A snow shovel is a great tool for the winter, but a garden shovel is a helpful all-purpose lawn tool that can be used for gardening, mulching, or larger projects like installing a fence. While shovels are pretty similar at their core, there are different types of shovels that specialize in different jobs. We’ve tested garden shovels, dug holes and moved dirt to find out which is the right shovel for you.
Our weeks of testing have shown that the Hooyman grave shovel (available on Amazon for $39.99) is the best garden shovel. What makes it different from the others? It’s light, strong, and offers a comfortable second-hand grip and fiberglass shaft with plenty of leverage and durability. For something cheaper that Fiskars steel shovel with a long handle (available on Amazon) features solid steel construction. However, there are plenty of shovels to shop for on our list.
Here are the best garden shovels we’ve tested, ranked in order.
- Hooyman grave shovel
- Fiskars steel shovel with a long handle
- Black & Decker mini shovel with D handle
- Corona all-steel round-pointed shovel
- Bully Tools shovel with a round tip
- Craftsman digging shovel with fiberglass handle
- Cobalt fiberglass digging shovel
- Razor-Back Round Point Shovel
How we test garden shovels
Hello, I’m Jean Levasseur. I’m a former conveyor mechanic, current property manager, hobby woodworker, and writer. I come from a family of tool users – my grandfather was a carpenter, my father owned an excavation business and my mother was a mechanic. Between growing up on my family’s businesses and moving on to my own projects, I’ve used most of the tools you’ve heard of and some you don’t have.
Testing blades is a relatively simple process. We dig holes in difficult terrain and we move earth.
Step one is the hole. With each shovel, we dug a hole about 12 inches deep and 18 inches wide in a backyard filled with trees, roots, and rocks. When we came to a rock, we worked on the blade to pry it out, applying as much weight as possible to the shaft of the blade to look for any bends that might indicate failure.
We also cut through the roots instead of attempting to dig around them to test the sharpness of the blade. When digging, we made sure to use the kicks to apply more pressure and get all the loose debris out of the hole.
When the gap was closed, we filled it again (because testing tools is often a Sisyphean task). Our goal was to pick up as much loose dirt from the floor as possible without damaging the floor underneath as much as possible. Then we flat packed the loose dirt with the flat side of the shovel.
The final significant digging test was moving 10 full shovelfuls of dirt into the wheelbarrow. We paid attention to the weight of the full shovel, how easy it was to lift a full shovel off the ground, and how smoothly and comfortably we could move around with the shovel.
Finally, we struck the edge of the blade on some stones and examined them for damage such as chips or rolling. Then we cleaned the blade with a garden hose and moved on to the next shovel.
What you should know about garden shovels
None of the shovels we tested performed really badly, including the ones at the bottom of the list. When it comes to the core jobs of digging holes and moving dirt, any of these tools will get the job done.
The features that made the top shovels stand out were the little nice touches like improved handles, wider steps on the blade, the overall weight of the shovel, and the predicted long-term durability of the tool.
There are different types of blade designs
The most noticeable difference in construction is the shaft material. Some of the shafts are made of steel tubing, which is the strongest and heaviest.
Others are made of fiberglass, which are lighter but are more likely to break under pressure than steel. Then there are wooden shafts. Wood is strong and usable, but is more prone to swelling, rotting and cracking due to the weather.
The other big difference in shovels is the way the shovel attaches to the shaft. Made of steel, the shafts are welded directly to the blade, which is the strongest method.
Fiberglass and wood shafts are inserted into a tube that extends out of the blade and then bolted in place. This method is strong, but not as strong as a solid weld. However, this allows the stock to be replaced if necessary, although this is more common with wood stocks than fiberglass.
Good grips make the difference
Holding a shovel comfortably is one of the most important features of the tool. We like a quality, non-slip handle at the end of the shovel, and then a second handle placed closer to the blade that your second hand goes with.
These may not seem to make much of a difference at first, but over a period of time they can save your hand from pain or cramps as soon as possible.
Shaft length is important
Shank length changes the way a shovel digs and lifts. Longer shafts get more leverage against obstacles in the hole and can dig deeper. However, shorter shafts are easier to control and allow you to move dirt a little faster.
They also let you work in tighter spaces. Consider both your height and the types of tasks that await you when considering the length of shovel you will need.