Garden Hoe vs Spade: Comparison & Uses

Garden hoes and spades are tools that can help you with some of the most common gardening jobs.

And while there is some crossover in the tasks they can perform, each tool has its specific strengths.

Weeding is far easier with a hoe, especially if you have a garden hoe designed for the purpose. And you’ll find it easier to break new ground with a hoe and till the soil.

But for digging holes and moving soil, stones, rocks, and soil amendments, it’s often easier to use a spade or shovel.

So in this article, we take a look at the different types of hoes and their uses and compare garden hoes vs spades to help you make the right choice for your yard work.

What Is A Garden Hoe?

A garden hoe is a traditional tool that can help with many gardening tasks. Depending on the type of garden hoe, you can use the tool for weeding, digging, tilling, and shaping the soil.

Most garden hoes have a long handle that you grip with both hands. At the end of the handle is a blade, with a different design depending on the type of hoe. The blade design determines the tasks that the tool is most effective for.

Here are some of the most common types of garden hoe:

Digging Hoes

Digging hoes, such as grub hoes, are multi-purpose tools that you can use for the following jobs:

  • Chopping through sod to clear space for planting or laying patio or pathway stones
  • Removing and shaping soil
  • Breaking new ground
  • Tilling soil
  • Clearing weeds

To use a digging hoe, you chop it into the ground from waist high like an axe before pulling soil, sod, and weeds towards you.

Draw Hoes

Draw hoes have a rectangular-shaped blade that meets the handle at a 90-degree angle. You weed with a draw hoe by scraping it through the soil towards you, cutting weed stems in the process. You can also use a draw hoe for manipulating and shaping soil.

Stirrup Hoe

A stirrup hoe gets its name because the tool head resembles a stirrup (like on a saddle). But it’s also known as a hula hoe, loop hoe, scuffle hoe, action hoe, or oscillating hoe.

Stirrup hoes are used for weed removal. Stirrup hoes are often preferred to draw hoes for weeding because they cause less soil disturbance and are easier to use without placing strain on your back.

To use a stirrup hoe, you slide the blade under the soil surface. Stirrup hoes have a hinge that allows flexibility in the head of the tool, allowing it to swivel slightly as you use it. The head flexibility makes it easier to cut weeds on both the push and pull strokes.

Dutch Hoe

Because it has a forward-facing blade a Dutch hoe is an easy tool to use for weeding. A Dutch hoe allows you to stand up without bending over while pushing and pulling the blade just beneath the soil surface to cut weed stems. A gap in the blade prevents the soil from accumulating on top as you work.

You can also use a Dutch hoe to create soil furrows for planting seeds, and for covering the seeds with soil after.

What Is A Spade Used For?

Spade in ground

A garden spade is primarily used for digging and moving the soil. Because a spade has straight sides and a straight bottom, you can also use it for edging beds and cutting through plant roots and weed stems.

A spade can also help you remove deep-rooted weeds. By digging down and around the roots, you can make weeds easier to remove.

For transplanting without damaging roots or surrounding plants, you can use a transplanting spade that makes it easier to dig a plant out with its root ball intact.

Garden Hoe vs Spade

What are the key differences between garden hoe vs spade?

A garden hoe looks similar to a spade, with the blade bent at an angle away from the handle. Because of the similarity between the tools, you can use them for some of the same jobs.

You can use grub hoes and spades for digging holes and trenches. Spades are better than hoes for digging holes and easily moving scoops of soil. But it’s easier to break hard ground or new ground with a grub hoe or a mattock. And a grub hoe can chop through tough sod that might be difficult to push a spade through.

A spade is better suited than a hoe for carrying and adding amendments to your soil, such as compost or sand. It’s also easier to carry and deposit fertilizer granules with a spade, and move rocks and gravel.

It’s quicker and easier to weed with a garden hoe than a spade. You can use draw hoes, stirrup hoes, and Dutch hoes to cut weeds without much effort. And because they disturb the soil less than a spade, you are less likely to damage the roots of nearby desirable plants.

But perennial weeds will still grow back from roots left in the soil. And you may have to repeatedly weed with your hoe every time you see weeds re-emerging from the ground.

To prevent weeds from growing back, you’ll have to kill or remove the root system. If you want to remove the roots, then a digging hoe can help you, but you may find it easier to use a spade.

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