Garden Digging Tools – Mattocks and Picks.

In this post I will be writing about Garden Digging Tools – Mattocks and Picks.

I believe these two tools to be very important to a gardener. Many times I have seen people struggling to dig in heavily compacted soil, clay soil or soil with lots of roots in using a digging fork or spade. This may be achievable but it is very much hard work.

If they just had a mattock or Pickaxe they would find this labourious task so much easier.

The most common way that the heads of Mattocks fix onto the handle is very simple.

The heads of the handles taper outwards. The heads of the tools have a central eye-hole. You put the tool head onto the thin end of the handle and let it slide down as far as it can, then you bang the head end of the handle on the floor (must be a hard surface) and it wedges onto the tapered part.

The head can work loose again relatively easily, therefore mattocks are meant to be swung from hip height and not higher in case the head slips down the handle onto your hands. OUCH…

The idea is that you swing the mattock form around waist height between your legs and into the ground.

It may sound a bit awkward or weird even, but believe me, you will soon get used to it and realize it’s actually easy to do.

Pickaxe heads can be fitted more commonly in 2 ways.

Either the way mentioned above with the tapered handle or you will get a handle with a slot cut through the middle of the head end. You fit the pickaxe head onto the handle and then hammer a wooden wedge in the slot, forcing the wood apart and keeping it tight against the eye hole of the tool head. Once you have hammered to wooden wedge in, then you cut it flush with the top of the handle.

It’s a good idea then to hammer in 1 or 2 smaller metal wedges in at right angles to the wooden wedge. This will make it super secure and safe to use.

Watch the video below to see how it’s done the first way I mention, which is the same way the mattock handles are fitted, and to also see about applying boiled linseed oil to the handle if it’s a wooden one, which will help protect it and stop weathering or rotting.

When using either mattocks or pickaxes be sure to wear the right PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). E.g. Safety glasses and safety boots. It’s also a good idea to be wearing long trousers as bits can easily fly into your legs and cut you.

You may also be interested in one of my other posts: Digging tools for the garden – Forks & Spades.

This post contains affiliate links. CLICK HERE to read my affiliate disclosure.


My Mattock is one of my favourite tools for digging and breaking up soil when I’m working.

It is especially good when the ground is hard, has lots of stones in it or has lots of roots in.

There are 2 types mattock you can get. A Cutter Mattock and A Pick Mattock. The one you choose will depend on your own preference and what you will be mainly using it for.

The heads are made from metal and the handles will be wood or fibreglass, although you can get handles that are metal.

I personally have both types of mattock, but mainly use my cutter mattock as I have a pickaxe I use as well. So it saves me carrying 3 different kinds in my van at the same time

Both types of Mattock have an Adze blade on one side.

Find out more about the history and uses of mattocks here: MATTOCK

I will tell you a little bit about the 2 types below.

Cutter Mattock

The cutter mattock has an Adze blade (A flat blade about 3-4 inches in width) on one side and an Axe blade on the opposite side.

See the picture below, which it the head of my own cutter mattock.

My Cutter Mattock

The Adze blade is used for breaking heavy and compacted soil up. You can also drag the loosened up soil towards you using the flat blade.

The Axe blade is used for chopping through roots in the ground.

Both sides can be used for breaking through the roots of some plants though and makes it a much easier task then trying to struggle with a Fork or Spade.

Plants such as Pampas grass for example can be difficult to dig out using a garden fork or spade. These type of grasses spread out over a wide area which causes a problem if trying to dig out with a fork or spade.

Trying to work your way round digging underneath to get it out is back-breaking work.

Using both sides of the cutter mattock makes it much easier and you can break through it bit by bit, using the Adze side to get underneath it and wrench it up and the axe side to break through any tougher more stubborn roots.

Buy a Cutter Mattock here.

Pick Mattock

The pick mattock has an Adze blade on one side and the opposite side has a pick (A sharp pointed spike).

This kind of mattock is great to use in stony ground or concrete as that’s where the pick side of the head is at it’s most effective.

Take a look at the photo of my pick mattock below.

My Pick Mattock


Buy a Pick Mattock here.


The pickaxe is another great tool that can be a great help when gardening and landscaping.

Pickaxes have been dated back as far as Prehistoric times where they were used for agricultural purposes, which shows you how well this design of tool has stood the test of time.

The heads of pickaxes have a spike (pick) on one side and normally a chiseled edge on the other side, although sometimes you will get them with spikes on both sides of the head.

The handles of pickaxes are generally made from wood, most usually Hickory or Ash, but you can also get handles made from fibreglass or metal.

The picture below is of my pickaxe which I was lucky enough to be given by one of my customers.

My Pickaxe

When you have a pickaxe with the spike/chiseled head, the chiseled side can be used much like the axe side of the cutter mattock for chopping through roots in the ground.

Like on the pick mattock, the pick (spike) side is brilliant to use in stony ground or concrete and breaks the ground up very well.

Using the weight for momentum and hitting such a small area it splits the ground very easily and then makes it much easier to then use a fork or spade to finish the job you’re doing.

Find out more about pickaxes here: PICKAXE

Buy a Pickaxe here.

To Finish

I believe that any serious gardener/allotmenteer should have one of the two kinds of mattock or a pickaxe in their tool collection.

I have all 3 and use them all on a pretty regular basis.

If there is a spell of really dry weather and the ground is really hard, then it’s a hard slog to break it up using Forks or Spades, but if you have a Mattock or Pickaxe it becomes a much easier process.

The 2 photos below are from a job I done recently when there had been no rain for 8 weeks.

Soil broken up from using a mattock
After using the Adze edge of a Mattock
Dry, cracked ground before use of Mattock
The dry and cracked earth before using the Adze edge of the Mattock









You can see in the first photo how hard and dry the ground was. So dry it was cracking.

This made it almost impossible to dig it using a fork or spade, but using my Mattock (the Adze side) I got the job done.

You have to put the effort in, but believe me it’s a lot less effort then trying to use a fork or spade.

When you look at how other countries make use of Mattocks, Pickaxes and Adze Hoes it makes me wonder why they are not more widely used in the UK.

They really are brilliant tools and I would always recommend to anyone.

PLEASE leave any comments or questions below. I’ll always answer promptly.

Or you can always email me at:

Happy Gardening!








8 Replies to “Garden Digging Tools – Mattocks and Picks.

  1. I have been gardening for over 30 years, and it’s my ‘therapy’!

    I have heard of picks but not mattocks and it may be because I haven’t had to dig in compacted soil or clay. They look like very useful tools.

    Your article was informative with so much information that I may need to know in the future. Watching the video was of help since I’m a visual learner and I will be reading more posts for sure.



    1. Hi Patsy,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I too have been gardening for over 30 years and like you, I find it very therapeutic.
      Mattocks are great tools and really come into their own in compacted soil or when there has been no rain for a long time and the ground is very dry.
      I’m glad you found it informative and enjoyed the visual part too.
      Thanks and best wishes,

  2. I came across your site kind of by mistake. I was looking for way’s to make my gardening and soil turning a little easier and your site popped up and i’m sure glad it did. My property has a lot of tree’s and roots can be a big problem for me. I saw that pick mattock, which i never heard of but i do believe that tool will be a huge help for me. Fall is setting in for me right now but I will have a pick mattock before spring arrives. Thank you for such an informative site. I have saved it for future use.
    thanks again

    1. Hi Robert.
      I’m the sure the Pick Mattock will be a great help for you on your property.
      You can use the Adze side to cut through roots under the ground, but if you do have a lot, then maybe the Cutter Mattock would be better for you with it’s axe blade on one side of the head.
      The Adze side will certainly make turning the soil a lot easier too.
      Thanks and best wishes,

  3. Thank you for this blog about gardening tools. I love gardening and use some of the tools you displayed and talked about but never gave any thought to the quality. My brother and his friends however compare them all the time. I’ll show him your blog.
    All the best to you.

    V. Pearl

    1. Hi Vanna,
      Thanks for taking the time to read my post on Mattocks and Picks.
      I’m glad you love gardening. I find it very therapeutic, well at least some of the time, depending on what gardening I’m actually doing.
      Thank you for passing my site information onto your brother. I hope he will find it interesting and useful too.
      Best wishes,

  4. Hello ,

    So glad to have found you .This article has given us so much information.We love playing in the yard, gardening etc and we have never used a Mattock for some unknown reason. Lol
    Your pictures speaks volumes .We are eager to learn more from you .
    Thanks very much ,
    Elaine and Scarlett

    1. Hi Elaine and Scarlett,
      Thanks for reading and commenting on my post: Garden Digging Tools – Mattocks and Picks.
      Gardening is great and I find can be very therapeutic.
      Mattocks are brilliant tools, but not everyone will have a use for them in their gardens.
      If you have hard or stony soil then they will definitely be of great use to you.
      Thanks and best wishes,

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