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What Are The Different Types of Shovels & Their Uses?

We have put together a simple guide on the different types of garden shovels to help you choose the right one for your task
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When it comes to gardening the last thing people think about is shovels. In order to take care of your plants and your yard efficiently, you will need the right tools to get the job done.

There are a lot of different shovels on the market all crafted for specific tasks in the yard and garden. Picking the right one will mean the difference between a day full of hard labor and a simple digging project.

In addition to specialty shovels, there are many made to be multi-functional.

If you are not sure where to start, we can help, we have put together a simple guide on garden shovels to help you choose the right one for your task.

The Anatomy of a Shovel

There are a few different parts to a shovel that can greatly affect how useful they are for any one task. Let’s talk about the parts and their importance.

  • Shovel Tip – This is the bottom part of the shovel, basically the edge of the blade. There are different shapes that are determined by the intended use of the shovel. Some are good for digging and cutting while others may be better for moving and scooping.
  • Shovel Grip– This is the top of the shovel, and it is attached to the shaft. It can come in various materials such as plastic, wood, or metal. Occasionally there may not be a handle and the shovel will be handled directly. The most common type of grip is a D-Shaped grip.
  • Shovel Blade – This is the part of the shovel that will be touching the ground. In most cases, it is made from aluminum or metal. Specialty shovels may also have blades made from plastic or fiberglass. Shapes vary depending on the intended usage.
  • Shovel Collar – This is the part of the tool where the shaft and the blade meet. The collar secures the two sections, and it is important that it has a sturdy design. Most often this part is connected with a screw or rivet and can be replaced if needed.
  • Shovel Shaft– The shaft is the long stick or pole portion of the shovel that everything else is attached to. It is used to hold all of the other parts together and also as a mechanism for leverage during your labor. Most often this part of the shovel is made from fiberglass, metal, or wood. The most durable is metal, while wood shafts are the most common and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Shovel Kickplate – The place under the edge of the blade where you place your foot is the kickplate. This allows you to add pressure to break through to earth or whatever surface you may be working on. While most shovels feature a kick plate, there are some that do not have them.

Power Shovel

A power shovel is used to move snow or works similar to a jackhammer. Unlike traditional shovels, these use electricity or gas as a power source. If you are looking to clear away snow or if you need to dig in severely impacted soil, a power shovel is a great option. Most gardeners won’t need this type of shovel unless compacted soil is a common problem in your area.

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Edging Shovel

When you want to make neat borders around the edge of your garden or lawn, then an edging shovel will come in handy. The shaft of this shovel is very long, and it also has a straight footplate.

Edging Shovel
Edging Shovel

The bottom of the shovel features a metal half circle and it also has a flat, sharp blade. This shovel allows you to create clearly defined edges by pressing the tool straight down into the soil. You can also use it off purpose to break plant roots, but be careful to avoid damaging healthy plants.

Root Shovel

These shovels feature triangular blades that are elongated. Their overall design may vary depending on your needs with some having flat tips while others have pointed tips.

Root Shovel
Root Shovel

The side of the blade of a root shovel is serrated which helps them to cut through roots under the soil. They are used most often to uproot plants, trees, or in many cases larger weeds.

Flat Shovel

Flat shovels are mostly used to scoop soil or other materials. They have a slightly concave, flat blade that looks like a square. If you have soil, gravel, or other materials to load, a flat blade shovel is a perfect tool.

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Trench Shovel

A ditch shovel and a trenching shovel are both the same tool. They are mainly used to clean or make deeper trenches as well as to dig shallow trenches on your property. The blade of this shovel is narrow with a pointed tip.

Trench Shovel
Trench Shovel

The blade is attached at an angle and also tends to be longer than other shovel blades. There is only a small footplate and this tool is powered mainly by pure arm strength.

Round Digger Shovel

If you are looking to dig a hole in soft soil, a round digger shovel is a great option. The blade has curved edges and the tip is also curved which allows you to pierce the ground quite easily.

Round Digger Shovel
Round Digger Shovel

This type of shovel is used most often to make holes in the ground for new plants or trees. It works best in soft to medium soil. It has a long handle and plenty of space to apply pressure with your foot.

Tree-Planting Shovel

Planting trees may seem easy, but there are actually special shovels made just for that purpose. The blade of this shovel has a pointed or curved tip and the blade itself is very narrow.

Tree-Planting Shovel
Tree-Planting Shovel

This makes creating different-sized holes easy. Shafts come in many sizes, the shorter ones being used most often on hills while the longer ones are most often used on the flat ground.

Pointed Digger Shovel

Compacted soil needs a tough shovel, and that is where the pointed digger shovel comes in handy. It features a blade that has a slightly curved edge paired with a sharp pointed tip. The long shaft and wide footplate make pushing through hard soil and gravel much easier than with other types of shovels.

Handheld Shovel

These are smaller shovels that can be used for a variety of things. Handheld shovels include garden spades, garden shovels, hand trowels, hand shovels, and more.

Handheld Shovel
Handheld Shovel

They are just as the name implies, small shovels that can be held in one hand for detailed garden work. Most are six inches or less and come in a variety of shapes and designs depending on the intended usage.

Post Hole Shovel

This double shovel is used to dig holes for fence post. There are two shovel heads that have curved tips facing inwards. They are attached to each other and form a sort of circular shape. They are also very sharp on the tips and edges so they can cut through the ground, roots, and anything else in the way. This shovel is only used to dig post holes or holes for planting.

Snow Shovel

Snow shovels have long shafts and a large vertically curved, rectangular blade. The material of the blade is usually plastic or metal with a wooden handle. The scooped angle of the shovel blade allows for easy scooping of the snow, so it can be transported to other areas. The handle can be made from any material and usually is paired with a firm grip to prevent slippage.

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Choosing The Right Shovel For Your Garden

Buying a shovel is not as serious as buying a new car, but it does take a bit of planning if you want an effective tool. Think about how you plan to use the shovel before choosing which type you will purchase.

Many shovels are made to handle specific tasks, so buying one that meets your needs is the best way to get the job done with less effort. If you need to make holes for a fence post, for example, you can buy a post hole shovel. If you are in need of trenches in your yard, it would be a better idea to purchase a trenching shovel.

Of course, you can always buy a multi-purpose shovel if you plan to tackle a variety of projects in your yard or garden.

The shape of the blade is also important. Think about the soil type where you plan to dig. For harder soil, you will need a sharper blade, for loose soils, flat-edged blades will suffice. Shovels also come in a wide assortment of shapes, sizes, materials, and weights. Always choose a shovel properly sized for the person who will be using it.

There is no point in buying a very heavy shovel for a person with a slight build as it will be difficult to use. Choose a good quality material that will stand up to the type of work you plan to engage in. Once you have selected all these options, buy a shovel that meets your needs within your budget.

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Robin owns his own Landscape Gardening company based in the UK and has over 10 years professional experience working outdoors, creating beautiful landscapes for his clients in the UK. He is also a keen garden-grower and maintains his own fruit and vegetable gardens. He also has a level 3 Certificate in Practical Horticulture from The Royal Horticultural Society and is currently working on his first book about gardening. Contact him at Robin@gardenbeast.com

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