Long handle spade shovel

Must dig, but solely by hand?

Greetings. I am getting more experience in digging post holes in clay.
I am replacing rotten 4×4 posts, with bigger posts (most are 6×6, one was 6×12). The remainder will be 6×6. Digging a 12 inch hole is what I first tried, I don’t think a 12 inch diameter hole is really enough for a 6×6. Both of those holes at one time had a sonotube in them, to try and maintain the hole. When I finally finished the holes, one hole was finished with a sonotube and one without. The remaining holes are nominally 14 inch diameter. I am packing the bottom 1 foot of the hole with 1.25 inch gravel, and packing the post in with 0.75 inch gravel.
I think every hole to be put into clay, should be approached with an open mind. I think that by and large, they are all different. And two holes adjacent to each other can be quite different.
There are a few kinds of clay. By and large, clay particles are shaped like dinner plates, and they can stack. Because of their disc like shape, they tend to have a much larger surface area per unit mass than spherical particles like sand. Some clays have undergone substantial replacement of positive ions on the surface, and this can change the properties significantly. In particular, there are clays with the surface positive ions are are replaced by sodium, which tend to have their own characteristics.
Some clays are known to swell (expand) when absorbing water. I think Montmorillinite is this biggest culprit in this regard. If the clays in your area do swell, I would say there is at least some Monmorilinite (sp?) in them.
By and large, clay soils will absorb water, and the water will take considerable time to go away. This is probably in large part due to the high surface area to volume ratio of clays, and that clays tend to be wet by water.
Concrete is something people use with posts. Concrete is a sponge (for water) which doesn’t change its size. Wood changes its size when the humidity of the wood changes.
The biggest problem for rot, is where wood is moist enough, and there is enough oxygen present. Mostly where water and air meet. A 4×4 post in wet ground doesn’t fail at the bottom, there is much reduced oxygen there. It fails closer to ground level, where the oxygen is present as well as the water.
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Okay, we have a location for a (replacement) hole. We use something (I use a mattock) to strip the sod off the ground in the vicinity of the hole, to a significantly larger diameter than the hole will be. After the post is installed and packed in gravel, we want to build up “wall” of clay on the outside edge of the hole at ground level, to keep surface water from running into the hole. As this raises the level slightly, we want to add gravel as needed to keep the resulting profile flat or convex. It may be that one can put a sealing layer on top, I haven’t got there yet.
With our sod striped area being bigger than our hole, we want to mark out the periphery of the hole, and start the edges with some kind of shovel. I am using a trenching shovel, it is narrow and curved. I take 8 trench shovel placements to define the “circle” of the post at ground level.
Using that trenching shovel, I try to remove the top 2-3 inches of soil around the existing hole (nominally 3.5×3.5 for a 4×4 post). Once I have a start to the overall hole, I go into hole digging mode.
If there is a pre-existing hole, that I am trying to enlarge; using an auger type hole digger can work. I have had one hole, where the pre-existing hole was on the periphery of where the new hole would be, and do I never used the auger tool there. I have had one hole, where the auger tool was basically useless. If the auger digger works, what you are trying to do is enlarge a hole, for each level you can “pilot a hole”. And it isn’t necessary that the pilot is in the centre, just that it is somewhere in the hole plan.
By and large, my hole digging has been with a clamshell type digger. A clamshell digger is reasonably good at shaping up a hole, where you are trying to remove a circular “shim” of material from the side.
If you are lucky enough to be digging an oval type hole (say to plant a 6×12 post), you prefer to orient your clamshell digger to work with the long axis of the hole. You want to plunge the clamshell as deep as you can. Unlike a shovel, there are no places for you to plant your feet. You have to get your bodyweight on the handles in some way. As I weigh quite a bit more than most people, I often can push down quite a ways. If the clay is “plastic”, to just pull apart the two handles (to squeeze the clay a little in the hole) and you just pull up, you probably end up with some “nipple shaped thing on the bottom of the hole, and you might not have pulled up any clay.
Many plastic materials will fail in fatigue. For the last hole I dug (today), the fatigue limit of the clay was about 10. But, what I did was tilt my clamshell digger back and forth 10 or more times, to try and fracture the clay at the bottom of the clamshell. And when I lift the clamshell up, I have a bunch of clay to remove.
The clamshell squeezes along a direction. It may be that squeezing on a perpendicular direction on the same “plan” can help (with wetter clays). If the clay is too wet, the fatigue limit will be large, and you probably won’t fatigue the clay in any reasonable time. As near as I can tell, at that point, you need to let the clay dry out some more.
It may be that other people have advice for digging holes in clay from the too dry side. But this advice is mostly from the wet side of clay.
Good digging!

What Is A Long Handled Shovel: Garden Uses For Long Handled Shovels

Tools are supposed to make a gardener’s life easier, so what’s a long-handled shovel going to do for you? The answer is: a lot. The uses for long-handled shovels are many and both your garden and your back will thank you. What is a long handled shovel? When to use long handles shovels? If you are unclear about where to stand on the long vs. short handled shovel debate, read on.

What is a Long Handled Shovel?

Shovels are tools for digging and lifting. You use shovels for digging up a flower bed and working compost into the soil. A long handled shovel is a shovel with a long handle, up to 48 inches (122 cm.). It usually does not have any type of metal grip on the tip of the shovel handle.

The easiest way to recognize a long handled shovel is when it is lined up against a wall with a short handled shovel. Short handled shovels tend to be heavy, with shorter handles often terminate in “D-grips.”

When to Use Long Handled Shovels

But how to decide long vs. short handled shovels? When are long handled shovels best? Uses for long handled shovels are many and varied in the garden. In fact, many experts think that long handled shovels are better for almost any task. Long handled shovels are usually lighter. They allow you to stand upright more of the time and to bend over less.

Short handled shovels were developed for digging work in tight spaces, like wartime trenches or coal mines. On the other hand, if you are quite short you may prefer to use short handled shovels since you’ll find them easier to control.

Uses for Long Handled Shovels

If you are wondering specifically when to use long handled shovels, they are better for tree planting and other hole-digging. Long shovel handles can reach deep into a hole. And you’ll get better leverage, which is easier on your back.

Your long handled shovel is also great for digging compost from a compost pile. It’s good for moving mulch too.

When you are picking a long handled shovel, go for something lightweight. Experts says that for long handled shovels, the most important criterion for ease of use is weight. The lighter the shovel, the easier time you will have digging.

Shovel vs. Spade: What’s the Difference?

Many people use the terms “shovel” and “spade” interchangeably. But did you know that they’re actually very different tools?

Below is a brief summary of the main differences. For more details, keep reading.

At a Glance

Shovel Spade
Blade Shape Bowl-shaped (concave) with a rounded or pointed tip Flat (or nearly flat) with a straight edge
Handle/Shaft Long, straight shaft Shorter shaft, may have a “T” or “D” handle
Blade Size Larger Smaller
Best Uses Digging, breaking up, and turning soil Slicing through soil and roots, moving soil and loose material

>> Related Article: How to Sharpen a Spade

Materials, Weight, and Cost

The shovel (left) is longer than the spade (right).

There’s very little difference between shovels and spades in terms of the materials used. Both can be found with wood or fiberglass handles, and with carbon or stainless steel blades.

Weight is mostly dependent on materials used, as is the cost. Weight and cost will also vary with the intended use of the tool; those used for specialty purposes will generally cost more.

The biggest differences between shovels and spades are found in the handle/shaft and the blade.

About the Blade

The square spade blade is ideal for edging garden beds

The blade, or scoop, is used to cut through soil, roots, or sod and to move soil, sand, gravel, etc. The larger the blade, the more material you can move. But be careful that it’s not too large or you may find that you can’t lift a full load or that you tire quickly. Sharply pointed blades are more effective at cutting into hard ground or through tough materials like roots, while flat blades are best for edging and lifting loose material.

About the Handle / Shaft

A longer handle, or shaft, provides greater leverage and is useful for heavier work and for cutting through roots and tough ground, while a shorter handle provides greater control and is often useful for planting or digging up bulbs.

In Detail….

Shovel vs. Spade Blade

The shovel blade is typically curved

A shovel has a broader blade that is curved inwards from left to right and is rounded or pointed at the tip. Blade length and shape can vary, depending on the intended use – you’ll find shovels with extra long blades, saw-tooth edges, and ledges down the sides. The shovel blade tends to be larger than that found on spades.

A spade generally has a relatively flat blade with straight edges. It’s smaller than a shovel (although size does vary, depending on use) and the blade tends to be in line with the shaft, rather than angled forward.

Shovel vs. Spade Handle/Shaft

A “D” or “YD” handle on a spade

A shovel typically has a long, straight handle that allows you to get plenty of leverage when digging deep holes.

In contrast, a shorter shaft works best with a spade and comes in handy when working in tight spaces, such as a flowerbed.

Many spades have a “T” or “DY” handle to give you more options for holding it.

Shovel vs. Spade Shape

The spade (foreground) is generally straighter than the shovel (background)

You may also notice that a spade tends to be straighter than a shovel from handle to blade tip. Whereas the shovel blade is usually angled forward, the spade blade is not.

It’s that angle that makes the biggest difference in functionality between the two tools. The angled shovel blade makes it efficient for digging. The straighter spade can be used for digging but is better used for slicing through and lifting sod, edging lawns and beds, skimming weeds and opening straight-sided holes or trenches.

In Summary…

While you can manage with only a shovel or a spade, your gardening will be more efficient and enjoyable if you have both.

And now over to you – Which do you use, a shovel or a spade? Do you have a favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

We Recommend

We’ve reviewed a lot of shovels and spades here on the Gardening Products Review and have found a few that we highly recommend.

Root Assassin ShovelSpear Head SpadeHERShovel Ergonomic Shovel Earth Talon Shovel

Shoveling is hard enough on the back as it is. Being tall just makes it worse. That is where an extra long snow shovel for tall people can help. These are essential tools for tall people. If you are after one, you have come to the right place. There are four basic options for improving snow shovels for tall people. You can sift through what is available off-the-shelf, get an extension, or build your own. These four extra long snow shovel for tall people solutions are discussed below.

Gardena Combisystem Extra Long Snow Shovel for Tall People

Recently I discovered the Gardena Combisystem. Basically, it lets you pair various handles with various tool heads. What this means is that we tall people can take a particularly long tool handle and combine it with a snow shovel head to make an extra long snow shovel. They have 51″ and 59″ handles which should be long enough for just about anyone. If you want longer, there is also a 63″ – 115″ telescoping handle! One limitation is the lack of a D-grip, which is important when shoveling. But perhaps you can take one off an old snow shovel or buy a new D-grip, like in the image link below, that hopefully will fit. I have not yet tried the Combisystem out myself, but it does look very promising. If you do try it, please let us all know in the comments below how it worked out!

Gardena Combisystem Snow Shovel HeadGardena Combisystem 59″ Tool HandleGardena Combisystem 63″ – 115″ Telescoping Tool HandleNon-Combisystem D-Grip (fit not verified)

Long and Ergonomic Standard Snow Shovels

The longest standard snow shovel I’ve come across is in the first image link below. It is supposed to be 62″ long including the shovel head, which is about 7″ longer than your average shovel. Other than that, I haven’t come across much. What can help a bit though is using an ergonomic snow shovel. These have a handle or bend in the shaft so that the lower arm doesn’t have to reach down as far when lifting the snow. The two ergonomic snow shovels below aren’t very long, they are just there to depict ergonomic shovels.

Extra Long 62″ Snow ShovelStandard But Curved Ergonomic Snow ShovelSnow Joe with Handle Extension

Snow Shovel Handle Extensions

Another option to improve standard snow shovels is to attach an extension. These are becoming more popular and their are a variety of them out there. Basically, it attaches so the lower hand doesn’t have to reach down as far. Below are a couple options. You might also read the Shovelution review.

Shovel Handle Extension Backsaver Grip Attachment

Building an Extra Long Snow Shovel for Tall People

Finally, the ultimate solution is extending a shovel specifically for your own height. The concept is simple; put a longer shaft on an existing shovel. You could use a variety of things for the shaft and a variety of materials (aluminum, wood, plastic, fiberglass). For my extra long snow shovel for tall people, I went with maple wood dowel from the hardware store. They had a variety of diameters and lengths to choose from. I got a 1-1/4″ diameter, 6′ length I could cut down. Some shovel heads might be better with 1″, like the one below.

1″ X 6′ Poplar Hardwood Dowels

The length of the snow shovel is dependent on shovel style, your dimensions, and preferences. But on an average height person, the snow shovel handle typically comes up to about shoulder height. So this should be the case for taller people too. In other words, an extra long snow shovel for tall people should have a long enough shaft so that the handles comes up to about shoulder height. Another approach to finding the right size is to use the universal object size calculator.

The connection between the shaft and shovel blade can be a bit tricky. I looked around and found there are three main varieties.

  • Straight: The shaft does not taper and is fixed by only a screw(s). This type is usually found on cheaper shovels and is prone to coming loose. Though this type would be easy to adapt, it is perhaps too flimsy.
  • Tapered: The shaft is tapered so that it binds against the blade’s tapered receiver and is fixed with a screw. This type would be tricky to adapt as you would need to somehow taper your shaft.
  • Wedge: This type is a combination of the previous two. The shaft is straight, but a separate wedge is used to get a more secure connection with the blade. This is more secure than the straight type, but easier to adapt than the tapered type, hence I chose this one for my tall shovel.

Adapting the wedge type: Use a couple flat head screw drivers to separate the plastic teeth and pull the shaft out of the blade. Next remove the plastic wedge from the old shaft and attach it to the new shaft. Also move the handle over to the new shaft (most handles are just straight connections with a screw). Insert the new shaft into the blade (my shaft was a bit oversize so required some sanding to get it to fit). Also make sure to rotate the shaft so that the blade and handle are lined up correctly.

Besides allowing for you to shovel snow with better posture, another benefit of the extra long snow shovel for tall people is that you can get the blade at the angle to the pavement intended for scraping (with too short a shovel, the steep angle means continuously jerking to a stop). This is particularly important for snow shovels with a sharp metal scraper edge.

After using the extra long snow shovel for tall people for a while, I can definitely say it is both easier on my back and makes me a more efficient shoveler!

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