A Short History of Earth Augers in the Garden

Image of 2-inch by 24-inch tree auger with half-inch hex

Many gardeners use power tools to grow healthier gardens, and earth augers are high on the list of tools that help you dig holes faster and plant more in less time. Augers pulverize the soil while you dig planting holes – this gives your plants great root-to-soil contact right from the start.

Earth augers have an interesting history of being used in gardens. Before the 1960s, everyone used shovels and garden trowels and did their gardening by hand. These days, home gardeners have access to earth augers that are easy to use with a cordless electric drill.

However, this has really only been the case for the last couple of decades. “Why’s that?” You might ask.

Image of the original Power Planter crew dated 12-5-88

Original Power Planter crew. Wayne Niewold pictured at bottom left.

The First Garden-Friendly Auger is Invented

It was just shy of 30 years ago that Wayne Niewold, the founder of Power Planter, invented the first garden-friendly earth auger. Wouldn’t you know it – the earth auger he invented was intended for use with an everyday electric drill – something that most people have lying around the house.

Wayne’s original augers looked a little different than the augers Power Planter sells today (they’re covered with black enamel paint these days, whereas before they were a metallic gold), but the design hasn’t changed a bit – and that’s for good reason.

Keep reading to learn more.

Check out this lovably-retro commercial from the 90s for the original Power Planter:

The Big Difference – When Cordless Drills Became Popular

When the cordless electric drill was introduced to consumers in 1961, the groundwork was laid for the future use of power tools in the garden. Cordless drills steadily gained steam with homeowners and contractors over the years since the 60s. There was a notable popularity surge in the 1990s – coincidentally this is about the same time that Wayne started selling his augers.

Cordless drills gave consumers the ability to use earth augers in their gardens – it’s no wonder Wayne’s invention took off when the popularity of cordless drills surged.

And according to a recent industry study, the demand for cordless power tools is expected to continue to rise until at least 2121. Looks like earth augers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, except maybe to your nearest garden.

Auger Design Matters – A Lot

Image of three-eighths-inch hex and half-inch hex comparison

3/8-inch hex drive and 1/2-inch hex drive comparison

The design that Wayne Niewold originally came up with for his garden-friendly augers has withstood the test of time and is still being used today. That design starts with an industry-leading, large-diameter 5/8-inch shaft. The large-diameter shaft means absolutely no bending. Even in the worst conditions (like clay, rocky, or sandy soil), the auger’s shaft stays intact.

Their 5/8-inch shafts enable the augers to have true 3/8-inch and 1/2-inch hex drives, which allow drill chucks (cordless or otherwise) to retain maximum grip, while lowering the ability to shear off the drive of the auger when force is applied.

For the user, this all translates to a safer and better overall experience, regardless of soil conditions.

Image of comparison between heavy duty tips on a 2-inch by 24-inch auger and a 3-inch by 24-inch auger

Heavy duty tips made out of military grade abrasion-resistant material

Details Matter, Too

In 2014, Power Planter introduced the non-slip hex drive already present on their professional-grade augers to their home garden augers. This introduction was necessitated from the ever-growing popularity of cordless drills and keyless chucks.

In 2015, the company began using a military-grade abrasion resistant material for their heavy duty model augers. This is the same material used in military vehicles for protection. It holds up extremely well to all conditions and allows augers more versatility in the professional field.


Today, Power Planter continues to grow and explore new ideas. This past spring, they debuted a line of heavy duty earth augers that include replaceable heavy duty auger blades and digging tips.

Other auger manufacturers have tried to produce products that rival their augers, but none have come close to providing the level of quality and service that comes with a Power Planter.

Image of replaceable heavy duty auger parts - another view

Heavy duty auger with replaceable blade and digging tip


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