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I want to plant a row of hedging in ground which is very hard - using a normal garden spade you can barely dig it which bodes badly wanting to dig a few dozen holes! I can see things grow well once they get established though. I think it's mainly due a lot of small stones on the surfuce layer.

I expect to mostly plant whips - I have used "slit planting" before but what tools and techniques can be advised to make my life easier? In a few spots I want to plant larger established trees from pots, where I want screening now rather than in a few years.

  • where you live all you have to do is wait till November/December, maybe late October if the weather's wet in autumn - the soil will be nice and damp and workable by then. Plus you can order bare root to plant,much cheaper for hedging. – Bamboo Sep 11 at 1:27
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Basic tools can be used at the cost of a lot of sweat.

  • First tip is to water the area to be planted thoroughly the day before or even for a day or two. Wet soil is heavier but breaks up easier.
  • Use a pick axe to dig a hole. You might be able to switch to a post hole digger once you have penetrated the crust

If you have access to power tools that you can rent this can be much faster as you won't need them for more than half a day or a day

Gas powered post hole diggers can be used but usually need one person on each side. (It is probably better if each person is the same strength as I have vivid memories of feeling the auger whip around when it wrenched out of the other person's hands)

For the ultimate solution which gets the job done without breaking into a sweat rent a bobcat or backhoe with an auger attachment.

Just some notes from my experiences:

  • always call for a utility locate where you are digging. It's free and "I didn't know" doesn't help you if the neighbors phone line is out
  • digging holes with power tools is tricky as the auger can slip/slide and drill the hole close to but not exactly where you want. If you want an exactly straight line of trees/shrubs you may want to pre dig a starter hole by hand
  • using power augers can give you a hole deeper than you want and with the sides hardened into a smooth surface. Make sure the sides of the hole can allow roots to penetrate easily
  • the level you plant at is critical. Do not plant below the level of soil in the nursery pot or where the soil was for the bare root material.
  • planting high is often recommended particularly if you are working with grafted material.
    • You should check your stock for signs if it is grafted (A swelling two to six inches above the soil line). Many oaks are grafted and most fruit trees.
    • planting high means digging a shallower hole and then using only the local soil to cover the height difference between the root ball and the existing soil level
    • do mulch with two to three inches but not right up to the trunk, leave a two to six inch radius around it free of mulch
  • if staking is not necessary, don't. If the tree won't stand upright use two or three stakes placed two feet from the trunk and secure the tree with garden hose or other soft material (bicycle tubes work well). Remove the stake after one year.

Most Important Water, water, water and lots of it. Now and in the spring and even next summer if it's dry

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Depending on how many whips you want to plant and how energetic you are, you could:

  1. Do it by hand, using fencing tools such as pick-axe, mattock, digging bar, heavy duty fencing spade, etc.

  2. Hire a concrete breaker such as this one. Before hiring, make sure it's not too heavy for you. Probably best to dig out all the holes first before doing the planting.

  3. Hire a heavy duty rotovator to rotovate the length of the hedge row.

  4. Pay someone to do any of the above.

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