How Deep Can You Dig With a Garden Shovel?

  • By: TheWalledNursery
  • Time to read: 6 min.
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You’re allowed to dig a hole on your property up to five feet deep after calling 811. If you want to dig deeper than five feet deep, you will need a permit. Technically, you can easily dig ten inches into the soil with a garden shovel. You can go up to 10-15 feet deep as long as you have the strength to climb out of the hole. 

You’ll want to know the rules before you try digging a deep hole with your garden shovel.

digging with a garden shovel
How deep can you dig with a garden shovel

Remember that various lines and pipes are running under your property- you wouldn’t want to break one.

Here’s exactly how deep you can dig with a garden shovel. 

How Deep Can I Dig Legally With a Shovel?  

In the United States, there are limits on how deep you’re allowed to dig with a garden shovel.

Even if you’re on your property, you won’t want to dig further than what the law limits. Otherwise, you could find yourself in trouble.  

You’re allowed to dig any hole in your yard as long as you call 811 first for permission.

811 is the “Call Before You Dig Line.” The person on the other end will let you know where you can and can’t dig because of buried lines. 

Digging in backyard
Digging in your backyard

You need to call them no matter how deep you’re digging- even if it’s only a few inches.

The reason is that there are many utility lines you can find just below the earth’s surface.

Even those tilling soil to add small plants have bumped utilities in the past. 

After calling 811, you can dig up to five feet deep in your yard. If you want to go any deeper than that, you must get a permit first.

You’ll need to call or visit your state’s 811 websites. 

Before You Start Digging – You’ll need to know the laws in your local area. If you just start digging randomly, you could find yourself in trouble, or you could hit a buried line or pipe. 

Know What’s In Your Yard 

After calling 811, they send staff to your property.

They mark areas with gas pipes, phone lines, water lines, electrical cables, and fiber optic cables with flags or paint.

Once you know where everything is, you can give them a wide space while you dig. 

You should take pictures of the markings. If they fade or blow away, you’ll still want to know where everything is on your property.

The utility workers are very accurate, so you can trust that you’re safe while digging. 

Overall, you should know where and how deep the lines are before getting the shovel out.

Hitting any kind of line could cause a minor disaster on your property.  

How Deep Can Garden Shovels Dig? 

Most garden shovels can easily dig 10 inches deep into the soil.

This depth is the full length of the shovel’s blade. However, you can find garden shovels that are longer or slightly shorter. 

Digging deep with shovel tips
Digging deep problems

While you technically can lift 10 inches of dirt in a single pass, you might not be able to lift that much.

You can always push the shovel as far into the ground as you’re comfortable with. Plus, the dirt texture and density in your yard can vary.  

However, you can probably dig into the earth between 10 and 15 feet. It becomes unsafe if you dig too far past that point.

You also need to make sure you can still pull yourself out of the hole. Plus, you’re likely to get very tired- even digging a five-foot-deep hole is a lot of physical work. 

When Digging – You also need to make sure that the hole is wide enough to stand in and move the shovel. Otherwise, digging becomes extremely difficult. 

How Deep Should I Make a Garden? 

When first making a garden, you’ll need to dig up some of the earth with your shovel.

You’ll want the garden to be between eight and 12 inches deep in most cases. You should go deeper when making vegetable beds.  

After digging out a space for your garden, you can add mulch or another surface material on top.

The mulch deposits nutrients back into the ground as it decays, giving your plants the nutrients to thrive.

Fiskars Steel D-Handle Flat Square Garden Spade, Gardening Tools for Edging, Digging, Weed Removal, Heavy Duty, 46 Inch, Black/Orange

If you want to add more gardening mulch, you may need to make your garden an inch or two deeper. 

Overall, most gardens need to be 12 inches deep or less. Some plants require a little more room, so you’ll want to research the seeds that you want to plant first. 

At This Depth: You should be able to use most garden shovels easily. Since most of them are about 10 to 12 inches, you’ll only need to scoop out one shovel-depth worth of soil. You can make the garden as wide as you need it to be. 

How Long Will My Garden Shovel Last? 

You can make a high-quality garden shovel last forever.

A good garden shovel costs more, but it’ll last you longer. The shovel is also less likely to break when you use it to dig a very deep hole.

Quality shovels also won’t rust, which is extremely damaging to shovels. 

You also shouldn’t use it against rocks- when you hit one, remove the shovel and choose the proper tool. If you try to use it to pry up heavy rocks, you could break it. 

You can also oil the shovel to help it remain in good condition. As it passes through dirt and rocks, it’s less likely to receive scratches.

After using the garden shovel, wipe it off and store it out of the elements. 

Overall, you can make a good shovel last a lifetime- even if you plan on using it to dig deep holes multiple times.

Shovels do wear out faster with heavy use, but taking care of the metal can get you a lot more out of it.

It’s usually a sign that you’re too rough on your shovels when you have to keep replacing them right away. 

Final Thoughts

You can easily dig ten inches into the soil with a garden shovel.

You can go up to 10-15 feet deep as long as you have the strength to climb out of the hole. 

Before you start digging, you’ll need to know the laws in your local area. If you just start digging randomly, you could find yourself in trouble.

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