How To Choose the Right Garden Spade

If you have a large garden, you can expect to perform multiple maintenance tasks at least once a year. And each task requires the right tools to help you finish it easily and quickly. So it helps to know how to choose the suitable garden spade for every gardening project that requires one.

To choose the right garden spade, keep the following in mind:

  1. Consider the function of the garden spade.
  2. Various soil types need different qualities in a spade.
  3. Think about health issues when choosing a garden spade.
  4. Consider the age and size of the user.

I will discuss these factors and recommend the right garden spade for each concern. That way, you won’t have to “make do” with whatever you have because it can be challenging to find a one-tool-fits-all kind of garden spade.

1. Consider the Function of the Garden Spade

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a garden spade is the purpose. Invest in the correct tools that you know you’ll frequently be using.

Although there are some all-purpose spades and shovels that can help you save a lot of money, you might as well use ones that suit the task at hand to avoid inflicting damage to your plants or causing yourself muscle pains and injuries. Moreover, using garden tools beyond their intended purpose can reduce their lifespan.

Here are the different functions of spades:

  • Transplanting
  • Trenching or edging
  • Digging or tilling
  • Cutting or removing sod

Let’s discuss them in more detail below:


Transplant spades typically have a long, narrow blade that enables it to dig deep enough to reach the bulk of the roots. It can range from 10-16 inches (25.4-40.6 cm) long. The blade’s edge can be slightly rounded outward or V-shaped inward. 

The body is slightly curved to conveniently dig around the plant in a circle. It is tapered and typically around 6 inches (15 cm) wide in the middle and 4.5 inches (11.4 cm) at the tip. 

The upper end of the blade on either side of the handle is typically rolled for the user to step on when driving the tool deeper into the ground. This is common among long-handled transplant spades used for transplanting trees and shrubs.

On the other hand, you can use a transplant spade with a shorter handle when transplanting seedlings or smaller plants.

Trenching or Edging

Trenches or edges need to be as flat and straight as possible. You can choose a spade with a long handle whose blade has a flat surface and edge, which will help provide your garden with a neat and even edge.

You can use the same type of spade when making square holes with flat bottoms.

Digging or Tilling

Garden spades are also widely used for digging and tilling because their sharp blade can cut through various types of soil. It also allows the spade to dig and cultivate larger amounts of soil than hand cultivators.

However, spades with a flat body aren’t ideal for scooping out dirt, which will just slide off. Choose a garden spade with a flat edge but a slightly curved body if you need to scoop some dirt.

Cutting or Removing Sod

To cut or remove sod, you need a square spade with a sharp tip that can cut the edge of the turf and thrust underneath it to cut the shallow roots. It also requires a broad and sturdy body to roll or lift the sod.

2. Various Soil Types Need Different Qualities in a Spade

It’s no secret that some soil types, such as clay and severely compacted soil, can be challenging to work with. That’s why you also need to consider the soil type in your garden when choosing your garden spade.

Soft Soil

Loamy and sandy soil are relatively easy to work with, especially when they’re a little damp. 

If you’re worried about wooden handles splintering on your hands or don’t like their susceptibility to rotting, you can use a garden spade with a plastic or fiberglass handle.

The blade also doesn’t have to be too sharp when working on soft soil, reducing the need to sharpen your spade frequently. You can also be less strict about the materials of the blade. Although you still need it to be rust-resistant and durable, it doesn’t have to be as expensive as stainless steel.

Compact and Dry Soil

You will need sturdier materials if your garden soil is compact and dry. The blade has to be sharp enough to cut through it but sturdy enough not to bend from the resistance of the ground. In this case, you must invest in a high-quality garden spade.

Although garden spades are typically designed to dig heavy soil, not all are adequate for the task. Many cheap garden spades may perform well during the first few times of use but can quickly deteriorate when frequently used in difficult soil.

3. Think About Health Issues When Choosing a Garden Spade

If you have back, shoulder, waist, or wrist pain, you must pay extra attention to the design of the garden spade. It should be the correct length for you, with an ergonomic handle. Such details can help you perform your task while reducing the strain on your body.

A garden spade with a D-handle gives you better control of the tool. However, choose one with a cushioned handlebar, especially if you don’t wear gloves while using the spade. It can prevent blisters on your hand.

Avoid using the garden spade for too heavy loads for extended periods. If possible, do some warmup exercises before using the spade and cooldown exercises afterward. It will help reduce the risk of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

4. Consider the Age and Size of the User

In addition to the factors mentioned above, you also have to consider the age and size of the user when choosing a garden spade. If the tool is too big or too small for you, you are less likely to use it efficiently. You also risk getting injured or suffering from sore muscles after performing your gardening chores.

Some spades have handles with customizable lengths. This is a good feature if several people in your household use the tool. Such a feature prevents the need to buy a new tool just to match the other members’ heights.

However, one downside of this feature is that it can compromise the durability of the handle, as it might bend or warp against the force of the ground.

So, it helps to find a high-quality product that can provide a balance between functionality and durability.

Final Thoughts

Gardeners have to deal with numerous tasks to keep the garden well-maintained. Most of these tasks are made easier with the right kind of tools. However, not everybody can afford to buy every type of gardening tool available.

You can find multi-purpose garden spades, but you must ensure that they are suitable for the tasks you need them for. Otherwise, you might as well invest in the appropriate garden spade to avoid damage to the garden and injury to yourself.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the founder of and its lead content writer. He created the website in 2022 as a resource for horticulture lovers and beginners alike, compiling all the gardening tips he discovered over the years. Alex has a passion for caring for plants, turning backyards into feel-good places, and sharing his knowledge with the rest of the world.

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