How to use a Grub Hoe

Digging and Tilling

Using a grub hoe (also called an Azada) is very different from using a shovel or spade. Instead of stomping or ramming a shovel blade into the earth, the heavy-duty grub hoe blade swings from hip height down into the soil using it's own weight, gravity, and a little help from your arms. Instead of leaning over to lift the shovel load of soil with your back, with the long handled azada you use your whole body to pull the thin slice of soil towards you into a previously cleared space.

Think of it this way; you can use a shovel to move a single 4 lb chunk of soil or you can use two quick strokes of a grub hoe to move two 2 lb slices of soil - with less strain, less pain, and in less time! It is the easy way to dig!

Proper Grip and Action

how to hold a grub hoe
Fig 1 - Correct hand placement on grub hoe.
how to hold a grub hoe
Fig 1 - Correct hand placement on grub hoe.
  1. First make sure that the handle length is correct for your height. Follow the instructions at our Long Handled Hoe Advantage page to create the correct length.
  2. One hand goes at the very end of the handle, the other hand goes 1/3 to 1/2 way down the handle (see Fig 1).
  3. Grip the handle with your thumbs facing towards the blade.
  4. Raise the tool to hip height and chop it down into the soil, then pull the slice of soil back towards you (see description above).

Do not slide your front hand back and forth as you chop downward with the tool - only tools you swing from overhead like an axe require sliding.

A grubbing hoe can do everything a shovel or spade can except lift material up into a wheelbarrow or toss material to another place - you will still need your shovel for that. But you can make even that kind of digging easier by first breaking up the soil with your grub hoe and then using a light scoop shovel to just lift the pulverized dirt into your wheelbarrow.

Page last modified on 2017-10-30

Grub hoes are also great for trenching and for digging a French drain.

Tips from experienced users around the world

From at "Get Digging" - the best azada website in the UK. It is where I learned about grub hoes.
His What Users Say page is truly inspiring! If you live in England or Europe, please purchase your azada (grub hoe) from Simon's site

Using an Azada should be no problem for anyone used to using hand tools and having reasonable bodily coordination. Azadas are basically used with a swinging action and, as with a mattock, pick, axe etc, much of the knack is in letting the tool do the work as far as possible. As when using most tools, take your time and don't rush it - don't try and take huge swings and shift vast amounts of soil in one go. If you're worried about chopping your toes off or decapitating your neighbour in the next allotment then you're not using it properly!

Unless you're dealing with very hard ground, there's no need to swing the blade from a great height - apart from anything else you'll probably end up with half the allotment in your hair! If you're jarring your wrists or arms, they are probably too rigid - relax, loosen your wrists and let the tool swing. One of the big advantages of this type of tool is that the shock of impact is absorbed by the tool and not by your arms and wrists as occurs with the ramming action of a spade.

From comments by at the Selfsufficientish blog. He is a modern crofter (homesteader) from Scotland.
Be sure to check out his interesting blog at Musings from a Stonehead

The weight, depth and a very sharp edge make it very quick for opening up new ground ...dig a trench at one end of the bed you're digging (much like you do for double digging) and then work at right angles to the trench. You take off the vegetation using a shallow angle (swinging the hoe down in front of you) and slicing off the turves. Then you go around a second time at a steeper angle, digging thick slices of soil and pulling them forward so they topple into the trench and then onto each other.It's about three times faster than using a spade and much less back breaking, especially on virgin ground.

You can also swap positions a lot more than you can with a spade, so it's a lot less taxing need a good, long handle as this gives you both reach and leverage. Obviously, you need to balance handle length with your own height and build, but within reason the longer the handle, the better the leverage and the easier the work.

Click here for tool sharpening and care tips