Does anybody know of a way to dig deep for hard clay soil?

rowsdower

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My 50lb sulcata has picked a spot that works for him and refused to try anywhere else, but once he hits about a foot down he can't dig anymore so he's just sitting in the sun. Can anybody recommend what they did? i'm thinking an auger with some kind of bit. i'm trying to find one but all i can find are the spindly ones that would get stuck. Trying to use a shovel is really hard and obviously a pickax wont work.
 

Yvonne G

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Sounds more like hardpan than clay. With clay, it can be softened with water. Hardpan needs a heavy duty digging bar. An auger won't work either.
 

Maro2Bear

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My 50lb sulcata has picked a spot that works for him and refused to try anywhere else, but once he hits about a foot down he can't dig anymore so he's just sitting in the sun. Can anybody recommend what they did? i'm thinking an auger with some kind of bit. i'm trying to find one but all i can find are the spindly ones that would get stuck. Trying to use a shovel is really hard and obviously a pickax wont work.


Home Depot rents these out...

38C7A521-B6D3-4BD0-BE7F-367BC1283C14.jpeg
 

ascott

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Water is your friend...

I agree. But you will have to make sure to keep the tortoise away until the water soaks in and you will need to do this like a few times before the tort makes it through the layer(s). Here where I live the earth is clay loam and anytime I have to plant ---I have to put a hose at the spot and barely turn the water on (like a touch more than a drip but not so much to cause pooling) and then leave like that for an hour or two or all night if I need the hole deeper. Are you able to reach down into the hole/burrow entrance far enough to assist with digging up the wet/moist soil as you go?
 

Tom

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We have soil like that here too. Its like concrete. If you hit it with a pick it makes sparks. Frankly, I'm surprised your sulcata isn't able to get through that layer. Tortoises all over AZ seem to be able to dig right through it...

In any case, I've tried many ways to dig through that layer over the years. I recently found something that works. My neighbor suggested it and let me borrow his electric shovel. Its an electric jackhammer/shovel with a spade bit on it. It goes through that hard layer like butter. I couldn't believe it. I've tried digging bars, picks, sledge hammers, post hole diggers, trenchers, shovels(the blades just bend), water, etc... Nothing works like this thing does. Its like magic!

Its kind of like this one:
https://www.homedepot.com/p/Stark-3...-Jack-Hammer-Concrete-Breaker-61109/308256891

And the bit is kind of like this:
https://www.homedepot.com/p/Stark-5...ectric-Demolition-Jack-Hammer-61111/308054606

I bet you can rent one at Home Depot pretty cheap for a day. Its very easy to use, and you won't believe your eyes when that bit sinks right into that hard dirt caliche layer and breaks it up.
 

mikels

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There is always something that will work, depending on your budget and determination to see this happen...

First suggestion is to hire a backhoe or mini excavator operator to dig that hole and anything else you might need dug while they are on site. Around here, this could run between 300 and 500. Shopping around helps though.

Are sure this is soil? Even a pan should give a little under a mattock. Soils can vary widely from place to place. If your tortoise has scratched his way to shallow weathered rock, a backhoe could still work, or you might need something like a hoe ram.

Good luck,
Mike
 

Ray--Opo

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If it's clay be careful with a power auger.
A friend of mine was going to build a deck. Knowing he was going to be working with clay. He watered the area on and off for a week. Rented the power auger and screwed it right into the clay. I got a call and we spent 3 or 4 hours trying to dig out the auger.
Most power augers dont have a reverse.
 

Maro2Bear

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My 50lb sulcata has picked a spot that works for him and refused to try anywhere else, but once he hits about a foot down he can't dig anymore so he's just sitting in the sun. Can anybody recommend what they did? i'm thinking an auger with some kind of bit. i'm trying to find one but all i can find are the spindly ones that would get stuck. Trying to use a shovel is really hard and obviously a pickax wont work.


Ok. Instead of us all trying to dig down, it MIGHT be easier to get a few 50 lb bags of (clean) garden top soil and pile the soil up and make a diggable area. Seems a bit easier.
 

Relic

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Ok. Instead of us all trying to dig down, it MIGHT be easier to get a few 50 lb bags of (clean) garden top soil and pile the soil up and make a diggable area. Seems a bit easier.

I was wondering about that as well. Get in a corner area with a couple of walls for support and pile up the dirt as deep as your pocketbook will allow...
 

queen koopa

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We grow rocks here in southern Nevada. The electric pick axe/shovel works. Its extremely loud and I’m not strong enough to work it properly, but I have help! Also I feel like more soil would be needed for a 50 Sulcata ? Koopa was 25 pounds and dug a 5 to 6 foot long burrow
 

Sue Ann

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I was wondering about that as well. Get in a corner area with a couple of walls for support and pile up the dirt as deep as your pocketbook will allow...
I have hardpacked red clay and had 20 ton of organic topsoil delivered so that some day my little guy will be able to dig. Also panted bermuda grass and several varieties of tort grasses. My little guy is only 5 1/2 months old but when he is ready so will his pen be. lol He only stays outside 4-6 hrs a day now
 
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