What are some alternatives to digging bars?

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Spades and shovels

A Spade While a spade is often the first tool to come to mind when we approach a task involving digging, bars have some advantages over the typical garden spade.
Digging with a Spade Due to the spade’s design, with long handle & ‘spoon’ like shovel head, the user must drive it into the dirt at an angle to be able to dig efficiently – similar to the way you would eat with a spoon. This lessens the control the user has over the final width and shape of the hole.
Digging with a Bar Because of the sharp chisel edge and long, straight shaft of the digging bar, it can be driven straight down at a 90 degree angle to the earth, twisted and removed – this means the shape of the hole you are digging remains much more within your control.
Weighing your options... However, digging bars are much heavier and, potentially, harder to use than your average garden spade or shovel, so it’s up to you to weigh your options. Your final decision should depend largely on the type of digging work you want to do.

For general gardening work in which precision is not an issue, a spade or shovel is arguably the better tool for the job.

Digging forks

Digging Fork Digging forks can be used for digging, weeding and loosening soil.
Digging with a fork Like a digging bar, a fork can be driven into the ground at a 90 degree angle, twisted and removed, which makes it an efficient tool for quick digging.

Head of a digging fork compared to the head of a digging bar However, the head of a digging fork is much wider than the chisel edge of a digging bar. This makes it less suitable for digging tasks which require precision, such as post holes. Additionally, the handle of a digging fork is shorter than the shaft of a bar, and doesn’t allow the user to dig as deeply.

Digging fork in use Light and relatively easy to use, forks are more suitable for regular gardening work (weeding, pulling and planting) than digging bars, but fall short in other areas, and lack the strength and toughness of a bar when it comes to heavy duty digging work.

Earth augers

An Earth Auger Earth augers use ‘flighting’ (corkscrew-shaped blades) to displace earth as they are twisted into the ground.

During this process, soil is collected in the flighting and discarded around the lip of the hole.

An earth auger can only dig holes the exact shape and diameter of its screw... Earth augers can be used with the least effort on the part of the user, and are efficient at quickly digging deep, perfectly round post holes. However, earth augers can only dig holes the exact diameter of the auger’s rotating ‘screw’. While easy to use, this tool removes a large degree of control from the user.
A Fence If your aim is to dig a row of perfectly matched post holes, the auger may be a worthy investment.

Prices on earth augers vary depending on complexity – a hand-powered earth auger may cost a little less than a digging bar, whereas a hydraulic earth auger will cost considerably more.

See Manual Post Hole Augers for more information.

Posthole diggers

Post-hole digger Used to dig post holes to varying depths and widths, posthole diggers consist of two long handles with scooped blades at the end of them.

Posthole diggers are operated by thrusting the open jaws into the earth, closing them, and pulling the chunk of earth they are holding out of the hole – this process is repeated until the hole is complete.

The jaws of a posthole digger The main advantage of a posthole digger is its built-in ability to remove loose dirt and debris from the digging area with little extra effort on the part of the user.

Digging with a post-hole digger However, like the earth auger, posthole diggers have a limited field of use, and are only really suitable for digging post holes (as the name suggests), and for planting.

For holes wider than the diameter of the jaws, it would be more efficient to use a digging bar, fork or spade.

Digging with a bar and a posthole digger Posthole diggers are best used in conjunction with other digging tools, and can work well alongside a digging bar, for removing dirt and debris from deep holes.

See Post Hole Diggers for more information.

Broken concrete


Unlike a digging bar, none of these alternatives can be used to break through thin layers of concrete, rock, or tarmac. For these tasks, the best alternatives would be:

Rotary Hammer A rotary hammer with a breaking attachment

Heavy duty hammer drill A heavy duty hammer drill with a breaking attachment

Pneumatic drill A pneumatic drill

Concrete Of these options, a digging bar is cheapest, but it is also the least effective and most labour intensive tool for the task.

For a small, thin area of concrete, tarmac or rock, the digging bar’s low cost and high versatility may make it the more economical choice, but for more intensive breaking work over a large area, or for breaking thick layers of concrete, tarmac or rock, a high-powered tool, as listed above, may be the more sensible choice.