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How to Loosen Soil with a Mattock

Learn how to loosen hard soil with a mattock from landscape architect Patrick Weisel in this Howcast video.


Some of you have searched for "How to pickaxe my soil."

That's a pretty peculiar question because a pickaxe is not really something we use in gardening. What we use in gardening is a tool called a mattock. Instead of a pickaxe which would actually have an axe on this end we have something that has a pick with a hoe combination. Now this is a pretty aggressive tool and maybe what you're really asking for is how to de-compact your soil.

There's a lot of different ways to decompact your soil. You can search for that and find answers to. We are going to show you how to use this tool.

This is a pretty aggressive tool and it's heavy. You've got to be careful with it. You can hurt yourself and you could hurt your landscape. One of the things I would advise, perhaps the most important thing is, regardless of what you've seen in the movies or on T.V.. It's never a good idea to raise this tool above over your head and give it a big full swing. That's a very good way to hurt yourself, hurt your back, or hurt somebody else.

The proper way to use the tool is simply to keep it below your waistline and just work the soil like this in a methodical way. Not too deeply. Not too much. If you're working really hard that probably means the soil is too hard. Perhaps it's best to wait til after a rain and the soil softens up a little bit. Then try the tool again. Really be careful when you use this tool under a tree. Look up above you and see if there are branches. If there are, there's probably tree roots where you are. You could seriously damage the tree roots and the tree with this tool if you're not careful. That's my advice on how to use a mattock. It is a mattock and not a pickaxe.

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