Hole Digging 101

June 21, 2018

Digging the right hole is crucial when planting. Whether it’s a bulb, tree, or container plant, you want to dig a properly sized hole so the plant can put down its roots and thrive. In this guide, we’ll explore the best practices for digging holes and recommendations for the appropriate hole size for different plant types. By following these simple garden-digging tips, you can ensure your garden thrives. 

Use the Right Tools

When most people want to dig a hole, they reach for a spade or a shovel. There’s nothing wrong with this approach — if you like blisters and a sore back — but there are better hole-digging tools available, namely garden augers. Augers have several advantages over other tools, including
  • Ease of use, even for people with limited physical abilities
  • Loosening the soil, making it easier for roots to spread
  • Digging with an auger is much faster than a spade
Using a garden auger is simple. Start by attaching the auger to your cordless drill like you would with any other drill bit. If the auger comes with a non-slip hex head, ensure that the flat portion of the hex is tightened against the drill chuck to reduce slippage. Set the drill clutch and speed to its slowest setting to prevent twisting and maximize torque. To begin digging, put the tip of the auger into the ground and pull the drill’s trigger (make sure to follow your specific drill manufacturer’s safety instructions). For tougher soil conditions, we recommend using a drill with a side handle for better control and comfort. 

As the auger rotates it should cut through the soil easily, creating a hole. While the hole might backfill a bit, the soil inside should be loose and easy to remove if needed. Once you’ve dug to the desired depth, remove the auger from the hole, place the plant in the hole, and backfill the hole with the loose soil around its edges. With an auger, you no longer need to break up clumps of soil like you would when using a spade.

Dig Properly Sized Holes

The size of the hole your garden auger digs 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 bulb, a hole that is too deep could prevent the bulb from growing at all.


The depth and width of a bulb hole depend on the size and type of bulb you’re planting. You’ll want to use a bulb auger that is an appropriate diameter and length to accommodate your bulbs. 

Most bulbs require a hole that is 2 to 3 times the height of the bulb. The hole should also be wide enough to allow the bulb to fit comfortably, with some extra space around it for loose soil when you backfill. It's important to remember that the exact depth and width of the hole will vary depending on the specific type of bulb you're planting, as well as your soil conditions and climate. Bulb augers make it easy to dig perfectly sized holes because each hole will be a uniform diameter and all you need to do is remember how deep to dig. 

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 a heavy-duty auger with a large enough diameter to dig the appropriately sized hole. Once the hole is ready, backfill the hole with some excess soil to give the plant some loose soil to extend its roots. Insert the plant and finish backfilling the hole. Again, remember not to cover the stem of the plant more than the plant already has been covered in its pot. 


To plant a containerized tree, use a tree auger with a diameter big enough to dig a hole for the root system to thrive. 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 bulb or a large tree, having the right tools for digging a hole can make the experience more efficient and enjoyable. To get started, pick up a Power Planter auger today!

If you have any more questions about digging with Power Planter augers, consult our Auger Guide or FAQs page to learn more.