How to Soften Soil for Digging with an Auger

If you’re planning on digging holes with an auger, you’ll want to know how to soften soil for digging with an auger.  Making sure that your soil is prepped makes your holes easier and faster to dig, and puts less wear and tear on your auger. 

Let’s review the steps you need to take to soften soil for digging with an auger. 

How to Soften Soil for Digging with an Auger
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How to Soften Soil for Digging with an Auger 

There are a few simple ways to soften the ground to dig a hole with an auger.  Making hard dirt easier to dig is just a matter of having the right tools and know-how for the job. These tips and tricks will make your post hole digging easier and more efficient the next time you have to dig a hole. 

The #1 way to soften soil for digging with an auger is to use water and let it soak in for a few hours or overnight. This will help the soil absorb moisture and become softer, making it easier to dig with an auger. The time it takes to soften soil depends on several factors including he type of soil, its moisture content, and the method used to soften it. Generally, it can take a few hours to overnight for the soil to become soft enough for digging.

You can also use organic matter such as compost or manure to soften soil for an auger. Organic matter helps to improve soil structure, increase soil moisture retention, and make the soil more workable.

Our 3rd method is to use a soil softener product. These products contain enzymes or other ingredients that break down the soil’s structure and make it easier to dig.

How much water should I add to soil to soften it for an auger?

The amount of water you should add to soil to soften it for an auger depends on the type of soil and its moisture content. Generally, adding enough water to saturate the soil without making it too muddy is a good rule of thumb.

Is it necessary to soften soil before digging with an auger?

It can be necessary to soften soil before digging with an auger, especially if the soil is hard or compacted. But this is not always the case. Test your soil with a small pilot hole dug with a shovel or clam shell digger/hand auger and see how tough the soil is. If the soil is soft and easy to dig, it is likely soft enough for a larger auger.

Trying to dig with an auger on hard soil can damage the auger, make the digging process slower, and even cause accidents.

What is the Best Tool to Break Up Hard Soil? 

digging bar is an essential tool here.  In our opinion, it’s the best tool for breaking up clay soil (or any kind of tough soils).

Digging Bar (Landscape Bar) 


With clay, rocky and rooty soil being so difficult, you will have to use more elbow grease than when drilling in easier soil conditions. This take extra labor and time.  But you can’t break down tough soil without using a TON of elbow grease. 

Other Tools for Digging in Hard Soils

Here is our quick list of the tools we use to dig hard ground.

Hand Auger

Hand augers are the old school way to dig holes in the ground.

As you can see from the image here, they are fully manual powered. You will have to put in some hard work to even get a few inches down in hard soil.

If you are digging multiple holes in hard ground, I would pass by this and choose one of the powered options.


Shovel and/or Clam Digger

You can also use a plain old shovel or clamshell digger, to dig in hard soil.

It’s going to take you a long time to dig through hard soil by hand, but if you are determined, you can get it done.




Picks are manually operated and you can use elbow grease to dig in hard ground.

Digging in any sort of ground with a pick is going to be super hard work.

I would use one to start a hole, or maybe if the going gets really tough. But I have no plans to dig an entire hole with a pick.


Using a spade is almost like using a shovel, but its designed to slice through thick turf and soil for digging. It includes a lifetime warranty and is 46 inches long.


Trenching Spade

Using a trenching spade is different than a shovel or a regular spade. They are especially effective at digging post holes in rough soils due to the V angled head.


Power Tools for Digging Hard Ground

Gas Augers


Gas Augers are known for having the most power. They are the best tool for digging in rocky soil. You need a good amount of torque to power through hard ground gas augers provide plenty.

Some augers are built/geared to handle both ice and dirt; you just have to switch auger bits.

Get more bang for your buck with an auger head that can do both.

2 Man Auger

2 man augers are also packed with a ton of power to handle tough soil situations. The only con to this type of auger is you do need 2 people to operate it as they have a ton of torque.  


3 Point Post Auger


Another kind of auger to use is a 3 point post auger that you attach to a tractor or backhoe. Sometimes they are called tractor augers.

These are common in rural areas, or for jobs where you need to drill a ton of holes, or the soil is very tough to get through.


Using a jack hammer to break up hard ground can save wear and tear on your body and save a ton of time.


What is the Best Way to Dig a Hole in Tough Soils?

The best way to dig hard ground by hand is with the best post hole auger.  Breaking up hard soil with a post hole auger makes digging much easier.  Pair your dirt auger with a digging bar and you’ve hit the magic combination to get through most tough soils.   

If you’re looking for power tools to dig in hard ground, check out our posts for a ton of info on digging through a number of touch soil conditions. 

What is an auger, and how does it work?

An auger is a drilling tool that consists of a rotating helical screw blade, called a flighting, which is used to bore holes in soft soil or other materials. As the auger rotates, the flighting pulls soil up and out of the hole, creating a vertical shaft.

What are the advantages of using a powered post hole auger for digging?

The main advantage of using an auger is that it saves time and effort compared to digging by hand. An auger can quickly bore deep, narrow holes with minimal soil disruption, making it ideal for tasks such as installing fence posts or planting trees.

How deep can an auger dig?

The depth an auger can dig depends on the length of the auger bit. You can also buy extensions for your auger. Typically, a powered auger (with an extension) can dig around 4 feet deep.

What maintenance is required for an auger?

After each use, clean the auger bit and check for any damage or wear. Store the auger in a dry, secure location to prevent rust and damage. Make sure that you store in straight up and down and don’t store is with the bit on the ground, holding up the powerhead. You risk bending the bit.

Regularly check the fuel and oil levels and replace any worn or damaged parts. If storing for a period of time before next use, drain any gas, remove the batteries or propane fuel tank and store them properly.

Warning: Call Before You Dig! 

You never know what is underneath your top soil.  You could have gas and water lines, power, just about anything.  Don’t take any risks.   

Always give yourself enough time to find out what is underneath the areas you are planning on digging and call 811 to connect with your local utilities services for full details. 

Also, a little know fact here, you will want to make sure that your tetanus shots are up to date before digging around in the dirt.  Apparently, you need them updated every 10 years. 

Make sure that you have all your safety gear on hand which includes glasses, hearing protection, gloves and steel toed boots. Also wear tight fitting clothing to avoid having your clothes get caught up in the auger.

How to Use an Auger

We have written many posts about using augers, check out the links below for more information.

Soften Soil for Digging with an Auger Conclusion 

In conclusion, softening soil for digging with an auger is an essential step to ensure a successful and safe digging project. There are several techniques you can use to make the soil softer, such as adding water, using organic matter, or applying specialized products. By following the tips we’ve provided in this article, you can soften even the hardest soil and dig your holes with ease.

We hope this article has been helpful in guiding you through the process of softening soil for digging with an auger. With a little bit of patience and the right tools, you can turn any patch of hard soil into a workable surface for your digging project. Happy digging!


Can an auger be used for other tasks besides digging holes?

Yes, an auger can be used for other tasks, such as mixing concrete or soil, aerating soil, or removing soil samples for testing. However, it is important to use the appropriate auger bit for each task to avoid damage or injury.

Can I rent a soil softener machine for my project?

You can rent a soil softener machine from a garden or landscaping supply store for your project. These machines can help to break up hard soil and make it easier to dig with an auger.

Can I use a tiller to soften soil for an auger?

Yes, you can use a tiller to loosen and soften soil for an auger. However, be careful not to till the soil too deeply, as this can create a hardpan layer that makes it harder to dig.
How long does it take to soften soil for an auger?