Uses for a Grub Hoe

Grub hoes are light- to moderate-weight hoes used for chopping through sod and roots. Clearing a garden spot, digging trenches, killing weeds and roots, removing root pieces above ground, and moving rocks are common uses for grub hoes. Blades are available in several widths and shapes.

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A close-up of a grub hoe digging into garden soil.

Tackling Perennial Weeds

Deeply rooted perennial weeds such as wild raspberries (Rubus idaeus) and thistles (Cirsium spp.), both hardy from U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone 1 through 13, can be controlled with a grub hoe. Swing from waist level to gain momentum, and chop stems at the ground. These weeds continue to send new shoots from the roots, so keep your grub hoe handy. As the plant's energy is depleted, eventually roots die. Use a chopping motion to loosen shallow-rooted perennials. One strike loosens the plant; a second strike removes it complete with roots. Always wear safety goggles when working with a grub hoe. Pieces of dirt or plants often fly up from the blade.

Moving Garden Plants

When garden plans change, move plants by digging them up with a grubbing hoe. Removing tap roots, rhizomes and other spreading roots with the grubbing hoe ensures plants don't return. Divide overgrown plants by breaking large roots into smaller pieces. Loosen resistant roots by pulling the hoe back and forth. Hook onto the root and tug to remove difficult pieces. Tree roots are often too big to remove after a tree has been felled. A grub hoe breaks roots above soil into smaller pieces, leaving parts below soil level to decay. Stumps can also be broken down. Grub out undesirable seedlings or saplings as well.

Breaking Fresh Ground

Breaking sod can be the most difficult part of clearing a new garden space. Grub hoes break through sod, chopping it into small pieces that are tilled into the soil as additional space is cleared. Chopping with a grub hoe is a more efficient method than digging and moving sod with a spade. Grub hoes also clear grasses and rhizomes creeping into established gardens. When edging with a grub hoe, use a chopping motion followed immediately by a pulling motion. This breaks through grass and weeds and moves them out of the way.

Trenching Garden Rows

The grub hoe is also called an eye hoe or trenching hoe. The hoe design saves strain on gardeners' backs and perfectly fits the task of trenching. Wide or deep trenches are dug with a 6- to 8.5-inch-wide blade. Narrower 2- to 4-inch blades work for shallow, narrow trenches used for sprinkler systems, cement slabs and the first layer of bricks being laid. The sharp, thin and strong blade of a grubbing hoe breaks through clay. Firefighters use grub hoes to trench fire lines during forest fires.

Breaking Through Ice

A grub hoe's usefulness isn't limited to soil. A 2-inch blade, used carefully, breaks ice dams on roofs. Beginning at the outer edge of the dam, use a steady tapping motion to break ice. Slide ice off the roof so that it doesn't remain on the dam. Clear built-up ice on steps and walkways with 6- to 8.5-inch grub hoe blades to get the job done fast. Clear chipped ice away with a shovel.

Robin Follette

Robin Follette has been gardening for more than 25 years and writing about gardening, agriculture and nature since 2004. She is a features writer and columnist for "Lancaster Farming," has been a local foods columnist for "Quoddy Tides" and edits and publishes "Maine Nature News."