How to Get Through Hard Dirt & Roots

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Sometimes, a shovel is not enough to get through hard dirt and roots.
Sometimes, a shovel is not enough to get through hard dirt and roots. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Various tasks -- from planting to installing a mail post -- require digging through dirt. Unfortunately, not all soil is soft and easy to dig. Digging through hard dirt and roots can be a difficult process when using normal gardening tools. Shovels do little to break up compacted and hard soil and merely nick the invasive roots instead of chopping through them. Fortunately, different methods work both to break up tough soil and get through roots easier than using a shovel.

Things You'll Need

  • Pickax
  • Electric tiller

Wait until after a heavy rain to dig the dirt. The water will soften the hard dirt, making digging the area easier. Alternatively, pour water over the soil and wait until it is absorbed before digging. Continue adding water to the area until you can dig through the hard soil.

Break up hard soil with a pick. Pickaxes -- sometimes called a pick -- feature a sharp tip at the end that -- when swung from over the shoulder and down into the ground -- breaks apart the soil. Pickaxes also help to chop through roots.

Rent an electric tiller from a home improvement store or tool rental center and till the hard dirt. Tillers feature rotating blades that cut through tough dirt, breaking it into softer soil. Tillers also cut through small to medium-size roots.

Dig through frozen dirt by thawing it with hot water. Boil gallons of water on the stove and carefully pour over the area of frozen soil you want to dig. Dig with a pickax until you meet resistance and add more boiling water.

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