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How to Use a Trenching Shovel (Beginner Guide)

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When you’re required to dig a trench, you need the right tools to get the job one, that’ll pose the least amount of work, strain, and pain. This is what a trenching shovel does best.

The cleanout or ditch shovel, this instrument specifically designed for digging and clearing trenches, features a narrow rectangular blade with a pointed cutting edge with squared sides to achieve clean trench walls minimize disruption of the surrounding soil.

The length of the shaft varies, and the blade is set at an angle to allow for maximum efficiency.

Now that the issue of its importance has been covered let’s consider the matter of how to use a trenching shovel.

Types of Trenching Shovels

Corona SS 64104 General Purpose Trench Shovel, 4-Inch
  • An ideal tool for a variety of digging applications
  • V-angled head for effective penetration into a variety of different soils
  • 1-inch sides to pick up and retain more dirt with each shovel stroke
  • 4-foot hardwood ash handle for added durability and leverage
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Last update on 2022-05-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Landscape gardeners predominantly use trench shovels, but indispensable to anyone looking to realize irrigation ditches and laying pipes, digging a compost trench, or removing deeply-rooted plants.

The first thing to consider in figuring out how to use a trenching shovel is learning the different trenching shovels in existence. It is off knowing what types there are that you will know which to use to tackle a specific task.

Most trenching shovels have straight handles, but you can also find some other models with D-handles.

However, in contrast to regular shovels, trenching shovels have a narrower head.

All depending on the use, the trenching shovel head can be straight or inclined. The blade tip follows the same direction of the shaft for the straight heads and is ideal for cutting and edging soil.

The inclined heads serve the purpose of soil removal. And the most popular blade types in trenching shovels are the round blade, the square blade, and the V-shaped blade.

Also, you can find in the market many shovel-heads with different inclination angles. The most popular are 28, 35, and 90 degrees.

Again, some trenching shovels are designed with box-shaped heads. The aim is to prevent soil from escaping so much during trenching. The unique design permits collecting a greater soil volume in a single movement compared to other models.

In the end, the shape and the size of the trenches will also be just right if this one is used.

Read Also: Here’s The Difference Between Drain Spade and Trenching Shovel

When and How to Use a Trenching Shovel

1. Trench Digging

The excellent trenching shovel choice for digging a trench would be one with a high lift handle and a straight blade.

The trenching shovel 3-3/4″ high lift handle was made explicitly for this purpose; to lessen the stress of bending to lift soil up and out of the trench.

On a closer look at the design of this type of shovel, you will notice that the head is not wide enough for you to get your foot on it.

This means that you will not be able to put enough downward pressure on the shovel for it to cut through anything other than loose soil.

The narrow design makes it the perfect shovel for cleaning out trenches that are both narrow and deep, making up for the foot placement con.

Several trenching shovels have long, slim and pointed blades, while others have a taper mouth blade, which is slightly smaller at the cutting edge than at its shoulder. Due to how narrow the blade is, there is hardly any footplate space at the head.

Therefore, driving the shovel into the ground with your weight isn’t an option, which means you’ll have to employ arm power.

The narrow round point is excellent for penetrating sod, hard soil, and dirt with rocks, according to Easy Digging.

2. Trench Clean-Out

using a trenching shovel step by step

Trenching shovels were designed to scooping the loose soil out of the bottom of narrow trenches in mind.

Furthermore, there’s no better instrument other than the trenching shovel with an inclined head to cleanout loose soil from a track. Square and V-shaped blades are perfect for this task.

The V-shaped blade sees to it that you hold reasonable-sized scoops of dirt, and its flat sides ensure that the walls of your trench come out neat.

To get rid of the loose soil, you can use the trenching shovel with the tip pointing backwards or forward, whichever works best for you.

Box-shaped heads are the most efficient because they allow the expulsion of a greater soil volume in less time. Regular flat blades will have part of the earth escaping, causing you to scoop several times in the same place.

Place the tip in the right place and have your footrest on the step. The applied force will help obtain better penetration in the ground, translating to more soil in a shorter time frame.

Once the blade is completely buried in the ground, turn the shaft slightly. This will allow you to release the floor and to achieve clean vertical cuts.

Whichever trenching shovel model you pick, try to make sure it is one with sharp blades and squared sides to reduce disruption to the surrounding soil, and produce neat trench walls.

The tall walls on the flat sides wield extra capacity to pull soil out of the ground, and its design ensures your trench walls will stay smooth as intended.

3. Removing Deeply Rooted Plants

When faced with removing deeply rooted plants, the trenching shovel suitable for use is the taper mouth blade.

This taper mouth trenching shovel is one that is narrower at the cutting edge than at its shoulder.

In this case, the sharp but flat tip is used for uprooting deeply rooted plants and digging trenches in areas with denser and hard-packed soils. These demand more force to penetrate.

After this, you can use the trenching shovel with a slightly wider blade useful for moving large quantities of excavated material out of the way.


The dirty job of digging a trench — a long, narrow hole in the soil of not more than 15 inches deep — is made much easier when you use the right shovel.

Thankfully, the trenching shovel looks, unlike most other shovels you’d come across. Its features are very different and significant for doing very particular tasks. The first distinguishing factor is that they are very long, much longer than all other shovel kinds.

So, whether you need a trench to lay drainage tile or you’re double-digging a new vegetable bed, keep in mind that your standard garden spade is not going to cut it.

The thing is, you can use other tools to do the same work; however, the output you will see with this one will not be excellent.

The next time you’re racking your brain for the preferred slim blade that can correctly tear out that narrow strip of soil, the trenching shovel is your go-to.

Don’t forget to wear rubber farm boots, protective gloves while at it, to prevent blisters.