What Is a Grubber?

Written by danielle hill
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What Is a Grubber?
Grubbers or grub hoes can remove unwanted shrubs, roots and stumps. (shrub texture image by FotoWorx from Fotolia.com)

The grubber, or grub hoe, is a tool used by gardeners or foresters to remove unwanted vegetation. Depending on the size and the type of grubber, it may serve to uproot anything from deciduous-branched shrubs to sizeable tree stumps. The term comes from the verb "to grub," originally used to refer to the action of uprooting a plant--with or without any tools.

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The Grubber

There are two very different tools that are both known as grubbers. Although they both work at removal in gardens, the design and means of operation are quite different. One type, which is solely referred to as a "grubber," is an attachment used with a small tractor or ATV. This grubber is either composed of a loop of strong metal chain or a set of jaws with steel teeth that can lock down on a shrub or stump.

The Grub Hoe

A second type of grubber, also called a grub hoe, is comprised of a square metal blade mounted to a 4-6 foot wooden handle at a roughly 90 degree angle. It resembles a pickaxe but with a wider blade going in only one direction. It is particularly useful for removing stumps that are primarily underground. To avoid confusion, for the remainder of this article, this pickaxe style grubber will be referred to as a grub hoe.

Usage of the Grubber

The tractor attachment known as a grubber primarily serves to remove shrubs or small trees. Typically spring-operated, its metal jaws are designed to open up easily and then clamp down on undesired vegetation. Depending on the size and strength of the grubber, it may grip tree trunks measuring up to 5 inches in diameter. An alternative type of grubber, which consists simply of a loop of heavy-duty chain, works on the principle of a slip-knot. The chain is slipped around the trunk, and as pulling pressure is applied, the chain closes and uproots the plant.

Usage of the Grub Hoe

The grub hoe can be used for a variety of gardening purposes. As it forcefully breaks up ground soil, it can be used to create new gardens and raised beds; to unearth stubborn stumps; to dig utility and drainage trenching; or to remove sod. It operates with a swinging and pulling motion. With the blade facing downwards, the gardener raises the grub hoe away from the body and then swings it downwards, biting into the ground. Pulling upwards at this point will loosen the soil or unwanted vegetation.

Grub Hoes Around the World

The grub hoe that resembles a pickaxe can be identified among the tools of many cultures. Before the use of tractors, it was a primary instrument used in farming. In South America and much of Europe, it is known as an "azada." It is called an "enxada" in Brazil, a "jembe" in Africa and a "powrah" or "mammot" in India. In Japan, it is called a "kuwa" and has even been incorporated into Okinawan martial arts.

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