As a landscape gardener, I install garden fences all the time, in fact, I pretty much rely on fencing jobs to see me through the Winter months when the need for gardening is not high on ones priority list, but old garden fences tend to collapse in the cold and windy months and therefore in need of replacing.

Over the years, I have had my fair share of complications when it comes to digging the post holes for the new fence to be installed, and the absolute worst complication being when you hit large tree routes. I mean, how exactly do you dig post holes when tree routes are in the way? After reading so many (in my opinion) silly guides online, I’m just going to explain exactly what I do to overcome this problem. But first, let’s see what I am up against on my currently garden fencing job…

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I know right! I am about to install 9 foot fence posts, 6 foot fence panels as well as gravel boards in between this brick wall and trees. What a great time to write this post and explain how I do it! Let’s get back to this later, for now, lets talk about what doesn’t work. In my opinion of course!

Does an auger actually drill through tree routes?

I think this is an important question to answer, as there seems to be a lot of information online that would lead someone to believe that you can simply purchase or hire a petrol auger and drill through tree routes when installing your fence post hole.

Now I could be wrong, maybe my petrol auger isn’t strong enough, or maybe I’m not doing it the correct way? But the last time I tried to drill through a large route with my petrol auger I nearly ripped my arm off! The drill bit just gets stuck, and instead of drilling a fence post hole through the tree root, it turns the handle instead!

It will be ok for small tree roots, but for anything larger than 3 inches thick, I just wouldn’t recommend it.

Will a petrol chainsaw cut through tree routes when trying to dig post holes?

As well as the petrol auger method, I have tried using a chainsaw and/or pruner to simply cut the tree roots out of the way and carry on digging. But again, this just doesn’t work. The problem that you have is that as soon as your chainsaw chain hits dirt, even if it’s a brand new one, it will go blunt. Chainsaw chains and earth just do not mix and is not fit for the job. Keep your chainsaw chain sharp and don’t waste your time or money on replacing chains.

What tool actually works when trying to get large tree routes out of the way to dig fence post holes?

Honestly, the only machine that will actually eat through tree routes in my opinion are tree stump grinders. But this just isn’t ideal, not only are they expensive but they are large and heavy. They are good for tree stump removal, and although they can do the job, if you need to dig fence post holes near anything of any importance such as a brick wall or garden feature, it will be very difficult to use without hitting such things.

What I do to dig fence post holes when tree roots and tree stumps get in the way.

  1. If the post hole needs to be directly above a large tree root, first dig around the tree root as best you can using a spade.
  2. If a spade is too weak to cut through the tree root, the next thing to do is to attempt at axing it out. I have got through so many tree roots by just using an axe!
  3. If your axe just isn’t doing the job, then the best way is to change the location of the post hole. A standard fence panel is 6 feet long, so try to dig another post hole at 5 feet, and then 4 feet and so on. Trust me, this will save you a lot of time compared to attempted at getting the root out.
  4. Once you have dug your new fence post hole, You will need to measure the new distance from the last fence post and begin to cut the fence panel to the same length. You can use a regular hand saw for this. If you are using concrete gravel boards, then a 9″ grinder will cut through it in a matter of minutes.
  5. After you have put together the new fence panel and post, with luck, your next panel at 6 feet along will be free of any large routes. If not, then repeat the process. Cutting the fence panels and gravel boards only delays the process by about 10 minutes per fence post installation.

Now back to my earlier picture, I will now show you how I managed to install fence posts and panels in between a brick wall and tree roots (and stumps!)…

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I took a real gamble on this job! Digging fence posts between the wall and tree roots is not going to be easy. Being a quoted job, I knew that I couldn’t take too long when digging each post hole as each day is going to cost me money. Baring in mind, I was the 4th person to provide a quote. All 3 other landscape gardeners refused to go ahead!

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One of many large tree roots getting in the way of the post hole! No…An electric breaker will not do the job! After trying to use an axe, which worked on the previous two large routes, on this one we decided to cut a fence panel just enough to come on the other side of the tree. We dug the fence post hole before measuring and cutting the fence panel.

 

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Cutting the fence panel to size only takes about 30 seconds with an electric circular saw, much less time than trying to cut through a large tree root!

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If concrete gravel boards are being used, using a 9″ grinder, cut the gravel boards down to size to match the fence panel.

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Can you see the cut panel in the center of the fencing? It is about 1 foot shorter than the others, but still looks just as professional. This eliminated the need to cut through a large tree root to dig a post hole and saves so much time! Just have a look below how close we are to the tree…

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And what a tight gap…But we are getting there…

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I hope that this post has really helped when it comes to digging fence post holes when tree roots are in the way. Doing this type of work for a living does have it’s ups and downs, and I have made so many time consuming mistakes that I hope to pass onto you making your life much easier!

Should you have any questions then please do write a comment below and I will try to answer as soon as possible. Why not let us know how you tackle large tree roots when it comes to digging post holes as I’d love to know! Please remember to subscribe, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to keep up to date with the latest news, information, advice and reviews on everything gardening!