Reading Time: 3 minutes

Digging a trench in clay soil requires a lot of patience since this type of soil is very challenging to work on. Clay soil is extremely sticky when wet then it gets as hard as a rock when it completely dries. The best way to dig a trench in clay soil is to soak it in water, then wait for it to dry so that you can slowly loosen the soil and gradually disintegrate the clods of clay.

What is the best method to dig a trench in clay soil?

The best method to dig a trench in clay soil requires repeated digging and pounding into the soil until it loosens so that you can gradually create a bigger hole that will form your trench. Wet clay may seem easier to work with since it’s dense but this texture will actually make your work difficult because it will make your tool adhere or get stuck to the soil. It is highly recommended to water the soil prior to digging then allow it to soak overnight just to allow the surface to soften.

Then start digging the following day starting at the center of your planned trench straight down. A digging bar with a chisel edge and mushroom head is the best tool that you can use in loosening the soil then pair it with a mallet.

Push the digging bar into the soil as deep as possible then start hammering its head using the mallet so that it can get pushed even deeper into the ground. After hammering the head of the digging bar, pull it downward to break and lift the clod of clay soil above the ground. Repeat the process around the hole that you have just created to extend the trench sideways. Once the soil is loosened, gradually remove the broken soil using a shovel.

Recommended Shovel for Digging in Clay Soil

The Bully Tools 14-Gauge is the most recommended shovel for digging hard clay soil. It features a thick pointed blade with a long and durable handle designed especially to cut through hard clay soil. Although this is a very durable item, it may not be the best fit for all considering that it weighs 5.4 pounds. If you prefer a lightweight shovel that can still work well in digging clay soil, then Dig My Shovel is the tool that can work for you.

This shovel weighs less than 2 pounds which is super light in itself that it can dramatically increase your efficiency in digging. It is made of aluminum alloy which is considered a material that is as tough as steel allowing you to dig deeper into the clay soil without bending or breaking your tool.

If you’re looking for a shovel that will allow you maximum comfort while digging on clay soil, then Radius Garden 25202 Pro-Lite Carbon Steel Shovel is the product that you can consider. It is an award-winning product that will allow you to dig on hard clay soil without putting too much stress on your arm, hand, and wrist.

Other methods for digging a trench in clay soil

Creating multiple holes through clay soil is another method that you can use in digging a trench.

Using your shovel, dig a few holes within the area of your planned trench and these holes should be at least 10 inches deep. Each hole will serve as your starting point where you can gradually loosen the clods of clay.

After creating the holes, soften the soil by filling each hole with water then wait for it to get absorbed in the ground. Once the water is emptied, you can then begin breaking the soil using the digging bar. Dig each hole to separate the clay soil then repeat the process to all the remaining holes. Finally, remove the loosened clay soil using your shovel to create your trench.


Digging a trench in clay soil is a challenging but doable task that should only take a few hours of your time. It can be daunting at first but with the right method and tools, you can get this project done in no time. Apply the abovementioned methods in your spare time or on a weekend and you will be surprised how you can adequately accomplish a challenging task that typically frightens most people.