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  1. #1
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    Digging holes in rocky and compacted clay? soil

    So I'm new to all this gardening stuff.

    We're trying to dig out some holes to plant a few fruit trees in our front yard and the ground is incredibly difficult to get through.
    At first I thought it was part of the foundations that they'd extended out, but no...If we dug and hit at it with a fork it began to crumble and uncovered larger rocks and still more of this strange clay/light grey material that crumbles with pressure.

    Is there anything I can use/rent, machinery or otherwise to ease this?
    We were working on one hole with a masons chisel and a fork and spade for a couple of hours before giving up to try to find a better way.

    Strange stuff indeed. A neighbour mentioned something about this being an intentional material with some kind of additive to maintain it's stability.
    Plants and trees amazingly do grow seemingly okay in it and I know the outer reaches beyond the house doesn't have soil like this, so I guess they trucked the stuff in, whatever it is, to act as a firm foundation but I obviously still have to dig the innitial holes for the trees and shrubs.

    I'm all ears for a tim the toolman way out of scraping at the round for another weekend.
    pneumatic drill may be overkill, but some kind of powered auger. Would that do the trick?

    Rob.

  2. #2
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    RE: Digging holes in rocky and compacted clay? soil

    I've not found a powered solution to this problem unless you consider a power auger on a bobcat.

    What I've used with some success is this beast:
    http://www.capcityequipment.com/misc...ostholedig.jpg

    We called it a spud bar back when I was building swimming pools. Lowes sells it as a pry bar. Basically, it's a 6 foot nail with about a inch and a half diameter.

    It is a heck of a workout, but it will loosen the material in the hole enough that you can get it out with a shovel or a post hole digger.

  3. #3
    Member cabinetman's Avatar
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    RE: Digging holes in rocky and compacted clay? soil

    After hurricane Wilma I had to replace our mailbox and post. The old post was sunk into what is basically roadbed. I had to go down about 2' for concrete. I couldn make any headway with a shovel. Worked a hole with a long handle cold chisel and a drilling hammer for about an hour, with not much luck. Then if I had anything long enough for my air hammer I would have gone that route. So, instead, I took a 3/4" masonry bit, the real long one, about 12", and drilled holes in a circular pattern. It broke it up quickly and was really very easy to drill. After my first pattern, did it again, and the rest of it all opened up when I got to the soil. Took maybe 30 minutes.
    :)
    :)
    :)
    "I'M NEVER WRONG - BUT I'M NOT ALWAYS RIGHT"

  4. #4
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    RE: Digging holes in rocky and compacted clay? soil

    sometimes a power auger can be more trouble than it is worth - for 30 holes - yes - for 2 or 3 - I would not.

    The best way is with the spud and a post hole digger. it will be a workout. wear gloves. good luck.

  5. #5
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    RE: Digging holes in rocky and compacted clay? soil

    We have some really hard clay in areas of our property like you describe. I was trying to plant a spruce a couple summers ago. The ground was like concrete and even a mattox was too much work. I only got down about 6 inches. What I did was to fill the hole with water and come back the next day. The next day after everything was softened up I was able to finsh digging the hole with a shovel. This was an easy solution and might work for you too.

  6. #6
    Member
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    RE: Digging holes in rocky and compacted clay? soil

    Quarter-stick of dynamite, topped with a big rock (smaller than the hole)...

    8)

    At least it's not as nasty as Texas caliche. That's nearly impenetrable.

    Yeah, a combination of water (you may be able to water-drill it with a chunk of 3/8" black pipe and a hose adaptor), a digging spud, and clamshell diggers (the kind that cost me my two front teeth) is probably your best bet. You CAN get a pretty decent rental posthole digger with the motor on a cart, attached by a PTO shaft to the digger head. That won't dislocate your hip, anyway, like a star-handle powered posthole digger will.

    -- Tim --


    Veni, vidi, vici
    I came, I saw, I hammered.

    :)

  7. #7
    Sonny Edmonds
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    RE: Digging holes in rocky and compacted clay? soil

    Teenagers.
    Teenagers will do the trick.
    Tell them you buried a can of video games there about 2-3 feet down.
    Once the hole is dug, produce some video games and say, "Oops, here they are. I didn't bury them afterall!"
    Give them the games, and enjoy your hole. ;)

    :D

    [link:home.att.net/~paul.edmonds/|Sonny Edmonds ]
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  8. #8
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    RE: Digging holes in rocky and compacted clay? soil

    Before you go planting fruit trees, do you really really want them? I have a number of customers with apple trees and such that hate them because of the maintance invloved. Their other havles who don't have to clean up the mess seem to love them though.

    A tool like Matt sugested is a good way to go. I've dug far to many holes in lovely new england soil. We usualy use a 6 foot bar to loosen the soil up, then shovel, then loosen till the holes deep enough. We also use a small crow bar to pry rocks up. After 3 feet an army shovel comes in real handy.

    We have a Hilti hammer drill/breaker I can't remember ever using it for digging except for breaking frost.

    Teenagers if you have them availible do work great. They seem to be getting lazier and lazier though. Ones that work might be hard to come by.

    All you really need is someone with a strong back and a weak mind. I'm busy for the next couple weeks however.

  9. #9
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    RE: Digging holes in rocky and compacted clay? soil

    My own mind was easily weak enough for the job.

    I ended up going for the heavy spiked rod approach :D
    I also got a post hole digger to pull the loosened soil out. It was actualy very easy with the right tools. The wedge shaped side of the bar was perfect for the sides, and the pencil tip on the other end was perfect for loosening the flattened bottom of the hole. It just shattered the material we were having such problems with and again the spiked end seemed to have no problem getting behind and under larger rocks to pull them loose.
    Can't have taken more than 30 minutes to get the first hole to size.

    Kind of an expensive outlay for the two items, but we will be needing to put in a small amount of fencing next year so I am considering it investment/practise for then.

    Many thanks everyone. Great advice as usual.

    Rob.

  10. #10
    Member
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    RE: Digging holes in rocky and compacted clay? soil

    Ah, you got what I call a "Diggin' bar". About eight thousand pounds (it feels like), six feet long, all steel, hexagonal cross-section? You could lever a truck in the air with it?

    Yep. I kinda' miss mine, a little bit. I'll get another when I need it...

    -- Tim --


    Veni, vidi, vici
    I came, I saw, I hammered.

    :)

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