s important to study and research what’s available on the market. Consider whether it’s right for you, especially if you suffer from certain physical conditions, like back pain or arthritis.

Generally speaking, spades need to be strong because of their straight usage. A steel blade with a wooden handle is what’s most common. Shovels are where materials can vary as they range from steel and wood to all plastic because they are under less stress than spades.

The types of materials can make or break your gardening projects and worth looking into, especially if it’s an area of concern. Remember, it’s always a good idea to invest in a shovel or spade that’s going to last you a long time. If you can avoid it, don’t buy something that will bend or break after one use; it will be a total waste of money.

Also, when considering what and which tool to buy, know that neither is more expensive than the other. It’s the quality of the product that’s going to make the difference in price. It’s clear that a plastic shovel is going to cost less than a well-cast spade.

Don’t forget about the kind of storage space you have available. This may be the biggest factor in determining what you end up buying. Ask yourself, “Which one will benefit me most?”

If you live in a small apartment or townhouse, a spade may be all you’re able to get. But if you live on several acres or have a large backyard, then getting both a spade and a shovel will work for you.

If money isn’t an issue for you, then it may be a good idea to buy both a spade and shovel. But if money is an outstanding obligation, think this one out before plunging into a decision.

Properly using Spades and Shovels

Spades and shovels have a similar fashion of use. Put the tip into the ground, place your foot on the step (the top part of the blade) and push it into the earth. The difference here will be the angle at which you do this. Spades will be straight down and shovels go at an angle.

Before continuing, please take notice and choose appropriate footwear. Hiking boots or sturdy tennis shoes are best. DO NOT wear things like flimsy slippers or soft sandals.

Don’t use a shovel when trying to tear up and remove roots or gravel as this may damage or bend the pointed tip. Likewise, don’t use a spade if you’re digging deep holes into the earth to break up the soil. It will end up being more work than its worth.

Keep all your gardening tools in good condition by rinsing them off with a hose after each use. Once in a while use a little soap, especially if you end up doing very dirty, muddy projects. Along with drying them well will ensure they won’t rust and allow for many years of use.

To recap, shovels are for digging and spades are for cutting. If you are working with a small, tight area, choose the spade. If you have a large space where a lot of dirt needs to move, go with a shovel.

Both scoop up piles of material transported from one area to another. The method employed for use is similar, in that you put your foot on the top part of the blade. Other than that, they have vast differences deserving of a little planning and forethought.

Some patience, diligence and a little research will give you better peace of mind in the end. Knowing more about the difference between shovels and spades, you can make a better decision best suited to you and your gardening projects. Good tools make for better quality and more control over the results. 

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