Tools are supposed to make a gardener’s life easier, so what’s a long-handled shovel going to do for you? The answer is: a lot. The uses for long-handled shovels are many and both your garden and your back will thank you. What is a long handled shovel? When do you use long handled shovels? If you are unclear about where to stand on the long vs. short handled shovel debate, read on.
Shovels are tools for digging and lifting. You use shovels for digging up a flower bed and working compost into the soil. A long handled shovel is a shovel with a long handle, up to 48 inches (122 cm.). It usually does not have any type of metal grip on the tip of the shovel handle.
The easiest way to recognize a long handled shovel is when it is lined up against a wall with a short handled shovel. Short handled shovels tend to be heavy, with shorter handles often terminate in “D-grips”.
But how to decide long vs. short handled shovels? When are long handled shovels best? Uses for long handled shovels are many and varied in the garden. In fact, many experts think that long handled shovels are better for almost any task. Long handled shovels are usually lighter. They allow you to stand upright more of the time and to bend over less.
Short handled shovels were developed for digging work in tight spaces, like wartime trenches or coal mines. On the other hand, if you are quite short you may prefer to use short handled shovels since you’ll find them easier to control.
If you are wondering specifically when to use long handled shovels, they are better for tree planting and other hole-digging. Long shovel handles can reach deep into a hole. And you’ll get better leverage, which is easier on your back.
Your long handled shovel is also great for digging compost from a compost pile. It’s good for moving mulch too.
When you are picking a long handled shovel, go for something lightweight. Experts says that for long handled shovels, the most important criterion for ease of use is weight. The lighter the shovel, the easier time you will have digging.
While many people use the terms “spade” and “shovel” interchangeably, technically they are not the same thing. There are many other digging tools, including trenching shovels and scoops. Most avid gardeners have a selection of digging tools to handle various garden tasks.
This tool is used for a variety of tasks. It's typicla use is for loosening and aerating garden soil. But the classic use is for Double Digging of raised garden beds.
It is a also used for turning and scooping up mulch and compost. The tines penetrate through fibrous stringy materials much easier than a shovel blade does.
Another use is to loosen the soil around root crops before harvesting them. Primarily for shallow crops like carrots and turnips, but also for potatoes if they are grown in raised ridges or hills.
It is rarely used for digging out a hole in the ground because the tines are not good for lifting or scooping. Though certain soils that cling together in large clods may rest on top of the tines long enough to allow scooping.
Humans have been digging in the Earth since the dawn of the Neolithic Revolution, some 12,000 years ago. While the earliest agriculturalists had to make do with shovels crudely fashioned from animal bones—shoulder blades were a popular choice—later material advances (namely stone, wood, and metal) led to the development of modern shovel designs and their specialized heads are purpose-built, like spades for digging in solid soil and shovels for moving loose material like coal or grain.
This specialization was, in part, a consequence of the tool's widespread use in industry—steel mills, graineries, construction, and mines—as well as its universal use in agriculture where manual labor was required to move large amounts of loose material. In fact, shoveling stuff was big business through the late 19th century when steam-powered industrial excavators became economically feasible. So much so that Frederick Winslow Taylor developed and championed the "science of shoveling" during the two decades between the 1890 and 1910. After the detailed analysis of the labor's required movements, he advocated the industry invest in shovels with scoops specialized for each material—an investment, he argued, that would be repaid through increased worker productivity. While his ideas were not immediately recognized by the industrial upper crust, his crusade for better shoveling helped spurn new shovel designs as well as develop the work for which he is most famous, The Principles of Scientific Management .
Today, shovels and spades come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and functions. Here are a few of the most common types you'll find in your local home improvement store and what they're used for: