Garden Tools

The Best Tool for Digging Holes for Plants Revealed

There’s more than one best tool for digging holes for plants, do you prefer your hands, a spade, or something else?

Some years ago, when I was a kid, I planted my first “garden.” It wasn’t exactly what you might recognize as a garden, and unless you count rocks, there wasn’t really anything growing in my garden. But the holes I dug were world class. Probably because, in all the wisdom of my single-digit years, I knew I had the best tool for digging holes for plants: a stick. 

That was a few years ago, of course. I had no idea that you could use an actual tool for digging holes for plants. Nor, as I got older, did I realize that behind some of those gorgeous, perfect gardens I envied was a secret. These garden gurus weren’t using sticks, or a run-of-the-mill shovel. They had tools that were specially designed just for digging holes. 

Here are some of the best digging tools I’ve come to know, love, and appreciate. 

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The single best tool for digging holes for plants (based on the hole you want to dig)

Okay, weird heading right? There’s actually a reason for that. When it comes to gardening, a hole is not just a hole. And a tool is not just a tool. Are you planting bulbs? Replanting a shrub or tree? Starting seeds? Is your soil rocky? Sandy? You get the picture. So based on your requirements, here is the “best” tool for digging holes for plants and other garden necessities.

  1. Spade. This is the classic gardening tool. The squared-off edges and shorter width make a spade perfect for digging holes in a variety of depths. The shape also makes it a great tool for shaping clean borders or cutting through small roots. Some great gardening spades you can buy:

  1. Hoe. Another classic gardening tool is the hoe. The small, flat blade of the hoe makes it an ideal gardening tool for digging narrow trenches, weeding, and for shaping soil. Some great gardening hoes you can buy:

  1. Trowel. A trowel is a miniature shovel. It’s handheld, and the smaller size makes it a perfect hand tool for digging holes for plants when you have limited space, or if you’re trying to dig around another plant. Some great gardening trowels you can buy:

  1. Gardening fork. A gardening fork may be handheld or have a long handle. This tool isn’t as much for digging holes as it is for loosening and aerating the soil within holes. Of course, you can certainly dig a hole with it, but this isn’t a precision tool. It is, however, very helpful in cleaning up rocky or dense soil. Some great gardening forks you can buy:

  1. Bulb planter. This is the miniature version of a post hole digger. It’s designed to create the perfect hole for planting bulbs. Some even have markers on them so you know exactly how deep the hole is. Some great bulb planters you can buy:
Digging in the dirt by hand.

Bonus tool. Here’s where the kid in me comes back, but there’s something to the fact that your hands are truly the best tool for digging holes for plants. They’re versatile, they’re precise, and it just feels good to get your hands dirty. Isn’t that one of the joys of gardening? 

What’s your favorite or most unusual tool for digging holes in your garden? Share your thoughts in the comments. I always love hearing about unique gardening tools


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By Amanda MacArthur

Amanda MacArthur is Senior Editor & Producer for Food Gardening Network and GreenPrints. She is responsible for generating all daily content and managing distribution across web, email, and social. In her producer role, she plans, edits, and deploys all video content for guides, magazine issues, and daily tips. As a best-selling cookbook author, Amanda cooks using ingredients from her outdoor gardens in the summer and from her indoor hydroponic garden in the winter.

6 replies on “The Best Tool for Digging Holes for Plants Revealed”

Like most gardeners, I have many “digging tools.” My most used is a Hori-hori knife that I have used for 20 years. I painted the wood handle fluorescent yellow so I can find it easier when I leave it in the ground somewhere. My next most-used digger is a Tree-planting spade. It has a 14″L x 6″W steel reinforced blade and a 30″ D-handle. It’s great for planting trees and shrubs or digging out the stumps and cutting roots.

I have found that an auger attached to a drill makes fast work planting bulbs. They come in various sizes so planting small to large bulbs is a cinch.

Can you tell me how to get roots out of the ground from a dead shrub they froze off I need to replace them but have to get the old roots out first

I don’t know if you got an answer yet but, shrub roots are very difficult to remove as they tend to grow outward and downward. Getting the main root ball out is the choice here. Pulling it out with a chain attached to a truck works well, but can be dangerous, a mini excavator rented from a home store is an option but often causes damage to the lawn.
So, dig in the area you’re putting the new root ball in, don’t worry about removing long stray roots from the original, they will decompose over time and add nutrients to the soil.
a sharp shovel, a hand saw, a set of long handle clippers will do the job. If you have one, a chain saw can make short work of the thicker roots. I hope this helps.

Yes, what you are planting may determine what you use; but I’ll add one to your list.
I tend to start my vegetable plants too early every year; so my starts are on the big size compared to the typical 6-pack of tomato/pepper available. I want to start a few more roots early to support them so I use a post hole digger to give me an 8-10” hole.

That gives me a quick space for a bit of better soil, fertilizer mixed into the garden. I pull a couple lower leaves and bury a bit deeper than what had started. Not wise for shrubs; but vegetables seem to show a good spurt and no shock by being transplanted.

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