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Garden Auger: Tips from Professionals

A garden auger is a valuable tool for gardeners who do a lot of landscaping or want an easier alternative to a shovel or post-hole digger. Anyone can use these tools, from homeowners to professional landscapers and maintenance crews. A garden auger helps with a faster, more efficient method of planting gardens or digging post holes.

Garden Auger:

An auger is a spiral-shaped tool used to drill holes in the ground, other surfaces, or materials. Their purpose is to make digging easier, particularly in difficult soil. Augers come in various shapes and sizes and are used for numerous applications. Smaller augers can be used by hand or cordless drill, whereas larger augers require a powerhead.

In this article, I will explain a garden auger and when it is used. I will also explain how to choose the right auger for your situation and answer some of the frequently asked questions I get.

What is an auger used for?

Augers are primarily used to drill holes. Drilling holes for a fence, solar posts, telephone poles, and deck posts are some common industrial applications.

Augers save time and labor, allowing for more efficient workflow and continuity. As a result, you’ll get the most out of this tool when digging multiple holes of the same diameter during a single project.

While augers excel in these more industrial applications, they are also used in other ways, such as:

  • Drilling holes in wood or trees to extract maple syrup.
  • Gardening
  • While ice fishing, drill holes through the ice.

Types of Augers

  • Earth Auger: As the bit bores down, an earth auger rotates to lift the earth upward and remove it from the ground. Earth augers are similar but more efficient than post-hole diggers and are commonly used for boring holes for construction projects.
  • Hand Auger: These hand tools can be used by a single person to complete individual DIY projects that require no mechanical power. This is where tasks like plumbers unclogging drains and recreational needs like ice fishing holes come in.
  • Garden Auger: Because augers churn up soil, they can be useful in various garden applications. Different bit diameters can be used for various tasks ranging from planting bulbs to trees to boring holes in the ground for a fence line.
  • Ice Auger: Ice augers, as the name implies, are used to drill through layers of ice. If you enjoy ice fishing, you can drill a hole and cast your line with an ice auger.

This article is mainly focused on garden augers.

Why do you need an auger?

To understand why you might need an auger, you should first understand how augers differ from other gardening tools. Most digging tools, such as shovels, post-hole diggers, and digging bars, require a lot of arm and hand strength. Furthermore, all of these tools require the user to bend while working, which puts a lot of strain on their back. An auger works faster than a shovel, allowing the operator to stand upright. Because the auger is designed to be held stationary while boring the hole, there is less strain on the hands and arms.

Augers are a worthwhile investment for this back issue alone. But a power earth auger becomes necessary for people with a lot of digging. With a flower-planting auger, gardeners can plant dozens of bulbs and annual and perennial plugs in less time. On larger jobs, such as fencing or tree plantations, a powered auger reduces the time spent digging and the manpower required, saving contractors and their customers money.

What is an auger used for in gardening?

They are used for digging fence post holes, planting bulbs/grass plugs, and other gardening/landscaping tasks where a hole is needed. A garden auger saves time and provides better soil-to-root contact for plants than a shovel.

Can I use an auger for planting trees?

An auger is a perfect companion for planting trees and comes in various sizes. Augers 5-7 inches are ideal for digging holes for a gallon or quart-sized plants, small trees, and shrubs.

How to pick the right auger?

It would be best if you considered the following parameters while choosing the right auger for your needs:

  • Diameter: Anything less than 4 inches in diameter is typically used for planting seeds, bulbs, and small plants, while mid-sized blades up to 9 inches in diameter are better suited for larger plants, shrubs, and small trees. Larger auger blades, such as those over 9 inches in length, are best suited for structural work such as digging holes for fence posts.
  • Length of blade: The length of the blade determines how deep you can dig; a longer blade can dig deeper, whereas a shorter blade can only dig a shallow hole. When selecting an auger, I advise going with the longest one possible. This allows digging deeper holes but is also fine for shallow holes as you stop turning when you reach your desired depth.
  • Types of handles: Thinner hollow handles are more likely to bend or break than thick solid handles, and a square-shaped handle without grips will be uncomfortable after prolonged use unless padded gloves are worn.
  • Length: Keep the length in mind as well. Shorter augers will require you to dig on your hands and knees, whereas 28- and 36-inch augers will allow you to dig while standing. If back pain is a concern, choose a longer auger to reduce strain.
  • Material: The material used to manufacture the auger’s blade is also important. It determines how easily it can cut through various dirt with stones without breaking or dulling prematurely. The best option is one made from steel or titanium, as these materials are long-lasting and strong while remaining flexible enough to drill into tough materials. Of course, the stronger the material, the more expensive the option is.

What is the best use of a soil auger?

The purpose of a soil auger is to obtain disturbed soil samples by auger borings. The depth to which the bore shall be made is controlled by the depth to which the soil would not collapse. This is a very inexpensive way of soil sampling.

How do you auger hard ground?

Gas augers are widely regarded as the most powerful tool for digging in difficult soil types. To easily dig into hard soil, you need a lot of torque to rotate it deep into the ground. Some augers are designed/geared to dig through ice and dirt; switch out the auger bits.

How long does it take to dig a hole with an auger?

Generally, digging a hole with an augur takes less than a minute to several minutes. Of course, this greatly depends on the size and depth of the hole.

Additionally, the time it takes to dig a hole with an auger is also determined by the quality of your machine. Also, the soil type plays an important role; rocky or thicker soil takes more effort than loose soil. Environmental factors like rain and drought usually are less important factors.

Will an auger go through tree roots?

Augers can dig through tree roots, but depending on the augur model, you must do this cautiously. You don’t want to break the drill’s end on hard objects beneath the earth’s surface. If you have a heavy-duty model with strong, sharp blades, you will have no problem going through thicker tree roots.

If you do not use a heavy-duty auger with normal blades, tree roots thicker than three to four inches can cause auger drills to malfunction. If you suspect the machine is stuck on a root, be cautious and turn it off.

If you’re unsure where the roots are in your yard, I recommend checking with a shovel first. If you find thick tree roots, try removing them first. Follow these steps to dig through tree roots:

  1. Check the area: Check that the area is safe and there are also no electric cables or pipes in the ground near the area you plan to work.
  2. Remove surface roots: Remove any roots near the surface with a shovel and spade.
  3. Starter hole: Make a starter hole with a shovel or other tool for the drill tip. This greatly improves its stability when starting.
  4. Start the auger: Now, it is time to place the auger and start it. Ensure it sits upright so that the hole will be straight down.
  5. Start the drilling: Start drilling the hole. When you notice that the auger hits something, please stop it.
  6. Check what has stopped the auger: Remove the auger from the hole. You can reverse it to make this easier. Check what has caused your auger to stop. This can be a root but also a rock. You can widen the hole with a shovel or another tool if needed.
  7. Remove the hindrance: The next step is to remove what has stopped the auger. You can try to remove it with a spade. Cut with a saw or other tool for thicker roots. I sometimes use a cordless power drill with a wood drill and drill the root as much as possible. Another helpful tool is a linger Steel Tamping and Digging Bar or a Chisel Digging Bar. Stones often need to be removed with a shovel.
  8. Clear the hole: Remove as much as possible after weakening the root so the auger can continue drilling. Ensure the hole is free of debris, including rocks and stones.
  9. Put the auger back and continue: When all the debris has been removed from the hole, you can put the auger back and continue drilling. If you hit something again, repeat the previous steps.

What size auger is best for fence posts?

The size of the auger needed to install a fence post depends on the size of the fence post and the soil type. Also, keep in mind what additional support your posts may require. If you intend to secure your posts with cement or by tamping dirt, you must leave enough space around the post.

For example, the maximum width of a 4×4 post (actual size 3.5″x3.5″) is slightly more than 5″. (diagonally). As a result, the 4×4 post will most likely fit into a hole drilled with a 6″ auger. However, this leaves less than 1/2″ at the widest point for packing cement or dirt to secure the post.

As a result, an 8″-10″ auger would be much more effective in providing the necessary fill space for cement or tamping.

Generally, the following auger sizes are recommended for fence post sizes:

1 7/8″ Steel Post   
6″ Auger
2 3/8″ Steel Post
6″ Auger
4×4 Wood Post (Mailbox)
8″ Auger
4×4 Wood Post (Fence)             
10″ Auger
 6×6 Wood Post           
12″+ Auger

Do augers work in clay soil?

Augers are ideal for difficult-to-dig soil. Heavy clay soils, which clump and stick to shovels, are no match for an auger.

Do augers work in rocky soil?

Augers can work fine in rocky soil if you use the correct type. A heavy-duty model with a strong enough blade is recommended for drilling in rocky soils to avoid damage. These augers have stronger tooth and side cutting blades and heavy-duty flighting.