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Best Spade for Digging Out Roots 

Few things are more frustrating than trying to get rid of roots left in a garden by the removal of trees, shrubs or hedges. It can be hard enough to initially get rid of trees, shrubs or hedges, but removing their roots really is a whole different ball game.

The reality is that it is hard work and very time consuming. you do get a great deal of satisfaction when you finally get them removed, but getting there is a really tough and arduous task.

One tool that can really help a lot is a spade that has been designed to specifically help with root removal. These are different to a normal garden spade in both design and weight.

If you need to sow grass or create a border or a flower bed, then you need to be able to quickly turn over the soil and dig in some compost to enrich the soil. Old roots can come from weeds, old plants, shrubs and worst of all trees, especially larger trees.

There are a variety of tools that can be used to help get rid of these. Smaller roots can easily be removed using a normal garden spade or garden fork and even by manually pulling them out of the ground.

Dealing with Larger Roots

Larger roots are a whole different thing. You normally find these left behind from hedges, larger shrubs and trees. Some of these can be really thick and as tough as old boots.

You can use pry bars, crowbars and chainsaws to dig around and lever out, but that is truly hard work. Landscapers will try to avoid doing this as they know how time consuming it is, and how difficult they can be to remove.

Roots can cause structural damage

When hedges, shrubs and trees are removed the roots remain as most contractors do not take these away. If left unattended they continue to grow and develop and they can be so strong as to lift pathways and even damage walls.

Likewise if you plan on growing grass or flowers, roots will absorb all the goodness from the soil, and reduce the effectiveness of plant growing. For both reasons, it is best if you can remove the roots completely.

What is the best spade for removing roots?

We would recommend the Root Slayer Radius Garden Shovel as it is a very good heavy duty spade that will help a lot getting through the toughest of roots.

It has a classic "V-shaped" blade with a serrated ripsaw sawing edge on each side which rips through the toughest of roots

You still of course need to apply the physical effort but the weight of this spade along with the sharp blade and serrated edges help this one into the soil and through the roots.

92% buyer satisfaction based on 5,000+ online buyer reviews

You will also notice that this model has an "O-ring" handle design. Most spades will have a "D" design, but the rounder grip gives you more gripping surfaces. When using a spade like this one we would always recommend wearing some type of protective footwear.

Highest Buyer rated spade for removing roots?

The Venteo Root Slayer Radius Garden Spade get the highest buyer rating online and is slightly more expensive than our recommendation above.

This spade is made from carbon steel so is lighter than the one above, but according to buyers is very effective at digging out roots.

You can see the actual design is the same with a trapezoidal style blade with serrated edges and the "O-handle" so as you can grip with either hand or both hands,  useful when driving into the ground.

94% buyer satisfaction based on 300+ online buyer reviews

You will also notice that this model has an "O-ring" handle design. Most spades will have a "D" design, but the rounder grip gives you more gripping surfaces. When using a spade like this one we would always recommend wearing some type of protective footwear.

How to use a garden spade when digging out roots?

The key to using a spade like this is not to bite off more than you can chew. Work a small area at a time and try to let the weight of the spade and the blade edges do the work.

There will be some vibration in the handle but these days the handles are pretty good at reducing most of the impact. Never overdo using the spade for leverage as you would a crowbar. That will eventually bend the spade blade and render it useless.

You can of course use it as a lever to get through the soil and expose roots, but don't try and prise the roots out of the ground. Chop the roots with the spade rather than levering them out.

the blades have been designed to stay sharp so you don't have to worry too much about keeping the blade sharp.

Understanding root structure

Roots also known as the root system provides physical support by anchoring the plant body to the soil. Roots grow deep into the soil and hold the plants strongly in place. All roots have small root hairs absorb water and nutrients from the soil and aid plant growth.

Roots have 4 main sections:

  1. The root cap -  looks like a thimble at the point of the root and is tender, wears out quickly and constantly renews
  2. The meristematic region - sits just above the root cap and grows very quickly and are pretty thin
  3. The region of elongation - The cells in this section of the root are responsible for the growth of root length.
  4. The region of maturation - these are the old or mature roots and are tough and hard to remove.

Understanding different root types

There are different types of roots

  1. Fibrous roots -  these are very easy to remove as they are thin, branched, and grow directly from the stem. They grow close to the surface and spread horizontally, and look like numerous roots growing together, all nearly of the same size.
  2. Taproots - Taproots are harder to remove as they have a single primary root that grows deep into the soil. They have lateral branches (secondary and tertiary roots) leading to the formation of a taproot system.
  3. Adventitious roots - These are like the roots you find with roses. They grow close to the top of the ground so not deep and are easier to remove. You can often see them above ground but they can be thick or thin depending on the species of the plant
  4. Creeping roots - these are very shallow roots and creep just under the soil but they never go deep, so again easy to remove.
  5. Tuberous roots - these are tough roots that grow very deep into the soil and hard to remove.

Enda


I am someone who enjoys a little gardening. Now I am not someone who spend hours in the garden, but I do like both my front and back gardens to look really nice. Well kept lawns, neatly trimmed hedges, and borders filled with plants, make a huge difference, to how your property looks.

Enda McLarnon

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