The smell of freshly turned earth, the weight of a sturdy shovel, and the view of healthy bedding plants just waiting to be placed tenderly into the ground can be a source of joy for many gardeners.
A reliable garden shovel can be used for many outdoor digging tasks, such as digging holes for fencing, shoveling down to mend a broken pipe, or trenching a new irrigation system. To find the best shovel for your digging jobs, keep reading and explore some of the best tools on the market that are listed below.
- BEST OVERALL: BULLY TOOLS Round Point Shovel
- RUNNER UP: Nupla Round Point Shovel
- BEST TRENCHING SHOVEL: Radius Garden Root Slayer Drain Spade
- BEST TREE PLANTING SHOVEL: Roamwild Multi-Digger Garden Spade
- BEST MINI SHOVEL: Z & G D Handle Shovels for Digging
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Shovel
Before choosing one or more gardening shovels to help maintain the yard and garden, consider the following factors, including shovel type, material, construction, length, weight, and grip. With more information about these product factors, it’s much easier to determine the best shovels for planting gardens, trees, or shrubs.
While most people have experience with a round-point or flat-head digging shovel, there are actually many more shovel types to consider. Based on blade shapes, handle design, and purpose, shovels can include digging shovels, trenching shovels, tree-planting shovels, edging shovels, mini shovels, trowels, spades, scoops, and post-hole diggers.
- Digging shovels have a concave blade that typically includes a small flattened platform (collar), where the user can rest a foot for extra force when pushing the tool into the ground. Square digging shovels are useful for edging, transplanting shrubs and perennials, and trenching. Tools with a pointed tip are great for breaking up hard-packed soil, while round tips are ideal for softer soil and transplanting.
- Trenching shovels have long, narrow blades that come to a slight point. These handy tools are built for digging trenches to install or repair irrigation systems, or for digging drains.
- Tree planting shovels, as indicated by the name, are intended for quickly and effectively digging holes to plant trees. These shovels have a similar shape as trenching shovels, with narrow, curved blades and a pointed tip that penetrates through tough dirt to dig out circular holes for transplanting trees.
- Edging shovels aren’t made for digging. Instead, these shovels have broad semicircle blades and a straight footplate that’s used to edge the lawn or garden. The blade cuts away the lawn or soil, creating a clean border that prevents grass from spreading to the garden or pathway and also stops the spread of weeds from the garden into the lawn.
- Mini shovels are essentially similar to full-size shovels but with shorter shafts and slightly smaller blades that give the user better maneuverability in tight spaces. Some mini shovels also have the ability to fold in half, making them much easier to pack for a campsite.
- Trowels are small, handheld garden shovels with a narrow rounded or pointed shovel blade. The shafts are only about 6 inches in length, but the small size is ideal for digging up weeds in the garden without harming the surrounding plants. They are also useful for digging small holes for new plants.
- Spades have a flat-edged blade that’s perfect for cutting through roots or tough soil. Spades also are useful for moving small amounts of dirt, garden debris, or soil amendments, because like a shovel, the blade is normally somewhat concave. Spades often have a collar for adding extra foot power when needed.
- Scoops have large, flat blades with sidewalls to keep the contents in place. Garden scoops aren’t for digging, but they’re the tool of choice for moving large piles of dirt, soil amendments, leaves, and other debris, gravel, and mulch.
- Post-hole diggers have a unique appearance that resembles two shovels connected at the shaft. The blades of the shovels are long and narrow, and they face each other, forming a scoop that can lift dirt straight up and out of a narrow hole.
Blade Material and Construction
Almost all digging shovels and garden spades have steel blades. Steel is heavier and more durable than aluminum. While aluminum is prone to denting and bending, it is less expensive and better at resisting rust. If you are considering a shovel with steel blades, look for models with a rust-resistant coating.
Low-end shovels generally have stamped steel blades, meaning the blade and attachment to the shaft was machine-stamped from a sheet of steel. High-quality shovels have forged blades, meaning the blade started as a single piece of heated steel that was then hammered into shape. Forged blade tools are more expensive, but they also last longer.
Shaft Length and Material
Garden shovels, spades, and scoops usually have a shaft between 44 and 48 inches long, which is a comfortable length for most people. There are also shorter shovels and spades, with shafts somewhere between 18 and 24 inches in length. Longer shafts generally provide better leverage and are easier on the user’s back. When working in a confined area, a short shovel is usually the better choice.
The most common shaft materials for shovels are wood, fiberglass, and steel.
- Wood is usually the most affordable option, but these shovels may not stand up to tough jobs. Wood is prone to splintering and snapping from heavy use or age, and wood also is not as weatherproof.
- Steel is the heaviest type of shaft and is usually chosen for heavy-duty applications.
- Fiberglass is lighter than steel or wood, and it’s more flexible. It’s also durable and better at resisting rust and extreme temperatures as well.
Handle and Grip
Well-designed shovels have a handle and grip that provide good traction, protect against blisters, and limit hand fatigue. On longer tools, the grip is most often made of heavy plastic or rubber. Ergonomic tools have a textured grip, providing a more secure hold on the shovel.
Some shovels simply have a grip built into the shaft, others have a D-shaped or round handle, and a few have textured grips on both the shaft and the handle. D-shaped and round handles allow you to grasp the top of the shovel with one hand and the shaft with another for more leverage.
Most full-length garden shovels and spades weigh between 5 and 8 pounds, while some handheld tools weigh 2 pounds or less. Shovels containing fiberglass and aluminum fall on the lower end, while wood and steel shovels have more weight.
Consider a shovel’s weight carefully. A shovel may be heavier due to the materials that make it more durable in tough applications. While those extra pounds may be worth it in some situations, a few extra pounds can make a noticeable difference after several hours of yard work. Ultimately, the ideal weight depends on the user’s own strength and endurance.
Our Top Picks
The top products below have been selected based on the criteria mentioned above, including the material, blade, shaft, handle, grip, weight, type, and overall quality of the shovel. Take a look at the list below to determine if one of these shovels is the right pick for planting a garden in your yard.
When it’s time to get digging, reach for the BULLY TOOLS Round Point Shovel with its 14-gauge steel blade and a robust fiberglass shaft. This shovel is reinforced at the neck and handle for long-lasting durability. Even with its lighter weight, it’s got the strength to break through tough soil, lift pebble-filled dirt, and chip away at soil, grass, or roots.
The BULLY TOOLS shovel is 44 inches long, with a D-shaped polyethylene plastic handle. At less than 5 pounds, this all-purpose gardening tool is light enough to wield comfortably even for lengthy tasks in a garden and around the yard.
- Lightweight fiberglass handle
- Sturdy steel blade
- Nonslip grip on handle
- Bends on top of blade support feet for pushing
- Rounded handle at top might be awkward for some
- Rounded blade is wide and not suitable for postholes
Made to be a utility shovel for maintaining the yard, this versatile round-point shovel by Nupla is an inexpensive tool that can be used effectively in almost any garden. The shovel has a 4-foot-long fiberglass shaft that’s both firm and flexible when necessary, helping to lift heavy piles of dirt from the ground without breaking.
The shaft and handle have a polypropylene outer layer that’s comfortable to grip and easy to control. Though it isn’t the best option for tasks like edging or post-hole digging, this 4.4-pound shovel uses a stainless steel blade for digging, scooping, and cutting through sod and roots.
- Affordable tool
- Weighs only 4.4 pounds
- Stainless steel blade
- Good first utility shovel
- Handle might not hold up to heavy use or big jobs
- Not the best option for edging or posthole digging
The Radius Garden trenching shovel is specifically made for cutting through compacted dirt, clay, and roots to dig deep, narrow trenches for irrigation drainage, and underground sprinkler systems. To help cut through tough roots and penetrate into the soil, this trenching shovel has a V-shaped blade with serrated edges.
This blade is made with powder-coated carbon steel, and the shovel shaft is made with durable, resin-encased fiberglass. The shovel weighs just over 8 pounds and extends to just under 4 feet in length. Topping this shovel is a comfortable nonslip handle that helps users better grip and control the shovel.
- Narrow blade works well for digging trenches and postholes
- Blade’s V-shaped tip and serrated edges rip through weeds
- Durable blade made of powder-coated carbon steel
- Includes comfortable, nonslip handle
- Not the best option for digging big holes or scooping
- More a specialty tool than a multipurpose one
The Roamwild tree-planting shovel is a high-end product that comes with a few features that more basic shovels don’t offer. This shovel weighs about 5 pounds and has a padded, dual-grip handle that’s easy for users to grip and control. The design is intended to drive all of the user’s power into the ground where the steel blade can penetrate through the soil and cut through any roots to quickly and effectively dig holes that are ideal for replanting trees.
One side of the blade is serrated so that it can saw through thick roots that would otherwise get in the way of the new tree or bush. For added control and support, the reinforced fiberglass shaft is equipped with two padded grips and simple air holes cut into the handle to reduce the overall weight of the shovel, making it easier to wield.
- Premium shovel for multiple uses
- Design made for tough digging
- Serrated edge on one blade side to cut through roots
- Padded, dual-grip handle for grip and control
- Costs more than most shovels
- More spade than shovel, so the blade holds less
Short-handled shovels are useful when working in tight spots where wielding a longer shovel is impractical or impossible. With this mini shovel, gardeners can easily dig holes, move dirt, apply compost, or remove stubborn weeds with ease. The shovel has a strong metal shaft and a rust-resistant steel head.
This flat-head shovel is topped with a D-shaped nonslip grip to keep the user’s hands from cramping during work. A sharpened edge saves some effort when breaking up compacted soil. The mini shovel is a bit under 30 inches from top to bottom and weighs just under 2 pounds.
- Short handle is easy to maneuver in tight spaces
- Rust-resistant steel head
- Sharp blade edge for easy digging
- Square blade makes for quick pickup of dirt
- Short handle can cause back strain in taller users
- Big for planting flowers; small for big jobs
To properly maintain the yard and garden, it’s typically necessary to have at least one shovel to help with cutting roots, digging, slicing turf, edging, trenching, and more. For a multipurpose shovel, it’s hard to go wrong with the BULLY TOOLS Round Point Shovel. For specialty projects, look to the Radius Garden Root Slayer Drain Spade for digging narrow trenches or holes.
How We Chose the Best Shovels
We arrived at these top picks by looking at shovel type, durability and construction, tool weight, and the handle and grip design. Steel is the most durable choice for the blade and shaft. A combination of fiberglass in a handle and steel for the shaft and blade help add to durability while keeping the shovel as light as possible. That matters, since scooping up a load of soil adds a few extra pounds.
Comfort and grip matter and can help reduce fatigue when working on big outdoor projects. The grip and handle length also affect control, which matters most when digging in tough terrain or creating deep postholes. Most of these shovels have padded grips or are designed for two-handed use.
We looked at common uses for shovels and spread our choices out to cover some specialty types of spades, trowels, and shovels. We also selected a few multipurpose shovels for general outdoor use, especially when budget constraints or storage space require a one-tool-fits-all approach.
Shovels are simple tools, but they have a wide range of types and sizes that make them appropriate for a variety of different tasks, including gardening, planting bushes or shrubs, and digging fence post holes. For more information about these common gardening tools, read on to find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about shovels.
Q: What should I look for in a shovel?
Regardless of the shovel type, a strong, durable blade and shaft are important to ensure that the shovel can penetrate through tough soil without chipping or breaking. The size, weight, and blade shape should also be considered based on the task at hand. Read the “What to Consider” section above for more detailed information on shovel types and what to look for in a shovel.
Q: What is the best garden spade?
Lightweight, durable spades like the BULLY TOOLS Round Point Shovel are among the best garden spades available for cutting through roots and tough soil.
Why Trust Bob Vila
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series, including This Old House and Bob Vila’s Home Again, he popularized and became synonymous with “do it yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila editorial team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.
Michelle Ullman has been an avid gardener, DIYer, and home decorator for most of her life. She turned that passion into a freelance career and has been writing about just about everything related to home, garden, and lifestyle since 2011. Her writing has been published on many websites, including Better Homes & Gardens, Business Insider, The Spruce, and Investopedia.