7 Best Shovels of 2019 – Small Shovel for Digging

Few objects in your garden shed are as important as the good old shovel. Digging, transplanting, turning the soil – none of it could be done without this trusty tool. So if you want great results, you need to invest in a good one!

We’re here to help you do just that. Read on as we review seven of the best shovels on the market, and reveal what features to look out for.

Ready? Let’s start digging!

The Best Shovel on the Market 2019

1. Radius Garden 22311 Root Slayer Nomad

 

Just one look at this mean machine of a shovel, and your weeds will be quaking in their roots! The Root Slayer Nomad from Radius has serrated angled sides and a concave shape that make uprooting unwanted plants a breeze.

The shaft is made of carbon steel, so it will stand up to powerful digging without bending. It’s powder-coated too, so you won’t have to worry about corrosion if your cleaning routine isn’t perfect.

The Nomad is actually the next generation of the original Root Slayer. The shovel on this version is 70 percent of the size of its predecessor. That makes it lighter and easier to maneuver. It does mean that you won’t shift as much soil in one go, though.

This is one shovel that’s incredibly easy to use. Those sharp edges mean less force is needed to slice through soil and roots. The cutting tip, shaped like an inverted “v”, is fearsome. It’s strong enough to cut through roots up to 1.5 inches in diameter in a single downward motion.

If you’re transplanting shrubs with well-developed root systems, it’s a godsend. I only wish I’d had this when we were moving our long-established rose bushes. The job would have taken me a fraction of the time – and a whole lot less sweating and swearing!

It’s easy on your hands too. The paddle-shaped handle is comfortable to hold. And the small end gives you plenty of leverage with minimal effort. For those who prefer a larger grip area, though, this won’t be the best choice.

All in all, this is a great option for anyone wanting to cut through roots quickly and easily. But if your priority is shifting soil around, look for a shovel with a larger surface area.

What We Like

  • Ultra-sharp teeth and inverted “v” cutting edge make short work of weeds and roots
  • Strong carbon steel handle
  • Lightweight and easy to use

What We Don't Like

  • Smaller than average surface area, so you won’t shift as much soil in one go
  • The paddle-shaped handle won’t be to everyone’s taste.

2. Spear Head Reinforced Fiberglass Gardening Shovel (Our Top Recommended)

 

This is the tool to launch a hundred debates about what’s a spade, and what’s a shovel. Spear Head calls it a hybrid spade-shovel. In other words, it’s designed both to cut through earth (like a spade), and move it around (like a shovel).

It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that it doesn’t look much like a traditional shovel. The blade is almost triangular in appearance, looking more like an over-sized trowel. The manufacturers claim the shape allows it to find the path of least resistance as you’re digging.

That feels like a big claim. It is, though, undeniably easy to use. The blade is made from high carbon manganese steel that’s a third thicker and a quarter harder than most shovels. And it’s pre-sharpened with a 35-degree slope to cut through hard-packed soil and roots.

It’s 40 inches long from the tip of the handle to the end of the blade, giving it plenty of leverage. The handle itself is made of reinforced fiberglass for strength.

There’s a lightweight, cushioned D-shaped grip, treated with UV-inhibitors so it won’t degrade in the sun. And it’s generous enough to fit gloved hands comfortably.

This is all pretty impressive stuff, and it’s reflected in the Spear Head’s award-winning status. It was awarded the accolade “best of the best” by test lab BestReviews in 2018.

One thing to bear in mind: that blade really is an oversized trowel. If you want to shift large amounts of soil, go for a more traditional design.

What We Like

  • Sharp, strong blade requires up to 80% less effort when digging
  • Reinforced fiberglass shaft is 60% stronger than the industry standard
  • Cushioned D-shaped grip is hardwearing and comfortable to use

What We Don't Like

  • Not the best shape for shifting large quantities of soil
  • Fairly pricey

3. Bond LH015 Mini D Handle Shovel

If you’re looking for a smaller shovel to use in tight spots, Bond’s mini shovel should be on your shortlist.

It measures about 27 inches from the top of the handle to the tip of the blade. If you’re working in a confined space, you won’t need a lot of room to get maximum leverage. And if you’re digging in an area with lots of planting, you can maneuver easily without damaging surrounding plants.

It’s also a good size for older children who want to try gardening – but make sure they’re supervised. That blade is sharp.

The cutting area is a reasonable size, measuring a little over eight inches long and just under 6 inches wide. It’s strong and durable, made of heat-treated metal, so it won’t bend under pressure.

The handle is steel, so it’s both strong and light. It’s powder-coated so it won’t rust. And it’s painted a cheerful bright red.

There aren’t any serrated edges here. The head is a traditional shape, pointed in the center to help with the task of prying up rocks. The traditional design extends to the handle too, which is D-shaped and comfortable to hold. And your hands won’t slip when you’re applying force.

If you’re looking for something to cut through tree roots, this won’t be the best choice. And if space isn’t restricted, go for a shovel with a longer handle. It will be much more comfortable if you’re digging for long periods.

But if you want a strong, lightweight shovel that’s small enough for tight spots, this one is perfect. It will fit neatly into a large backpack too, so it’s a good option for camping or metal-detecting.

What We Like

  • Short handle makes this ideal for digging in tight spaces
  • Strong handle and head mean there’s no compromise on power
  • Lightweight and easy to use

What We Don't Like

  • That short handle means you’ll need to bend to use it, so not the best option if space isn’t an issue
  • Won’t cut through roots as easily as shovels with serrated edges.

4. The Ames Companies, Inc 43106 Union Tools Poly D-Grip Round Point Shovel

 

If you’re looking for a well-made, traditionally styled shovel, this one from Union Tools is well worth a look.

There’s nothing here you might not have found in a shovel used by your grandparents. And that’s a big part of its attraction – it’s a design that has withstood the test of time.

The shaft is made of hardwood. It looks great, and it will only get better with age. It’s strong too. But it won’t cope with the same level of force as modern fiberglass versions.

The head is made of carbon steel, so it’s tough enough to cope with stones and hard ground. The sides are gently curved and finish at a point in the middle, perfect for slipping beneath rocks or roots. The top of the head is carefully shaped, providing a secure resting place for your foot as you press down.

The edges are sharp, but they’re not serrated. This is very much a traditional shovel, rather than a shovel/saw hybrid like some others on our list. It’s great for shifting soil, but won’t cut through sturdy growth the way the Root Slayer or Root Assassin can.

The handle is the traditional D-shape, meaning your hand won’t slip off as you use it. It’s made of tough polymer, but it’s not cushioned. This is one shovel you’ll want to keep your gardening gloves on to use.

This doesn’t have the longest handle, so if you’re vertically challenged (like me!) it will be just the ticket. It’s a good option for digging in tighter spots too – in a crawl space, for example.

If you’re taller, though, look for something with a longer shaft. You’ll get better leverage and it will be more comfortable for your back.

What We Like

  • Attractive, traditional design
  • Lightweight construction and shorter handle will suit smaller gardeners
  • Tough carbon steel head

What We Don't Like

  • Wooden shaft isn’t as strong as fiberglass versions
  • No serrated blades, so cutting through roots will take more effort

5. Bully Tools 92510 12-Gauge Round Point Shovel

 

The 92510 from Bully Tools sticks with all the elements of a traditional shovel, but updates it with modern materials.

The shaft here is made of triple-wall fiberglass. That makes it a lot stronger than wooden versions. It’s so tough, in fact, that in tests the shovel head bent before the handle snapped. And that head is made of extra-thick 12-gauge stainless steel.

Other design features have been incorporated to make this a seriously robust tool.

The ferrule – the bit that extends from the shovel head to attach it to the shaft – is extra-long. That extends the area over which pressure is exerted, making it less likely to break. There’s also a welded and reinforced I-beam to provide extra support and prevent bending.

The handle is the same D-shape that’s been used by gardeners for decades. This one, though, is made of a specially designed polypropylene co-polymer. It’s ultra strong, so you can put your full weight behind digging without worrying about it breaking.

So far, so good. But there are a few things to be aware of.

Bully Tools are made in the USA, and the firm set great store by the quality of their build. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a couple of examples of these shovels where the rivets in the handle haven’t been properly secured. They’ve stood proud from the handle, and the sharp edges could give gardeners a nasty scratch.

Bully does offer a limited lifetime warranty on their tools, so this may simply be a quality assurance issue with one batch. But it’s a disappointment, nonetheless. If you’re buying in a store, check out the rivets before you make your selection. And if buying online, check the shovel before you use it.

This issue aside, this is a well-designed shovel, combining traditional style with modern materials. There aren’t any serrated blades, so it’s better for digging than cutting through roots. If that’s what you’re looking for, it’s worth considering.

What We Like

  • Extra-long ferrule and ultra-strong fiberglass handle mean this won’t bend or snap under pressure
  • Sturdy 12-gauge steel blade

What We Don't Like

  • Check the rivets in the handle before you buy – they’re not always fully secured
  • There are no serrated blades to help slice through tree roots.

6. Tabor Tools J201A Shovel With Rounded Blade

 

Tabor’s rounded shovel is another one that employs traditional design principles. Rounded blade with sharp tip for prying up rocks? Check. The d-shaped grip on the handle? Double check. Forward turned step to keep your foot secure as you dig? All present and correct.

The handle is 31 inches long, making it a perfect option for gardeners around 5 feet tall. It’s great for working in tight spaces too. And if you have children who want to join in with the gardening, put them to work with this!

If you’re much taller than 5 foot 2 inches though, look elsewhere. You’ll need to bend your back while digging – a recipe for aches and pains.

The head is made of tempered steel, but the gauge isn’t as thick as some. The pointed tip is handy to work beneath obstacles to pry them loose. And it’s very efficient at scooping up soil. If you’re looking for a shovel to dig really big holes in loose soil, this could be the one for you.

If you’ve got a rocky garden or hard-packed soil, though, it may struggle. If that’s the case, you’ll be better off with a heavier duty shovel.

This is another model that uses a fiberglass shaft. It’s very resilient – and we love the bright red color. Both the shaft and the shovel head have been treated to resist corrosion. That means it won’t matter if you leave behind the odd speck of dirt or moisture when you’ve finished digging.

The head is attached to the shaft with an extended ferrule for strength. There’s also a stainless steel collar to reinforce the join between the two. It looks smart as well as being practical.

What We Like

  • Solid construction and resistant to corrosion
  • Smaller dimensions work well for tight spaces or shorter gardeners
  • Resilient fiberglass shaft with stainless steel collar for extra strength

What We Don't Like

  • Blade isn’t resilient enough for really tough conditions
  • Better for shifting soil than cutting through roots.

7. Root Assassin 32" Mini Garden Shovel/Saw

 

If the Root Assassin were a living thing, it would be a Mako shark. One look at the teeth on the sides of this shovel-saw hybrid, and your dandelions will wilt in terror.

You’ll guess from that description that this is no ordinary garden tool. The edges here are serrated, and the teeth are angled in different directions to saw through roots as you dig. There are 16 of those teeth on either side of the blade. And you can sharpen them with a grinder to keep the shovel lethal for years.

The blade tip is pointed, allowing you to dig deep for the greatest possible leverage. It works brilliantly if you’re trying to divide the roots of established plants.

The handle is only 32 inches long, so you won’t get as much heft as with the Spear Head. On the other hand, it’s better for working in tight spaces.

At only 2.2 pounds, this is light enough to use easily. The D-shaped grip is coated with rubber so it won’t dig into your hands as you work. And it’s made of tough polycarbonate, so it won’t chip or crack.

One questionable design choice is the metal handle. We’d be wary about relying on the rubber on the grip to insulate you if you hit an electricity cable. A safer option would surely have been fiberglass.

What We Like

  • Fantastic for ripping through roots and excavating weeds
  • Lightweight and comfortable to use
  • The ability to sharpen the teeth will keep this shovel in great shape for years

What We Don't Like

  • Not the best for shifting large amounts of soil
  • Metal handle raises safety concerns – make sure you know where power cables are before you dig!


Buying guide

best digging shovel

As you can see, there are a lot of shovels out there – and they have very different characteristics. If you’re still struggling to decide on the right one for your garden, here are some questions to ask yourself.

Digging or cutting?

gardening shovel

The first thing to consider is how you’re going to be using your shovel. Do you want to dig holes and shift large amounts of material – for example, to create a pond? Or do you need to separate the roots of established plants, or turf out unwanted weeds?

For shifting soil, you can’t beat the traditional shovel design. The gently curved edges and sharp point in the center make for an efficient scooping action. You’ll be able to move more material with each plunge.

But if you’ve almost ruined your knee stamping down to dig through roots, consider a version with serrated edges. They will vastly reduce the amount of effort needed to uproot tenacious weeds or separate overgrown shrubs. But they have a smaller surface area, so aren’t as fast at digging holes.

If you’re looking for a shovel to do a bit of both, avoid the more extreme designs. There’ll be some compromise on performance shifting soil, but we think the Spear Head offers a reasonable balance.

What conditions will your shovel need to cope with?

best shovel

Does your garden generally have loose soil, or is hard-packed and sun-baked? If the former, consider a lighter weight shovel. It will be easier to maneuver, and probably cheaper too.

But if you want to dig down deep in tough conditions, opt for a heavier duty model. Look for brands with thick steel blades (12-gauge is ideal) and extended ferrules. And while wooden handles look nice, fiberglass options are much stronger.

How much sun do you get in your garden? If it’s very hot out there, look for UV-resistant coatings, particularly on the grip. And if you’re going to be pressing down hard on packed earth, you’ll want that grip to be cushioned too.

Last but not least, consider the amount of space you have to work in. If you’ve got tight corners to contend with, a shorter handle may be better. If space isn’t an issue, a longer handle will give you more leverage.

What kind of gardener are you?

best gardening shovel

Be honest now: do you carefully clean and dry your gardening tools after every use? Or would an anti-corrosive coating help your shovel last longer? For most of us, a powder coating will make a big difference to the lifetime of steel blades.

Check the length of the handle too. Don’t struggle with a long handle if you’re not the tallest gardener. And don’t break your back trying to dig with one that’s too short.

Lastly, check the size and design of the grip. Do you like the freedom of a paddle-shaped grip, or prefer a non-slip D-shaped design? And if the D-shape works better, make sure it’s big enough to accommodate your hand when you’re wearing gardening gloves.

Ready to choose?

That brings us to the end of our guide to the best shovels out there. We hope it’s helped you find the right tool for your job!

First, decide what features are most important to you. Do you need to cut through tough roots, or is shifting soil the priority? Do you have room to lever a long handle, or is your space more constrained? The results will give you a shortlist to match to your budget.

Our favorite is the Spear Head. It’s cleverly designed, robust, and slices out tenacious roots in a way that’s deeply satisfying! But if space is tight, Bond’s mini shovel is an excellent alternative.

Whatever option you choose, happy digging!

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