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The Best Tools for Digging Holes

There are numerous tools that are good to keep in your shed to make digging in the garden as easy as possible.

You might be surprised to learn that there are a variety of different tools that you can get for digging holes in your yard. 

Some are multi-purpose digging tools but some have a specific purpose. In this post, I’m going to explain all the different digging tools that are available and what their primary purpose is.

Types of shovels for digging

shovel | Hand Tools

Did you know that there are different types of shovels that are used for a variety of purposes? Let’s look at the most common ones.

Square shovel

A square shovel has a square head with a sharp flat end. The head has a bowl-type structure to hold the material that you’re moving around.

This type of shovel is ideal for digging in hard soil that is compacted as the sharp end allows you to cut into the ground. The shovel is also perfect for scooping up and moving materials such as soil, sand, gravel, and mulch.

Trenching shovel

A trenching shovel has a long, narrow head with a sharp tip and squared sides. It’s the perfect shape for digging uniform trenches to lay irrigation pipes around your yard. 

This shovel can also be used to remove deep-rooted plants thanks to its long and narrow head.

Plumber’s shovel

The plumber’s shovel has a relatively narrow head and the end is rounded to a pointed tip.

It is primarily designed for digging drains but you can also use it for digging holes. The head has slightly raised edges so that you can use it for moving soil around.

This shovel also has an extra long handle to give you additional leverage when you’re digging.

Digging tools for hard ground

Spade 1 | Hand Tools

If you’re dealing with hard and compacted soil, you should consider using a square shovel. The sharp flat tip allows you to more easily cut into the ground.

Here are some other tools that are great for hard ground:

Spade

A spade has a flat head, unlike a shovel, and sharp edges. Most spades are square in shape but some can come with a pointed tip.

Generally, spades will have a shorter handle because they’re primarily used for digging planting holes.

The edges of the head should always be kept sharp to make digging easier. Many gardeners use a bench grinder to ensure that the spade’s edges are always sharp.

Mattock

A mattock is a heavy-duty digging tool that allows you to break up hard and compacted soil. The head is usually double-sided with one side having an axe blade while the other side has a cutting blade. 

Mattocks usually have a long handle for extra leverage when breaking up hard ground. They’re also handy for cutting through tree roots.

Pick

Picks have a very narrow two-sided head with chiselled tips. These tools are generally used for breaking up the soil and digging trenches.

Thanks to the pointed tips on the head, picks can even break through rocks and roots.

Tools to remove grass

To remove grass to make room for a new garden bed, you should use either a normal spade or even a square shovel.

Both of these tools will allow you to cut through the top of the thatch and then get underneath the roots of the grass to lift out single squares of grass at a time.

Trench digging tools

To dig nice even trenches, you want to use a trenching shovel. The long, narrow head with its square sides will allow you to cut precise trenches that are uniform.

If the ground is quite hard, you might need to use a mattock or pick first to break up the compacted soil.

Power tools for digging soil

auger | Hand Tools

The most common power tools for digging soil are earth augers and powered cultivators.

Earth Augers 

These power tools are primarily used for digging post holes for either fence posts or for digging planting holes for large trees and shrubs. 

Many powered earth augers or post-hole diggers have petrol engines but you can get a few that are battery-operated.

Cultivators

Many powered cultivators are multi-purpose tools. They allow you to cultivate the soil in garden beds where you want to plant vegetables and flowers. Some also come with separate attachments that you can use to aerate and edge your lawn.

You can even get cultivator heads that you can attach to a lawn power tool that you already have such as the Makita multi-tool system.

Tools for post digging

The type of tool you use to dig post holes will depend on the type of soil you have.

Post hole pincer

A post-hole pincer is a manual tool that is comprised of two narrow shovels that are connected by a hinge.

This tool is ideal for digging post holes in loose and friable soil and it can also be used for planting bulbs.

Auger

For heavier ground or more compacted soil, an auger is the perfect tool for digging post holes. It has a long drill head that digs into the ground and throws out the soil at the same time.

Many augers are powered, but you can also get manual augers that you twist and turn by hand to dig the post holes.

Other digging tools

Garden hoe | Hand Tools

There are a variety of other digging tools that are useful to have in the garden shed.

Garden fork

A garden fork is useful for breaking up soil in your vegetable plot or flower garden in between plantings. It can also be used to incorporate compost and other organic matter into the soil.

Hoe

A garden hoe is generally used on loose soil for cultivating, removing weeds, and breaking up large clumps. A hoe is also useful for creating drills for planting seeds or bulbs.

Crowbar

Crowbars are generally used to break up rocks and concrete when you’re in the process of creating a new garden bed. Their sharp tip allows you to break up hard material in the soil fairly easily.

Trowels

Trowels are small, short-handled tools that are used for digging planting holes for seedlings and small shrubs.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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