The Q&A Archives: too hard to dig

Question: We live in the foothill area of South Carolina. We're about 8 inches below regular rainfall. I just moved here in December and don't know what to do with this soil! It is like concrete... Even a very big rototiller barely scratched the surface. A shovel barely makes a dent. Do I have to wait til we get a lot of rain? What kind of tools can a regular (not superwoman) gal use to try to make some holes to plant something?

Answer: Dry soil is difficult to dig, and the plants roots will have an equally hard time trying to grow through it. Good soil preparation is critical to planting success, so this is probably not the best time to be planting.

If you really want to prepare the soil, you would need to water it a day or two ahead of time. Apply it very slowly and make sure it soaks down deep, about a foot down for planting shrubs or trees.

Also, mid summer heat is the most stressful time frame for planting and transplanting.

In my experience, it is better to wait until early fall to plant. Hopefully, seasonal rains will soften the soil so it can be prepared and then the rains will also help keep the soil evenly moist while the plants begin to establish.

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