You have many choices when it comes to shovels. The type you need depends on the job you have to do.
The basic digging tool for most folks is a round-point, long-handle shovel (Figure 1). This shovel is good for general digging such as spading beds, digging holes for plants or digging trenches. These shovels are available in several sizes and in different levels of quality. They are available with wood, metal or fiberglass handles.
If you need to make a straight cut, as in edging, you may need a square-edged spade. These spades are available with long, straight handles or short D-handles. A wider version of this spade (with small sides on the blade) is called a "dirt shovel" and is intended more for moving loose soil than for digging.
A more specialized tool is the wide scoop. These large shovels generally have a D-handle. They are used primarily for moving loose materials. They are especially suited to light bulk materials like grain (and Yankees use them to move snow), but they get pretty heavy if you fill them with soil, sand or gravel.
Another specialized tool is variously called a "tile spade," "ditch shovel" or "sharpshooter." This is a long, narrow shovel with a short D-handle. As the names imply, it is useful for digging deep, narrow trenches, but it also has other uses around a home and garden.
Another useful tool for digging is a spading fork (Figure 2). Spading forks are not the same as pitchforks. Spading forks usually have a short D-handle and are designed with substantial tines for heavy digging. They can be used for turning over soil but are especially well-suited to digging potatoes since they allow loose soil to fall through, revealing the potatoes.
The traditional uses for a pitchfork are pitching hay, straw or manure, but they are useful for turning compost or handling pine straw. This is not the first tool a homeowner needs, but it can be a welcome addition to the toolshed (Figure 3).
A basic round-point shovel should be the first choice for a digging tool. It will handle most of the digging chores around a lawn and garden. The other, more specialized, digging tools can be later additions to your tool collection that will make specific jobs easier.