The best garden spades and shovels can become a gardener's friend for life. We’ve chosen a selection of high-quality options below, designed for a range of different outdoor tasks.
The best garden spades and shovels are hard-wearing and weather resistant, but certain models are better suited to specific jobs, so it’s worth considering your upcoming tasks before buying one. Alternatively, you could opt for a multi-purpose spade or shovel if you want something a little more versatile.
What is the difference between a spade and shovel?
Generally, spades are designed for digging into soil and tough ground, so they have sharp, flat blades, sometimes with footplates to help you press down. They’re usually reserved for tough jobs like digging holes and breaking up dense soil. The flat blade is also ideal for creating neat border edges.
Meanwhile, shovels are useful for ‘shovelling’ garden materials, so they have a more curved head with a pointed front to scoop up loose items.
How to choose the best garden spade and shovel
The best garden spade and shovel for you depends on the type of jobs you’ll be doing. There are specific models designed to cut through tough or stony ground, or protect you when digging near pipes. You can also get options for moving plants, working in small pots or flower beds and creating holes for trees or fence posts.
There are shorter, lightweight spades and shovels designed for women, and models with longer shafts to reduce back strain in taller gardeners.
We’ve highlighted some of the best garden spades and shovels for particular uses below; keep scrolling to browse.
What is the best material for a spade?
When choosing a garden spade or shovel, you’ll need to consider the construction of both the head and the shaft. Most heads are made from strong stainless steel, which cuts well through compact or clay soil. Spades with carbon steel heads tend to be a bit tougher and lighter, so they could be a good option for smaller gardeners - although they can rust if left outside.
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As for the shafts, you’ll usually have a choice of metal and wood. While wooden handles - ashwood in particular - are the traditional choice and better at absorbing shock, metal shafts are stronger and won’t splinter. Alternatively, you could go for a lighter option like plastic or fibreglass, but these can snap under pressure.
What type of shovel is best for digging?
There are lots of shovels you can use for digging as well as scooping up garden materials. You can get trenching and post hole shovels for specific outdoor tasks, but a flat-edged model is a versatile choice for digging and edging in relatively soft soil. If you need to cut into tougher ground, be sure to go for a shovel with a pointed head.
It’s also worth choosing a design with a long shaft to reduce the strain on your back while digging.
Is a round or square shovel better?
The answer to this question depends on the jobs you’ll be doing. Round and square shovels work well in soft soil, but you’ll need a pointed blade for compacted or stony ground.
Choose a round shovel for transplanting or digging, and reserve the square shovel for edging and moving large plants. Remember, you’ll need a scooped design for shovelling loose materials like gravel and mulch.
The best shovels and garden spades in 2022
Burgon and Ball National Trust spade
Best for style and strength
This beautiful yet durable spade is part of the National Trust’s collection of gardening tools with Burgon and Ball. Finished with beautiful antique bronze colouring, it has a traditional look and would look great cottage gardens and other period homes.
This spade also comes with some impressive features. The head is made from a single piece of high-carbon steel for extra strength. In fact, the makers have tested the spade up to a breaking strain of 100kg, which is 82% more than standard British models.
Added extras include the wide foot treads to help you dig, and the FSC-approved ashwood shaft.
Sneeboer transplanting spade
Best for transplanting
The unusual shape of this spade makes it ideal for transplanting items in your flower beds without damaging the surrounding plants. It’s perfect for tight spaces like compact borders and veg patches.
The design features wide footplates for pushing the blade down into the soil, as well as a long FSC-approved ash handle, so it should be fairly easy to use.
Sneeboer crafts the head from rust-resistant stainless steel and sharpens it by hand.
Niwaki Golden shovel
Best for general use
Finished in an eye-catching golden tone, this shovel would make a smart addition to any toolshed. It’s also a very robust option, created by gardening experts Niwaki.
The blade includes a strong pointed tip, which will help you cut down into compact earth and access specific areas.
This version is 97.2cm long, but you can also get Niwaki’s short golden spade, which is 82cm in length.
Pedigree rabbiting spade
Best for digging holes for trees and fence posts
This lightweight rabbiting spade is specifically designed for creating deep holes, so it’s ideal if you need to transplant trees or install fence posts. You could also use it for precise digging tasks in busy borders or veg patches.
The blade is made from polished stainless steel with a textured footplate for pressing it down into the soil. It’s finished with an FSC-approved solid ash shaft, which should help absorb any impact and vibrations as you dig.
DeWit ladies spade
Best for women and smaller gardeners
A spade with a traditional look, this design features a dark steel head and a European ash T-handle. It’s slightly smaller and lighter than some of the other options on the market, yet it doesn’t compromise on strength and durability.
The head is forged from a single piece of steel and there are no welded areas or potential weak spots. Also, the makers have sharpened the blade to help it break into rough ground.
RHS Burgon and Ball ladies groundbreaker spade
Best for cutting through compact earth
The RHS has partnered with Burgon and Ball to create this groundbreaker spade, so you can be sure it’s a high-quality piece.
Thanks to its short shaft and lightweight construction, this model is ideal for women and other small gardeners. The pointed, mirror-polished blade should also make it easier to cut into compacted or clay soil.
The shaft is made from FSC-certified ashwood, while the head is rust-resistant stainless steel.
Bulldog ‘Powerbreaker’ Insulated Digging Shovel
Best for protection against pipes and cables
Here’s a specialised bit of kit for protecting you when digging near pipes and cables. It’s extra hard-wearing and has been tested to withstand 10,000 volts.
The handle is one piece of fibreglass, and the blades are carefully designed with rounded corners, which reduces the chance of damaging pipes and cables if you hit them.
Gardener’s Mate Digging Spade
Best for tough digging tasks
With a price tag under £20, this digging spade is one of the more affordable options on the market - yet it’s still made from durable materials.
It comes with an ash wood shaft and a soft rubber handle for extra grip, and the head is made from carbon coated steel, so it’s protected against rust.
The size of the shovel head makes it well suited to a range of different garden tasks in large soil areas. We like its simple, traditional design - especially the ergonomic handle.
Kent & Stowe Stainless Steel Digging Shovel
Best for reducing back strain
At around 110cm in length, this digging shovel is slightly longer than many of the other options on our list. It’s a practical choice for taller gardeners or anyone who wants to avoid back pain.
This classic design from Kent and Stowe includes a wide shovel head, which is ideal for digging and soil turning. The ash handle has smoothed rivets for maximum comfort and there's a large tread on the blade to keep your feet comfortable as you dig.
Fiskars Digging Head Digging Shovel
Best for tough, stony ground
Fiskars gives you a bit of choice when it comes to buying this digging shovel. It comes with either a pointed or a rounded head, so you can select the best option for you. The sharp version will work well in tough or stony soil, while the curved blade is great for shovelling.
This shovel also comes in two different sizes. The small is 108cm long, while the larger version has a length of 120cm, which makes it one of the largest shovels available to buy online.
If you choose this shovel, you’ll get a steel blade and a reinforced fibreglass handle with an ergonomic D-shaped top for grip.
Sneeboer Great Dixter perennial spade
Best for precise jobs in compact spaces
If you’re after a small and lightweight tool for slightly fiddly jobs, this option could be right for you. At 56cm long, it’s around half the size of most spades, and the head is just 12.5cm by 14cm.
Thanks to the scooped head with a pointed edge, this spade is perfect for digging and moving soil and mulch.
As for construction, you’ll get an FSC-certified solid ash shaft and a corrosion-resistant stainless steel head, so it should stand the test of time.
Katie is a Staff Writer for HomeStyle magazine and YourHomeStyle.uk. She previously worked on Gardens Illustrated magazine and has written for various other lifestyle magazines and brands. She particularly enjoys writing about indie and eco homeware brands, interior styles through the ages, urban gardening, and decor hacks for small spaces. She is also responsible for HomeStyle's buyer's guides, so you'll often find her testing out the latest homeware gadgets and kitchen appliances.
Alice is a digital writer with a knack for tracking down the most innovative and exciting products to hit the market. Working across several of Our Media's special interest brands, she's written for publications including Countryfile, Gardens Illustrated and Science Focus. Outside of work - and lusting over homeware and gardening products - you’ll find her rambling in the great outdoors or watching an old film.
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