Last Updated on May 21, 2020
If people stopped a second and gave it any thought, they’d probably recognize just how varied the shovel tool family is and just how many things you can do with them. Most people think of them as tools for digging holes but, if pressed, would acknowledge that there are also shovels for moving wood chips. If you live in the North, you use a shovel about half the year when you’re out moving snow. If you work in a garden, you’ve probably got a couple of different kinds of shovels handy.
We’ve examined the shovel family and broken it all down for you. Read on to learn about the many different things shovels can do, and how to go about picking the right one to suit your needs.
There are a few shovels that most people have around the house. These are tools that can do most shovel-related domestic jobs, and they’re pretty inexpensive. If you have work that requires something a little more specialized, you’ll want to find a tool for that. If your needs are pretty basic, however, you can probably get by with one of these.
There’s nothing complicated about a basic digging shovel. It’s got a digging blade at the end of a handle. You can use it to complete a number of different shovel-related jobs around the house, even if it’s intended to mostly make holes.
Even people who aren’t into gardening might have a basic trowel lying around. You can use these for potted plants and window planters, or light landscaping work. If you enjoy outdoor activities that include backpacking, you probably have one of these to dig scat holes in the backcountry.
Depending on where you live, a snow shovel is possibly a must-have tool. These scooping-style shovels allow you to pick up piles of snow off the sidewalk to deposit elsewhere. Depending on your annual snowfall, you might want to look at a specific style of tool.
Shovels are most commonly associated with making holes. These shovels are designed for making specific kinds of holes, from trenches to holes for posts. They have pointed blades to help bite into whatever it is that you need to dig a hole in.
A staple of military surplus stores, this foldable shovel is perfect to take camping or anywhere else you might need to dig a quick hole or a basic trench. Most models come with a sharp blade for hard dirt and a serrated edge for rudimentary sawing.
Trench shovels are designed to remove loosened up dirt and rock at the bottom of a trench. These aren’t a primary digging tool; you use them to finish off the hard work done with a different, hardier tool.
If you’re looking for a landscaping tool designed to dig out a hole to transplant a shrub or a tree, a drain spade is invaluable to have. These are designed for shaping soil rather than moving it, but they’re considered a digging tool because they’re designed to make holes.
Post-hole diggers are designed to create holes quickly by pushing down into the soil and lifting out the dirt. They look more like two shovels connected together, blade to blade, so that the removal action is akin to pinching and lifting.
As gardening involves digging around in the soil, shovels are a natural tool to have. In fact, most gardeners keep a handful of shovels in their inventory for a variety of tasks.
The root shovel has a blade to create holes for new plants; it can also cut existing roots from trees and shrubs to make space for new root systems until they can establish themselves.
The long, narrow blade of the Dixter trowel makes it perfect for digging in hard-to-reach spots and for transplanting bulbs. These trowels were designed by a legendary English gardener for planting seedlings with long root systems like peas.
Characterized by a leaf-shaped, sharp blade designed for cutting through difficult soil, the planting trowel is just perfect for planting bulbs. It’s designed for turning soil close to the surface; its sharp blade can also be used to separate perennials.
If you have trees or shrubs or even rose bushes to place in your yard, the transplant spade is an invaluable tool. With it, you can prepare the soil to introduce your plants into their new home. These spades have a flatter blade than a traditional shovel, making them a very specialized tool.
Scooping shovels allow you to pick up a large amount of material to move it around. These are shovels designed for landscaping or moving around sawdust or other small clumps of stuff. You won’t want to dig holes with these, of course.
You can tell a shovel is intended to scoop if the blade is flattened to the point of being squared off. Unlike other shovels in this family, these aren’t necessarily designed to handle volume. They are small enough that they can double as a sorting tool while also lifting away debris.
You can identify a scoop shovel by its short handle and big blade with rigid edges, which is intended to support lifting large amounts of debris, dirt, wood chips, etc. and move it away. These shovels won’t help you dig a hole, but if you have to move the dirt you dig out of one, they can do that.
Every landscaper has a mulch scoop. These are designed to help move and spread mulch, which sets them apart from ordinary scoop shovels. The most noticeable difference is that their handles tend to be a bit longer.
The further south you live, the less need you have for one of these. If you live where there’s a lot of snow, different kinds of snow shovels can come in handy. There are models designed to ease the physical burden on your body, and some are designed to help you chip away ice as well as scoop up snow.
While basic snow shovels are made out of plastic or aluminum, a stainless steel shovel is built to last. It’s a bit heavier than a normal snow shovel. On the other hand, it’s also strong enough that you can chip away patches of ice from your sidewalk and driveway.
A great innovation, this tool helps spare the backs of people with lots of concrete to shovel. An ergonomic shovel transfers a lot of the hard work from your body to the shovel itself. These generally have big scoops to take advantage of their design.
When snow starts to fall, a major concern for every motorist is running into a snowdrift that is too much for their car to handle. A folding shovel is an invaluable part of every car’s survival kit since moving snow from under your car’s suspension could make it possible for you to get home.
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Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!