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Hole Digging 101

Posted: Thursday June 21, 2018

When you’re planting, whether it’s seed or a tree or a small container plant, digging the right hole is critical. Below, we’ll discuss the best methods for digging holes, and which type of hole should be dug for each type of plant. These easy gardening tips can help your garden thrive.

Use the Right Tools

When most people want to dig a hole, they reach for a spade. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but there are better hole-digging tools available — namely garden augers. Augers have several advantages over other tools, including:

  • Easy to use, even for people with limited physical abilities
  • Loosens the soil, making it easier for roots to spread
  • Requires little physical effort to operate

To use the garden auger, screw in the auger into  a power drill just like any other drill bit would be installed. If the auger has a non-slip hex head (ideal for reducing slippage in the drill), ensure the flat portion of the hex is tightening against the drill chuck. Set the drill’s clutch and have the drill set on slow speed to prevent twisting. When ready to dig, simply point the auger at the ground where the hole (s) should be and pull the trigger. Utilizing a drill with a second side handle is preferred for better control in tougher soil conditions.

The auger should slide through the soil easily, creating a hole. The hole might backfill a little, but the soil inside the hole should be loose and easy to remove. Once ideal depth is achieved, simply remove the auger from the hole, plant, and backfill with the loose soil left around the edge of the hole.  You will no longer have to break up clumps of soil created from using a spade.

Dig Properly Sized Holes

The size of the hole you dig for your plant is critically important. A hole that is too small could suffocate the roots or hinder plant growth. In the case of a seed, a hole that is too deep could prevent the seed from germinating at all.


A seed should be planted no deeper than twice its width. For example, if the seed is one-quarter of an inch wide, it should be planted no deeper than one-half of an inch.

In addition to a shallow hole, seeds also need loose, airy soil. To loosen the soil effectively, use a hand-held garden auger to dig several small holes. This will help loosen the soil. Put the soil back into the hole once it’s been dug — you won’t need a hole that deep for your seed. Using your thumb, push a small indentation into the soil. Be careful to not make the hole too deep! Finally, drop the seed inside and sweep the soil over the hole, covering the seed.

Small Plants

When digging a hole for a small plant no more than three inches wide, use a bulb auger to dig a hole between six and 12 inches deep. Insert the root ball into the hole, then cover the base of the plant with excess soil. The plant should not sit deeper in the ground than it does in its pot, so be careful not to cover the base of the plant with extra soil. This protects the plant from rot and fungus.

Large Plants

For a plant that is larger than three inches wide, dig a hole about twice the diameter of the pot and about one and a half to two times deeper than the depth of the plant. Use your quart pot auger to dig the hole. After the hole is dug, backfill the hole with some excess soil until the plant has enough height to stand on its own. Insert the plant and backfill the hole. Again, do not cover the stem of the plant more than the plant already has been covered.


To plant a containerized tree, use a quart pot plant auger. Trees need holes that are three to four times wider than the container. The hole should be no deeper than the container. Set the root ball in the hole and backfill around the tree.

Whether you’re planting a tiny seed or a large tree, having the right tools for digging a hole can make the experience more pleasurable and productive. To get started, pick up a gardening auger today.


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