Perhaps you’ve seen the public service announcements or billboards urging people not to use a shovel in their backyard unless they take the proper safeguards. It’s a good idea to know what you should do before asking if you can dig a hole in your backyard.
Can you dig a hole in your backyard for what reasons?
The obvious reasons for breaking out a shovel are to plant trees or bushes. To give it a head start, drill a hole roughly twice the size of the root ball to loosen the soil around the below-ground section. But it isn’t the only reason you’d use this tool.
If you’re going to build a walkway, you’ll need to dig a location for sand to be added to stabilize the paver stones. When it comes to fences, you’ll need to hire an auger to install the posts. The same is true for decks, which must be placed below the freeze line to maintain the structure stable.
It can even apply to more basic jobs like gardening, laying a new driveway, adding a water feature, or repairing your mailbox.
Make the mistake of believing that your project is too tiny to have an impact. That is how many problems arise in the first place. Do you believe it isn’t a problem? Let’s take a look at what can happen if you bet on the wrong horse.
How deep can I safely dig in my yard?
However, for practical purposes (aside from legal requirements), it is normally safe to dig holes no deeper than 300mm (12 inches) on your land, and it is considerably safer and less risky to drill holes no deeper than 100mm (12 inches) (4 inches).
The dangers of going too deep
The most serious issue you will confront is what you will accidentally hit when striking a shovel to the ground. Underground power, gas, and phone lines are all present. The latter is an annoyance. The first two are occasionally dangerous and can have an impact on your neighbors.
That’s not good.
Repairs can be time-consuming, which adds to the frustration. Another thing to keep in mind is that the danger zones differ depending on the environment and utility. Their pathways from the source may be evident at times, but not always.
In general, utilities will seek the path of least resistance and travel the shortest distance. Saving money on materials and labor makes logical. There are several things that play into that calculation that may not be clear on the surface. That is just another reason why you should seek professional advice.
The difficulties of digging a hole in your backyard
Your situation has most likely evolved over time, especially if you’ve been there for a long time. Landscaping evolves. A berm or new septic tank may have been installed by a previous owner. All of these factors can have an impact on the safety of digging in your property, with the extra possibility of not seeing any evidence above ground.
If you’ve changed the type of internet or phone service you get, the services utilized by other owners may also come into play. A pre-existing outdoor lighting or security system may also interfere with your efforts to enhance your landscaping.
The fact is that when you decide to dig, you will be confronted with a slew of unknown unknowns that will want professional guidance before you start. Every time you pick up a shovel, you take a risk of varied degrees.
Considerations for digging depths
The frost line and its resilience are the focus of climate concern. The latter, in turn, is determined by the materials employed in their manufacture. Remember that utilities must strike a balance between flexibility and strength. The key concerns are water, natural gas, and power.
The first is at least 36 inches deep, although it might be deeper in regions where the earth freezes below this level. There are no established limits for natural gas or electricity, but you should expect at least 24 and 18 inches, respectively.
Depending on whether you have city water or a septic tank system, sewer is a wild card. It is normally between 24 and 36 inches for the former. The latter changes depending on your location. Other elements that may play a role include:
Elevation proximity to water doil profile
Cable and phone wires are also involved. They are usually in line with the other utilities. The truth is that the depth isn’t all that great. Access is a major concern that keeps them closer to the surface than you may imagine.
Then there’s your septic tank system, if your home uses this kind of water treatment. Anything you do above ground can have an impact on the water quality of your well and, as a result, your drinking water.
To filter water before it reaches your tap, septic tanks use a closed system and the natural filtration of the soil and its composition. Anything that jeopardizes the integrity of your drainage field might have an influence on the system’s safety and longevity.
Problems on this score are also not cheap to repair.
The unintended consequences of backyard digging
Digging appears to be the only thing you need to think about. However, you must also consider what you are planting. Tree roots and even certain natural prairie grasses can reach 10 feet or more below the surface. They can, in turn, have an impact on the wiring, which your digging may directly affect.
Similarly, you must consider the overhead growth of everything you plant. They have the potential to interfere with powerlines that run above ground. The consequences can be just as terrible. That is, while considering can you dig a hole in my backyard, you must evaluate both sides of the problem.
Sharp Instruments is a brand of precision instruments.
The shovel is the other devil in the details. You’ve probably heard that the best time to utilize this garden implement is when it’s sharp. This necessitates the use of a rasp to maintain a clean, razor-edged edge. It simplifies your job and saves your back, which we appreciate.
It does, however, make it easier to damage utility wires and set you up for troubles in the future.
Methods for staying safe
The single most important thing you can do is dial 811 before you lift a shovel. Sure, you can make an educated guess on the depth by guesstimating the course of the lines. We strongly advise you not to participate in this Russian roulette game.
The risks aren’t worth it, especially because the service to find out for sure is free.
When you dial 811, a service representative will come out and mark the lines with spray paint, flags, or both. We recommend taking a photo of the markings afterward. Things happen, and the lines above ground move as a result.
Take bearings with the angle and distance from a permanent landmark, such as your house or a tree, if you truly want to be safe.
Once you get the information, keep within the boundaries and give them a wide berth. When the implications are considered, it is better to be safe than sorry. Yes, it is being cautious, but it is also a precaution to ensure that nothing is harmed.
Do’s and Don’ts when digging a hole
Did you know there is a wrong and the right way to dig a hole?
Examine the soil
The first step in this process is to assess what you’re getting into and the state of the soil.
To ensure the long-term survival of your customer’s plants, the soil must be in good condition; soil at the bottom of the hole must be loose to allow roots to thrive.
When soils are compacted, whether by foot movement or heavy equipment, the pores of the soil become smaller than they need to be, preventing roots from passing through.
This issue can be solved with a properly sized and well-managed hole. Check the entire area for compacted soil, which could limit the growth of otherwise healthy plants.
If the earth is compacted, begin at the bottom of the hole by gently pushing into the sidewalls and probing outward with a trowel. Weaker soil will break off, revealing natural structure fissures along the hole’s side. These fissures will aid in the passage of water and air, as well as the growth of the roots.
Avoid treading on the soil after you’ve completed this process, since this can compact the soil and ruin your prior work.
Types of packaging: Size of the hole
The first thing to consider when deciding the size of the hole is what will be planted in the space and how it will be packaged: container-grown, bare-root, or balled and burlapped.
The size and depth of the hole will be determined by the plant’s height and width, as well as how it is packaged. The goal is to ensure that the plants have more than enough room to grow up and out, and it is also critical to ensure that there is plenty of room for loose soil in the hole’s bottom to promote thriving roots.
When planting bare-root plants, keep in mind that they must be maintained moist. These have no soil attached to the roots, are light and perishable, and must be planted before their buds open in the spring. They may take a little more attention than other types, but the benefit of this type of packaging is that it allows the planter to fully check the root system before planting.
When digging a hole for bare-root plants, leave it broad enough to allow the roots to expand into their natural position and deep enough to keep the root flare or crown at the soil line. If it is planted too deep or too high, the plant may become stressed and its health may suffer.
With container-grown plants, dig a hole twice as broad as the container and only as deep as the distance between the top of the root-ball and the bottom of the container. This allows the roots to spread horizontally in the loose soil and keeps the crown above the dirt.
Balled and burlapped plants will need a hole that is two or three times the width of the root-ball. This will result in loose soil, allowing the roots to spread horizontally toward the surface and obtain the oxygen they require.
As you dig, keep an eye on the depth of the hole to ensure that the top of the root-ball is just above the surrounding grade. If the hole is too deep, the root-ball will settle, and excess soil that accumulates around the trunk will provide ideal conditions for diseases to infect the plant.
We realize how eager you are to begin your landscaping tasks. It’s an important component of turning your house into a home.
However, it is equally important that you do not step on the toes of any utilities running to your home. It only takes one phone call to find out if you can dig a hole in my property. Don’t be hesitant. Carry it out.