There are so many types of shovels available that choosing the correct one for the job can make the difference between an easy and simple task and a long day of hard labor. Shovels are fantastic garden tools, and some get specially designed to tackle one job while others are more versatile workhorses that you can use for a host of garden activities.
To get a good understanding of the different types of shovels, you should also know about basic shovel anatomy. This way, you’ll get a clear picture of this handy device.
There are many types of shovels available, and it can surprise people when they figure out that they need more than one shovel for the job. Shoveling by Kristel Jax / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Breaking Down the Six Main Parts of a Shovel
Generally speaking, you can break a shovel down into six main components, and they all come together to form one sturdy garden tool that you can use for large or small projects around the house.
The blade is the lowest part of the tool, and this is what makes contact with the ground. Usually, the blade will feature aluminum or metal, but it can also come in plastic or fiberglass materials. Shovel blades come in a large range of sizes and shapes, and the blade design is one of the defining characteristics that sets various types of shovels apart when you shop.
The collar on your type of shovel is where the shaft and blade meet. Your collar should be very sturdy and secure or the shovel may snap during heavy work. The collar typically connects to the handle portion and shaft of your shovel using a screw or rivet. You can disconnect it if you want to replace the head. The blade typically comes with a much longer lifespan than the handle or shaft. So, if either of those parts break, you can purchase replacement ones and attach them to the old blade at the collar level.
The shovel’s grip is the uppermost part of the tool, and it attaches to the shaft. It can be plastic, wooden, or metal, but a lot of types of shovels don’t have a dedicated handle at all. Instead, you hold onto the shovel by gripping the top part of the shovel’s shaft. If the shaft is made out of fiberglass, you’ll have a grip handle attached to prevent you from getting splinters. A D-shaped handle is very common with shorter shovels and digging-style shovels, and they help to increase your grip.
The kickplate is the part of the shovel also called the step. It’s the uppermost portion of the blade where you can step on to apply more pressure, but not all types of shovels have it. You typically find this component on digging-style shovels where the additional weight of the person can help you dig deeper into the ground. Using a kickplate can help you get better results, and it makes the job much easier on you as the user because you can add your weight to help dig rather than relying solely on your back and arm muscles.
The shovel’s shaft is the long pole-like part of any type of shovel, and you use it as leverage when you dig. They’re usually made from metal, fiberglass, or wood. All of these materials come with benefits and drawbacks in terms of durability and use, and the type you pick out can come down to your budget or personal preference.
Metal shafts tend to be the strongest option and most long-lasting, but a lot of people choose wooden shafts because they’re more aesthetically pleasing and ergonomic with traditionalists. The length of the shaft will vary from shovel to shovel, and the shovel height should be a good match for your own height to make it comfortable to use.
Finally, the tip of your shovel is the lower edge of the blade that is furthest from the shaft. It can take on several shapes, depending on how you want to use your shovel. Flat tips work well for moving and scooping, and rounded or pointed tips work for digging and cutting.
14 Common Types of Shovels
Now that you know basic shovel anatomy, we’re going to highlight 14 popular and common types of shovels that can help you take on a whole host of projects around your house.
1. Edging Shovel
As the name suggests, you use this type of shovel to create neat edges or borders around your lawn, walkways, or flower beds. It has a longer shaft with a small metal semi-circle attached at the bottom. There is a straight footplate where you can use your feet to apply more pressure. The blade is flat and sharp, and you should press it directly straight down into the soil or lawn to get this neat edged effect.
The blade on this type of shovel is more shallow because it doesn’t need to be able to make deeper cuts to be effective. Many people mainly use these shovels for edging projects around their gardens and yards, but you can also use it for other tasks like breaking up shallow plant roots. Since these shovels have a smaller blade, they are ideal to use in smaller areas where you need to be specific to avoid harming the plants.
2. Flat Shovel
As you would imagine, a flat type of shovel comes with a flat blade. Any shovel that has this style of blade gets primarily used for scooping, and you’ll typically see something that looks like a squared-off spoon with slightly concave designs. This makes them better at carrying materials. They’re helpful for moving garden materials around, like mulch, soil, or gravel, and they’re great at loading up garden containers like wheelbarrows.
The flat blade means that it’s not the best option for digging, but they have a larger footplate that will help you add pressure and force your shovel’s blade into the ground. This is nice for any shallow digging tasks you have like cleaning out trenches or edging. If you want to use it for this project, you should have softer soil. It’s mostly used for spreading, scooping, and moving, but you can use it for other things too.
A flat shovel is usually one that is smaller in size, and they’re useful for taking on projects in restricted spaces. Shovel by Vienze Ziction / CC BY-NC 2.0
3. Folding Shovel
This is a smaller type of shovel that will bend in half to make them easily portable. They’re very useful to take with you on camping trips or for other outdoor pursuits where space is more limited. It’s also a good idea to store one in your trunk in your car for emergencies. Inexpensive folding-style shovels usually have a shorter life space and will snap or break easily. If you’re after longevity, you should invest in one that has all-steel construction. This also makes it suitable for heavy-duty use.
4. Handheld Shovel
This type of shovel goes by several names, including a garden trowel, garden shovel, hand trowel, hand shovel, and a garden spade. They work as a miniature shovel with a shorter shaft that is usually around six inches long. You can use them for several garden tasks, including removing plants, digging up weeds, and digging holes for your new plants.
The design on this type of shovel can vary from one to the next, but they all usually come with a slightly rounded or narrow blade that measures around four inches across. The blade on this shovel is usually convex, and this makes it very nice for scooping.
5. Pointed Digger Shovel
A pointed digger shovel is what you’ll want to have if you want to dig through compacted, tough soil types or rocky soil. This type of shovel has a blade that comes with a very pointed tip, and it has edges that curve upwards slightly. Both of these features give you a tool that is ideal for digging, and it can also hold the material you dig up.
The shovels come with a longer shaft to them, and it can be metal or wooden. The footplate is wider, and this allows you to bear down and use your weight to dig into denser and deeper soil than most shovels will let you do.
6. Post Hole Shovel
A post hole shovel is a double shovel, and you may hear it called a post hole digger. It features two shovels that get attached together, and they typically have narrow and long inwardly curving blades with curved tips. The shape of the blades can help the shovel slice through anything in the way, like tree roots. When you close them together, the blades create a cylindrical shape. You use this type of shovel to dig deep holes to insert your privacy fence posts into.
You do this by using the dig, pinch, and lift motion. It removes a cylinder of soil from the ground. If you have a series of post holes that you want to dig, this is a very worthwhile investment. It allows you to create your holes in a small fraction of the time compared to trying to do the same thing with a traditional shovel. It also creates very neat holes for a professional-looking and clean finish.
7. Power Shovel
There are two tools that go by the power shovel name. The first tool is a snow shovel that features electricity or gas power. These types of shovels come with blades that rotate to pick up and get rid of snow, and this allows you to clear a snow-covered driveway or sidewalk quickly. These are a lot more efficient than a traditional snow shovel, but they do come with a much higher price tag attached.
There is a lighter and smaller alternative to the more traditional snow blower. The second type of shovel in this category is a jackhammer with a shovel attachment. You use these devices to excavate the ground or dig holes and trenches in soil that is very compact. They are very useful as they are small enough to get into areas where you can’t with bigger machinery.
8. Root Shovel
Root types of shovels can have several designs, but they all typically come with an elongated triangular-shaped blade. The blades can come to a sharp point at the tip, or they can be cut off to give you a flatter tip. The side edges on the blade are usually serrated, and this will help you use a sawing motion to slice through roots on any established plants that you want to remove.
These shovels get designed specifically to help you with any tree removal projects you have coming up, either for disposal or transplanting. The blades work very well to cut through established, tough roots on older trees, and you can then remove them to allow room for new roots to spread and form. The shovels also work well for creating holes to settle your new trees or plants into.
9. Round Digger Shovel
A round digger type of shovel is a great tool for digging holes in softer soil. The blade has curved edges like you’d get on a pointed digger shovel, but the tip is also curved. It’s a great way to dig holes for your new trees or plants, and it also works well for transplanting bedding plants. However, if you’re someone with heavy clay soil or rocky soil, a round digger shovel can struggle to bite down into the earth deep enough.
Round digger shovels are arguably one of the most popular types of shovels available today, and you can choose from several sizes to match your needs. Just Shovels by Ken Mattison / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
10. Scoop Shovel
A scoop type of shovel comes with a much bigger blade than most shovels on the list, and it also has a slightly shorter shaft and handle. This helps the overall height come out to a regular size. The blade usually comes with a flat tip, but they can be rounded too. Scooped shovels also feature a scoop-shape with rigid side edges, and this helps you hold materials to move it from point A to point B. They work well for helping you move large amounts of material, including gravel, soil, debris, or mulch.
You can find scoop shovels made out of different materials, and aluminum scoop shovels usually come with a shorter lifespan than the more durable metal options. You should consider the material you’re going to scoop up before you purchase this type of shovel. The aluminum shovels may not last long, but they’re also lighter in design. This can make moving large amounts of material less strenuous.
11. Snow Shovel
If you live in a planting zone that gets snowfall once or twice a year, you most likely already know how essential a snow shovel is to have in your garage. These types of shovels come with longer shafts, and they can have a range of materials from plastic and wood to metal. The blade is rectangular, large, and vertically curved. This shape allows you to scoop snow up from your sidewalk or front steps and toss it away. Some snow shovels come outfitted with metal ridges or grooves along the tip of the blade to help remove snow and chip away at any ice.
You can find snow shovels that have blades made out of metal or plastic, and the blades can be a huge range of sizes. A large blade on a deep curved design with a sharp edge is the most effective for getting rid of snow. If you have a bigger area that you want to shovel, or if snow shoveling is something you do quite often, you may want to consider getting an ergonomic snow shovel.
These shovels can have a curved shaft, and this can help reduce back pain that comes from strain when you shovel snow. They can also come with extra handles attached along the shaft to help you adjust your grip to the most comfortable position possible. Ergonomic designs will come with ergonomic grip handles to make it easier on your palms.
12. Square Shovel
Square types of shovels come with a blade that has a flat end instead of a pointed one. This shovel style can come in great for trenching or edging tasks around the house, and they also work well for moving small bushes and shrubs. The square edge on this shovel’s blade is great for digging down into hard soil, so it’s great for anyone who lives in a dry area with much more compact soil.
13. Tree-Planting Shovel
As the name suggests, these types of shovels are specifically designed to help you plant trees, and it makes quick work of a project that could take much longer with other shovel types. It has a very narrow blade with a pointed or curved tip, and the narrow blade allows you to dig several sized holes by working your shovel into the ground in a circular shape. The shaft has varying sizes, depending on what you need for your project. The longer shafts are better for even and flat ground, and the shorter shafts are a better choice for working on sloped ground or hills.
These types of shovels can help you dig up a tree to transplant it, or you can use them to create a new hole to plant a tree. They look very similar to a trenching shovel, so you can double up the use to create shallow trenches where a long trench for a flower bed will work nice. You can use it to clear out debris or pebbles from bigger trenches.
14. Trench Shovel
The final type of shovel on the list is the trench or ditch shovel, and it has two main uses. First, you can use this shovel to dig shallow trenches, or you can use it to neaten up and clean out larger trenches that a more powerful tool has created. These shovels come with a very narrow and long blade with a pointed tip, and the blade is angled.
Since the blade is so narrow, you won’t get hardly any space for a foot plate. So, you can’t really drive the shovel into the ground using your weight. Instead, you’ll have to rely on your upper body strength. This means that attempting to dig anything other than a shallow trench can be very difficult. They’re a very popular tool with landscape gardeners.
Buying Guide for Different Types of Shovels
If you’re in the market for a new shovel, you should keep the following buying considerations in mind before you make a final choice. Buying the correct tool for the job will save you money and time while making life easier. Shovel by Quinn Dombrowski / CC BY-SA 2.0
The shape of the blade on any potential shovel will largely depend on which type of soil you have, so you have to know what you’re working with before you make a decision. Flat edged shovels work best when you have loose soil, and they also work well for edging and scooping. Round blades do well in newer or softer soils, and pointed blades are best for compacted or hard soil types.
The construction material of your intended type of shovel is vital, and the material you need depends on what you want to use it on. For more heavy-duty jobs, you’ll need a very durable and long-lasting shovel, like one made out of solid steel. If the entire shovel has one solid material, it won’t snap at the collar point when you dig it or lift things. The collar is the weakest point on most shovels. If you plan on using the shovel for light landscaping or gardening work, you can most likely get away with an aluminum one. It’s sturdy while weighing less.
A lot of premium types of shovels now feature titanium, and this has the benefit of being sturdier than steel and lightweight. Titanium will also resist rust and corrosion, and this allows it to last for years. They do come with a higher price tag, and this can be off-putting to some people. However, if you want a reliable shovel that will last for years, a titanium one is a great way to go.
You should also pay attention to which material the collar on your shovel is with the way the blade and the handle attach to the shaft. A bolt is the most durable option, and press-in connections or a screw joint won’t last more than one or two seasons.
There are several shovels available that get designed for specific projects in mind. If you’re someone who is an avid landscaper and likes having plenty of tools on-hand, then you should buy whatever shovel is specifically designed for your upcoming projects. So, you could have a post hole shovel for creating post holes and a trenching shovel for digging shallow trenches. However, if you’re someone who is fairly inexperienced and won’t spend a huge amount of time outside, you’re better off purchasing a higher-quality digging shovel.
If you get it right, a digging shovel can easily last for several years or decades, and you can use it for a huge range of yard and garden projects, including weeding, trenching, moving soil, and digging.
Size and Weight
Your shovel’s height is an important aspect to consider as it can prevent body strain in your shoulders and upper back. The ideal height of your type of shovel should be around four inches lower than our shoulder when you stand it straight up. The weight is also an important component to consider because a heavy shovel can tire you out quickly and a light shovel won’t be as durable. Thai is why some people buy various shovels for different projects, so they can customize the type of shovel they’re going to use for their specific project.
If you want to use your shovel to move a large amount of material, for example, a lightweight shovel is a better fit because you can move your items without getting exhausted. For digging, having a heavier snow shovel is best because they’re more able to handle the pressure and have a sturdier build.
We’ve outlined 14 types of shovels that you can easily use on your various garden projects, and you can see which one is going to be a better fit based on your needs. Take your time, make your selections, and fill your tool shed with types of shovels that will help you tackle all of your garden projects.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.