What is the difference between a trowel and a spade?


gardening space and trowel

QUESTION: What is the difference between a trowel and a spade? I see both of them mentioned in my gardening books and in articles online, but I don’t know the difference between them. Are they both just shovels? – Evelyn F

ANSWER: A spade is similar to a shovel. However, its handle is slightly shorter than most shovels. This tool is used to dig trenches and other deeper holes.

It would be useful when dealing with hard ground, clay soil, heavy dirt, if you need to dig a small ditch, or if you’re planting larger plants or small shrubs.

Spades also come in handy when you need to remove grass from an area. This could be when you’re creating a new garden plot or tending to a neglected gardening area. It’s also a helpful tool to apply large quantities of compost to a growing location at any given time.

A trowel is a handheld tool. This tool has a small handle attached to a pointed scoop. It’s used when removing small plants from the ground.

It’s also commonly used to scoop dirt into a pot. You would use a trowel when digging in softer soil such as when you’re planting in a container garden.

An example of an appropriate time to use a trowel is when soil is so soft you can dig into it and move it around with your hands.

Since it is a long-handled scoop, it moves more soil than your hands probably could. Trowels are also useful when dividing plants. They’re great at slicing through delicate (or difficult) root systems.

Both tools have their place in the garden. What type of gardening you do will depend upon which tool you decide to use.

When gardening in a traditional sense, a spade would be very useful since you would be creating inground garden plots.

However, if you garden in containers or raised beds, a garden trowel might be more useful considering the type of soil used in these gardening methods.

If you’re trying to choose which gardening tools are necessary to become a great gardener, start by forming a plan for your future gardens.

Once you know what style of gardening you’ll be doing, you should have a better idea as to which tools you’ll need. You might find that you can even use both!

Hopefully this information has expanded your gardening vocabulary and clarified some of the terminology you commonly see when reading about gardening.

Even more importantly, I hope you feel confident in making decisions on which tools are necessary for your gardening journey.

More About Gardening Tools

https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/tools-and-equipment/garden-tools.html

https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/catalog/files/project/pdf/em8504.pdf

https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/extension-gardener-handbook/appendix-d-garden-tools

garden spade gardener and garden trowel in raised bed with text overlay home gardening difference between trowel and spade

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