How to Use a Drain Spade

Updated February 21, 2017

Using a drain spade effectively saves time on a variety of garden tasks. As the name suggests, this narrow, tapered spade was first developed for digging drains and drainage ditches and channels. However, because of the drain spade's narrow, tapering blade it also lends itself to creating tapered and concave holes, making it ideal for digging post holes and holes for planting certain kinds of shrubs and other plants. It is a handy addition in the tool shed for both gardener and landscaper.

Use the drain spade to plant herbaceous and evergreen shrubs. Position the tip of the blade perpendicular to the ground. Push down with your foot on top of the foot-pedal or lip next to the handle shaft. Lever the handle backwards to collect the soil in the spade, lifting the spade up and out to remove the soil.

Position the drain spade at a right angle to the first cut and repeat the digging method. Continue to dig at a right angle from the previous cut until you have a completed hole. Roughen the sides and bottom of the hole with the tip of the drain spade, plant your shrub and refill any gaps with soil using the drain spade.

Using the drain spade for its original purpose adopt the same method of digging to create a hole suitable for a drain. Form the drainage ditch first by scooping dirt up with the drain spade placed at a constant angle to the ground so that you form a concave sided slope towards your drain site. Dig down at the drain site to the depth you require to form the walls and base of your drain.

Backfill the holes for fence posts using a drain spade because the narrowness of the blade allows you to efficiently place soil around the posts without the type of overspill you get with a traditional garden spade. Scoop up a level spade-full of soil and gently release the soil around the post by increasing the angle of the spade from the ground.

Remove soggy leaves and detritus from clogged drainage channels using a drain spade. Position the underneath of the spade flat to the drainage slope. Push the spade along the ditch to collect the debris, lifting and removing the material to one side of the ditch. Using the slope base as the angle to position your drain spade helps to avoid accidentally digging into the channel base.


Clean the drain spade after each use to keep the tool in tip-top condition.


Be careful when digging heavy clay or wet soil that you do not strain your back

Things You'll Need

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About the Author

Residing in the coastal county of Devon, England, Jane Humphries has been writing since 2004. Writing for "British Mensa" nationally and regionally, Humphries has also held key roles within the High IQ Society. She received a Bachelor of Science, honors, in psychology with combined studies covering biology, statistics, economics, politics and sociology.