Types of Shovels: Purpose Explained

When undertaking any task in the yard, achieving the best results is closely-related to using the correct equipment for the job.

Not all shovels are equal; there are eight different types, each purpose-built to specialize in individual tasks.

Types of Shovels

types of shovels

Shovels resemble traditional garden spades but tend to have a broader, curved blade, conducive to gathering up large amounts of loose materials.

Digging Shovels

digging shovels

As their name suggests, the digging shovel is the best tool to do all of the jobs expected of a garden spade.

Unlike the traditional spade, they have a slightly curved scoop with either a flat or pointed tip;

Flat tip – A hard, squared-off edge, ideal for digging in heavy-duty, hard-packed soil.

Pointed tip – Best suited to soft, previously tilled soil.

Digging shovels have medium length handles, made from steel, wood, or composite materials. Their scoops are aluminum or steel, with the latter being the strongest and most durable.

Best uses for digging shovels;

  • Lawn edging
  • Transplanting bushes and shrubs
  • Cutting turf and through roots
  • Splitting perennial plants

Trenching Shovels

trenching shovel

Digging out any style of a channel in the soil is best done with a trenching shovel. They consist of a sharp, pointed blade that reduces the chance of collapse as they slice neatly through.

Some models have raised boxed edges. The design is extremely efficient as it contains the loose material, ensuring each dig captures the greatest volume possible.

Round and V-Shaped Scoops – They are ideally suited to trace the cutting outline for a neat finish. They are recommended for cutting and edging.

Square and V-Shaped Scoops – The narrow head is best compatible for removing long tubes of soil.

Trenching shovels usually have straight handles, although ones with 'D' handles are available.

The head can be straight or inclined at an angle to suit individual applications.

Best Uses For Trenching Shovels;

  • Modifying or installing irrigation systems
  • Laying pipework
  • Digging compost trenches
  • Transplanting deep-rooted plants

Drain Shovels

drain shovel

Very similar in design to the trenching shovel but usually with a narrower scoop. Both are made from stainless steel or carbon for unrivaled strength; with handles from wood or fiberglass.

The narrow head makes the drain spade well-suited to small jobs that require accuracy and precision. The rounded blade has curved, sharp edges to create neat channels and holes.

Best Uses for Drain Shovels

  • Transplanting small trees, shrubs, and plants
  • Adding flowers to beds
  • Clearing existing trenches
  • Clearing holes
  • Digging ditches

Scoop Shovels

scoop shovel

Probably the most recognizable of all the scoops is the snow shovel. They are inexpensive to buy as they feature a broad, deep head made from hard plastic. Their wooden handle is sturdy enough to shift large quantities of snow with every scoop.

Other styles are made from stainless steel, which is capable of shoveling loose materials such as coal, gravel, grain, or sand.

Scoops made from aluminum weigh less, which is useful for prolonged use. However, they tend not to be as durable as their steel counterparts.

The flat tip to the blade ensures good contact with the ground to maximize the quantity of material on each lift. They are not designed for digging operations, only for moving.

Best Uses for Scoop Shovels

  • Clearing snow
  • Agricultural use: Moving hay, grain, or seed
  • Shoveling coal
  • Yard work: moving small stone, gravel, and sand.

Edging Shovels

edging shovel

Although edging shovels aren't capable of digging or moving anything, they make excellent finishing tools to give a yard a well-manicured look.

They feature a sharp, half-moon shaped, flat blade, capable of easily slicing through the hardest sod. The blade is exceptionally durable, and as it is so slim, makes light work of awkward jobs at the edge of fencing and driveways.

Best Uses for Edging Shovels

  • Creating neat edges and borders
  • Slicing turf when laying a new lawn
  • Separating shrubbery and perennials
  • Edging narrow walkways, drives, and along fencing panels

Posthole Shovels (Digger)

As the name suggests, this is the shovel required for making holes to drop posts. Be prepared; it is hard work; the user has to force the device into the soil, only made slightly easier if the ground is pre-tilled and loose.

A post hole shovel looks like 2-trenching shovels attached above the scoop by a hinge. Once in the ground, the user forces the handles apart to create a scissor action. The blades close and encapsulate a column of soil, which, when excavated, leaves a neat hole for multiple uses.

Best Uses for Post Hole Shovels

  • Sinking fence and signposts
  • Installing a rotary clothes dryer
  • Erecting a pergola
  • Planting shrubs and tree seedlings

Mini Shovels

mini shovels

Otherwise known as trowels, mini shovels are lightweight, hand-held tools for all of those small projects around the garden.

They have a comfortable rubber grip (sometimes wood) and a pointed, curved scoop enabling them to perform many small jobs.

Best Uses for Mini Trowels

  • Re-potting
  • Planting small bedding and border plants
  • Herb planting and maintenance
  • Spot seeding

Power Snow Shovel

Powered by gas (sometimes electricity), a power snow shovel displaces snow from where it fell to a few feet away. The user requires some effort to push it along; the motor causes the blades to rotate and clear the path.

They are relatively inexpensive, lightweight, and portable machines, ideal for regions that have regular snowfall.

More powerful models have blades that loosed hard, impacted soil.

Best Uses for a Power Snow Shovel

  • Clearing drives, patios, and walkways of snow
  • Less back-breaking than a manual shovel

Final Thoughts

There are many types of shovels; most have specific uses.

The correct size, shape, and weight shovel will make the job at hand as straight-forward as possible, leaving you plenty of free time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Annette Marsh
For the past twenty years, Annette has allocated much of her free time towards gardening and landscaping related tasks; Planting flowers and trees, weeding, pruning, mulching, mowing, constructing ponds and various other structures, as well as growing and maintaining a vegetable garden.

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