How to Dig in Hard Clay

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Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Garden hose
  • Bucket
  • Auger
  • Clay softener

Clay is one of the more impermeable types of soil and is made up of a mixture of minerals. Most soils usually contain a percentage of clay, but in certain parts of the United States such as the Southwest, clay is more prevalent in the landscape and can create problems for gardeners who must dig in the clay to plant. If you need to dig in hard clay, there are certain steps you can take to be successful.

Choose the right kind of tool to dig in your clay. Depending on how hard the clay is, manual tools such as picks or shovels may not be sufficient to loosen the clay. A motorized auger might be a better choice, especially if you need to dig a deep hole in your clay to plant a tree or post. Different types of augers bore holes in different materials, such as wood or clay, and can be rented for the day from home improvement stores or industrial rental companies.

Soften the hard clay with water. If you have a garden hose nearby, use it to saturate the ground completely. If the clay is located too far from the nearest hose, fill a bucket with water and pour it over the clay. You may need to pour more than one bucket of water on the clay, depending on how hard it is. Once the clay is fully saturated, it will be easy to dig in.

Apply a clay softener to your hard clay. Clay softeners should be used after your clay is saturated, either by your garden hose, water bucket or rain, and will ensure that your clay does not harden when it dries, but remains easy to dig. Clay softeners usually come in spray form and must be sprayed repeatedly over a months-long span for results.