Monday, May 12, 2014

HOLE PROBLEM

Here is the dilemma:

Most of the ground at the farm is hard, clay soil.  I'm not sure how many of you have soil like this but when I tell you it's like digging into concrete, that's no exaggeration.  After a rain, it's a bit easier, but you have to get in quickly and dig.  Even then, it's still not as easy as it might be in other soils when just using the standard line of garden tools.


Remember last weekend I was going to dig some holes for the trees along the driveway?  I used a regular shovel.  Fail.  I borrowed 2nd Family's post hole digger.  Fail.  Then I tried a special shovel, I think it was called a trenching shovel.  Semi-fail.  I did manage to get a hole dug, but it took about an hour and the hole wasn't nearly as deep and wide as it needed to be.  Not to mention I was afraid I'd crack the handles on their tools!

Not me
2nd Family told me that "Ma" (the previous owner of our house) used to use a pick axe (!) to dig holes in the yard.  If it was just a few holes, I might be OK with figuring out something more manual.  But if we're going to have color at the farm, not to mention future fruit trees, nut trees, decorative trees and bushes, we need to be able to get holes dug easily so that those trees and bushes can go into the ground and start growing.  

So, we are thinking of buying one of these:


Not this one specifically, but something like this.  It's called an Earth Auger.  We can rent them of course, but with as many holes as we'll need, and at different times of the year we might be needing them, it seems like it makes more financial sense to just purchase one now so that we can use it on the farm for, hopefully, years to come.

Anyone have experience with these?  I have no problem with going out a couple of days after every rainy day and digging some holes.


22 comments:

The Singing Gardener said...

It's pretty soul destroying work isn't it, digging in impossible terrains. My problem is not quite that bad but because I live in a quarrying area mine is full of HUGE rocks. I have thought of buying a pick axe but so far I have muddled by with sheer hard work - well it's a work out I suppose. It looks a brilliant tool that you are thinking of buying and wish such a large farm, assuming it works, then it will be money very well spent.

jaz@octoberfarm said...

i don't have one of these but i know people who do and they love it.

Ranni Moonbeam said...

When we lived in North Carolina we had hard red clay and I remember my husband using augers to plant different things in the yard. Worked for him. He even had one he could attach to his drill for planting little bits here and there.

Dani said...

Soil rock hard in summer and clingy, heavy and wet in winter. Sounds like you live next door to us lol.

We get a digger loader to dig the tree holes. And use s koevoet (jimmy crow bar) for pole holes. The koevoet is a steel straight crowbar with one end spear pointed and the other a pointed "flat" end. The koevoet breaks the ground and then an empty tuna tin digs out the loosened soil.

The Earth Auger sounds wonderfully luxurious :) But be careful of rocks...

Anonymous said...

My soil is the same as yours. I have 7 trees waiting for me to spend an hour each digging holes for them. So --- I feel your pain!
The auger would save a lot of labor. There is also one that can be attached to the back of a tractor. Here is a picture of the tractor kind on the Pioneer Woman's site: http://thepioneerwoman.com/blog/2013/06/how-to-dig-a-post-hole/
Please be very careful with either one. I know of 2 people who had a fatal accident with it - one got caught in it and the other tried unsuccessfully to save him. Don't mean to scare you but I love you guys!

Texas Rose

Frank from Virginia said...

The one you show is a two person Auger and in hard ground it would take two large people depending on the size of the auger bit. I sugest you rent and try them first. There is a one person version that has the motor on wheels and that helps take some of the tourk out of using it. Rent first and try. If you rent you do not have to worry about stail gas in the tank or water collecting in the gas, changing oil. Unless you will use it every week all year long I think rental is the way to go.

DFW said...

Dani is right, be careful of rocks & thick roots as well. If it hits it will almost jerk your shoulder out of socket. Ask me how I know this ....

Frank from Virginia said...

PS, Granny was the first to direct me to your web site. I have followed you guys ever sense. What a grand lady. and I do mean grand.

beachdaddy said...

So we have the same soil here in Tucson it sounds like ... locally it's called caliche ... what we grew up calling hard-pan in the pacific NW ... Anyhow locally folks use an electric jack hammer with wide ... 4" or so ... bit to break up the soil for planting, running irrigation pipes etc. Still heavy duty but easier for one man to run ... Those augers can knock you right off your feet if you hit something solid... be careful!!!

FionaG said...

Lots of really good comments above. We have both clay soil and rocky/shaley stuff (cause it sure isn't soil) which we have spent many hours labouring in. About 2 weeks ago we started on a new fence and this time asked a neighbour for help. He owns a big thumping tractor with an auger attachment. He made the holes and carried the posts, we popped them in and tamped them down. What would have taken us weeks was done and dusted in under 3 hours. For the record, tree stumps and rocky ground can cause the tractor trouble too so I would hate to think what it would do to a human body. Is there a local who has the equipment and is for hire?

Sharon said...

That's a real bummer about your soil. Just thought I'd offer a word of caution. Up here in Canada we use things that look very similar to your earth auger for drilling holes in ice on frozen lakes (ice fishing) Just about everyone I know that's used them has suffered from pretty bad experiences with wrenching their backs out. (herniated discs etc) Hopefully the earth auger is easier, but definately keep that in mind. I agree with the idea of renting one to try it out first. Good luck!

Sandy said...

1st Man,
Be careful with using this auger. When we use it in this terrible clay, it's difficult and we need two people to keep it up and going because it's hard clay were dealing with. Do you have a farmer friend near by with a tractor with a front end loader that you can borrow?

Practical Parsimony said...

You can rent or buy a little, tiny backhoe or front end loader. One is a Bobcat. I forgot what the other is called. There is no danger of ruining your back or losing your life. Lots of small farmers own one around here. Think of the amortization over time. Plus, you don't have to rush and get it back that day. It will do other things besides dig holes. It will dig a trench to bury water lines and other things. Buy one of those.

Brenda said...

What timing! I just spent yesterday after work digging in "concrete", aka clay, trying to finish our raised beds. About a month ago, hubby tilled our vegetable garden area, then added fence posts around it. He rented an auger, which didn't work very well. The auger went through the first 12 inches fine, but when it hit the harder clay underneath (that wasn't tilled), it didn't do anything. He called the rental place & asked if he could sharpen the bit, and they agreed. Well, sharpening the bit didn't help at all. I agree with everyone above that suggests using a tractor with an auger attachment.

Unknown said...

In your position, I'd hire someone to do it for you, as Fiona suggests. Sometimes it's smarter to bypass the dangerous stuff.

Kellie said...

1st Man, I haven't commented much, but i found your blog awhile back and have read it from post 1 to present. Love it and Love you guys!

I chose to comment on this becasue my Husbands family owns a local Bobcat Equipment Business (central Illinois) and I do agree that with the soil you are talking about, the safest way to go is to rent one with an auger attachment. There is Bobcat of Houston and maybe something closer to the farm. Most will deliver and you could do a weekend rental. Not trying to push a Bobcat on you, just want you so choose the safest equipment for the job.

Please be careful of the handheld augers - they can be dangerous as others have posted.

Shelley S said...

I'd highly recommend renting and trying a hand held first. They are NOT easy to use. We have a 3-point post hole digger for our tractor. In a dry year, even THAT won't break through the clay layer here in our area of Michigan. We found the easiest way to beat it is to dig until it is tough, dump in a bucket of water, and go on to do more holes. The next day, you can probably finish the holes.

Practical Parsimony said...

I have no interest in Bobcat, but I suggested it, too. I am quite sure you know more about the subject.

texomamorganlady said...

If you decide to use an auger of any kind, please be careful and follow all safety precautions. Proper non-slip footwear, no loose clothing, sleeves or open jackets. I won't go into the whole story of why I feel compelled to give this warning, but you can imagine that death by auger is not a pleasant one.

Kev Alviti said...

A mattock for digging in clay is pretty good. It's like a wide bladed pickaxe. Anything petrol driven creates more work to keep it running of you don't use it too often. Also augers like that can be pretty tough to hold on to.

Tombstone Livestock said...

I suggest renting vs. Buying since maintenance / repairs are done by the rental company, maintenance / repairs are expensive, I know, I have two in the shop for repairs again. I start my holes then fill with waster several times before actual digging.

Anonymous said...

Hello, everyone who has problems with caliche. I am from deep South Texas about 100 miles north of the Texas/ Mexican border and where we live there is soft dirt to drill into, but go about 80 miles south west where we own a cattle ranch and you get caliche about a foot to one inch deep. I am using a post hole digger bit ( made by a friend of mine who owns a bit drilling shop ) that can drill through this caliche soil with the power of a 28hp tractor. The tractor does not or has not had any trouble using this bit on 3pt post hole digger. This bit like any other bit used for rock works on the principle of down force pressure. Let me tell you that i just got this bit about three month ago and with the short time i have had from work i have drilled holes through caliche. When i tried to drill the first hole the digger only went about a foot deep into the small shale caliche and would not go any further because i did not have that much weight on it. The second hole must of consisted of smaller layered rock shale because with the 80lb block i had attached on the hole digger plus my weight on an extended pipe 5 ft away from the auger the bit cut through this rock 3 ft in about 1.5 min. The third hole went a lot better after more weight was added 3 concrete 80lbs blocks attached to the stinger pipe being pulled down with the aid of a come along. The 28Hp tractor did not flinch/ remained at idle and dug a whole 3 feet until the come along drew closer to the ground. I paid a total of 750 dollars for this bit and so far it seems to be working well for my purposes.