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Charlie Nardozzi

Professional Gardening Expert

Best Garden Shovels & Best Gardening Shovel

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The shovel is the workhorse in the garden. While most people think the words shovel and spade are interchangeable, there is a difference. Spades are typically short handled with a square blade. They are meant for edging and dividing plants. The traditional garden shovel is an all-purpose, long or short-handled tool with a pointy-tipped blade that’s meant for digging holes and moving soil and materials.

When buying a garden shovel consider the usage. Long handled shovels have good leverage. They are best for digging large holes for trees and shrubs or throwing piles of topsoil or sand long distances. Short handled shovels, usually with a D-shaped grip, are best for working in tight places, digging smaller holes and moving soil short distances.

Handles are a matter of personal preference. Most wooden shovels are made from a hardwood such as northern ash. If cared for properly, they can last for years. Newer designs use stronger fiberglass handles that are less likely to snap under pressure.

Most professional-grade shovels have a solid shank construction. Solid-shank tools have both blade and socket forged from a single piece of metal with a crimped piece of metal wrapped around the handle. The solid-shank construction is stronger at precisely the point where the greatest forces are exerted on the tool - the fulcrum. They also prevent soil from building up behind the blade. Many of these shovels are more expensive but pack a lifetime warranty.

Most consumer-grade shovels have either closed or open back construction. Open back shovels are usually stamped from a metal sheet that's rolled over to create a depression called a frog. Though less durable than the solid-shank tools, open-back construction produces a lighter, less fatiguing and less expensive tool. Closed back shovels are similar to open backed version but have a piece of metal on the back for extra strength and to prevent soil buildup.

Finally, there are ergonomically designed shovels that exert less pressure on your back when digging. These long handled tools also come with comfort grips for easier holding, an oversized step for easier pushing of the shovel into the soil and are lighter weight.

The bottom line is if you’re doing a lot of digging in heavy soil, moving stones and cutting roots, get a long-handled, solid shank tool. If you’re working mostly in tight quarters, choose a short handled shovel. For general, all-purpose use digging the occasional hole, moving small piles of soil and sod and forming garden beds, choose an open or closed back tool.

The best garden shovels are essential for planting and other gardening tasks. We suggest the best gardening shovel, considering whether you need a long handled shovel for more leverage or a short handled shovel to work in tight spaces.

Best Garden Shovels by Charlie Nardozzi

The Best You Can Get

  • Fiskars Long Handled Digging Shovel

    Charlie says: This shovel is heavy and heavy duty. The one-piece, all-steel construction makes for an easy to use, strong shovel with no breaks or splinters. The powder coated blade resists rust and is welded to the shaft for extra strength. At 5.6 pounds, it’s a little heavier than other long handled shovels, but definitely tough.

    • All steel construction
    • Oversized step
    • 49-inch, teardrop shaped handle for easier gripping
    • Lifetime warranty
  • Nupla Heavy Duty Round Point Shovel

    Charlie says: This heavy-duty shovel is used in professions such as mining, railroad, and electrical work. Its unique fiberglass design and construction fuses the handle and blade together eliminating the need for rivets. While the nuplaglass handle core is strong and lighter than other long handled fiberglass shovels, the overall shovel is a little heavier than other similar, long handled versions. The blade is larger than other similar shovels and can move 17% more volume.

    • 48-inch, fiberglass reinforced handle
    • Handle and blade fused together - no need for riveting
    • Large forward turning step
    • Large blade
    • Lifetime warranty
  • Razorback Point Shovel

    Charlie says: This contractor’s grade shovel features closed back blade construction with a crimped steel collar and extended socket for extra strength. The forward turned, rolled step makes for easier digging and moving of soil. This shovel is especially designed for digging in heavy clay and hardpan soils.

    • 48-inch wooden or fiberglass handle, short handled version available
    • Closed back construction
    • Extended socket
    • Rolled Step to prevent soil buildup
  • Super-D Shark Tooth Extended-Length Short Handled Shovel

    Charlie says: This shovel isn’t to be messed with. With a 38-inch long handle, it’s eight inches longer than the standard short handled shovels. The extra length gives you more leverage and puts less stress on your lower back. The solid shank construction of the jagged edged, 12-gauge steel blade makes this an excellent shovel to cut through roots, or to move small stones and heavy clods of soil.

    • 38-inch fiberglass handle
    • Shark-tooth jagged digging teeth
    • D-shaped handle
  • True Temper Round Point Excavator Shovel

    Charlie says: This shovel features a shield-shaped, solid shank blade that’s designed for easier lifting and leveraging when digging. The blade has a crimped metal socket. The cushion grips are easier on your hands and provide more leverage and control.

    • 54-inch long, ergonomically designed shovel with wooden handle
    • Short handled version available
    • Cushion grips
    • Large, forward turned step
    • Lifetime warranty

You will be happy with any of these

  • Ames Viper Round Point Short Handled Shovel

    Charlie says: This short handled tool works well for digging in tight places. The D-shaped grip encases the wooden handle completely to prevent twisting while working. The extended blade socket gives the handle more strength making it less likely to break when moving heavy objects. The 47-inch, long handled version features a textured fiberglass handle that reduces hand fatigue.

    • 30-inch handle
    • Viper D-grip for extra gripping
    • Closed back construction
    • Extended blade socket
    • Comes in long handled version
  • Jackson Round Point Shovel

    Charlie says: This straightforward, well-made shovel features solid wooden handle, rust and stick proof-treated, 15 gauge, forged 12-inch blade and an extended “Power Step” with raised tread for easier digging. The blade also has a smooth back to prevent soil buildup.

    • 48-inch wooden handle
    • Comes in a short handled version
    • Texture-coated tempered steel blade
    • Open back construction
    • Extended front turned step
  • Rigid Round Point Shovel

    Charlie says: This rugged contractor-grade shovel has an extended socket and multiple rivets for added leverage and strength. Shovel blades and shanks are one-piece and rust proofed. The heavy-duty fiberglass handles are stronger and longer lasting than the wooden handles.

    • 48-inch handle comes in fiberglass or wood
    • Comes in short handled version
    • 14 gauge, tapered, slip resistant blades
    • Multiple rivets attach handle to blade
    • Lifetime warranty
  • Toolite Shovel

    Charlie says: This unique shovel features pea-sized holes in the blade. Not only does the design make this shovel lighter (three pounds) than other long handled tools, it allows water to seep through the holes when digging in wet, clay soils or working in water gardens. It’s also good for sifting through sand. The design makes the shovel easier to lift and move heavy soils with less strain. Though pricey, it’s great for specialized work.

    • 48-inch long fiberglass handle
    • Cushioned grip
    • Closed back construction
    • Pea-sized holes in blade
  • Union Floral Shovel

    Charlie says: This is a good tool for digging in tight spaces. It’s good for working with perennial flowers and small shrubs on lighter soils. The smaller size and lighter weight (2.5 pounds) makes it a great tool for younger and less powerful gardeners.

    • 43-inch wood handle
    • Smaller, 8.25” x 6”, blade size
    • Lightweight
    • Open back construction
    • Forward turned step

Related Articles

The best garden shovels depend on what your task is. The best gardening shovel for tight quarters is a short-handled shovel that can maneuver the space. For big jobs, the best garden shovels have long handles for the best leverage. Part of our best garden equipment recommendations, these gardening shovel choices are always the best price.