Digging the Dirt (This is not a scandal piece)


Our website offers a lot of information on using HERS™ for shoveling, but now it’s time to really get down in the dirt.

The truth is, digging often requires more than a spade or shovel. Some factors that affect which tools you need are:

  • soil type
  • vegetation type
  • presence of roots or rocks
  • depth of hole you need to dig

Digging bar

Auxiliary digging tools

Our own wee farm is located at the base of the Appalachian mountains in Pennsylvania, which is about as far south as the glaciers came during the ice age. Land here has large deposits of shale and, closer to the mountain, more metamorphic types of rocks. When we need to dig holes for trees, perennials, clothes line poles or to dig out large deep roots, we use several techniques and tools. If sod is present we may first use a pickaxe or crowbar to loosen the sod and disturb the top layer of soil – or, we may start off with our shovel, HERS™, whose blade design facilitates slicing into and then under sod. We remove the sod, pile it somewhere so it can break down, and then use HERS™ to dig out the loosened soil. As we dig deeper and encounter larger pieces of shale or larger rocks, we use a digging bar or a crowbar to loosen them and break them apart, then remove them and the surrounding soil with our shovel. To enlarge the diameter of the hole, especially when readying a hole for planting a tree, we use HERS™, sometimes in combination with a crowbar. And if we encounter roots, we either snip them with a lopper, saw them with a hori-hori knife or ARS folding saw (after removing as much soil as possible from around the root so that we’re not sawing dirt), or, in the case of the largest roots, resort to an axe.

GT Hori-Hori KnifeGT Hori-Hori ARS Folding SawFolding Saw

Please note: Digging bars and crowbars are designed for prying. Most spades and shovels, including HERS™, are not meant to be used as pry bars -- doing so could lead to the shafts failing, better known as breaking.

Because HERS™ combines features of a shovel and spade, it’s great not only for digging but also for transporting material. To save your back when you remove that soil and sod from your planting area, please review Shoveling 101 for specific safety instructions for shoveling.

Do you have a pickaxe, digging bar or mattock that you think works especially well for women?

If so, please let us know. We hope to carry some of these auxiliary digging tools soon. We are also interested in recommendations for post hole diggers. A number of women have requested them, and we’ve yet to find one whose design works well with women’s bodies.