Digging a post hole with a PTO-driven Post Hole Digger and Auger (US CA) can be safe and easy as long as you follow the rules.
First, read the Operator’s Manual before operating any piece of equipment and follow all operating and safety instructions.
Next, call 811 for Common Ground Alliance (CGA). CGA is a non-profit organization with 1,400 members and sponsors that launched the “Call Before You Dig” campaign several years ago. Call 811 and your underground utility lines will be marked for free. Be sure to mark the area where you intend to dig so the people marking your utilities know where to focus their attention.
Once you’re sure the area is safe for using the post hole digger, carefully mark where you want the holes to be. For example, if you’re building a fence, plot out exactly where the first set of holes should be before you start digging.
When you’re ready to begin digging your post holes, move your tractor with the post hole digger and auger attached into position over the first hole location. The auger needs to work in a vertical position. Using your 3-point hitch, raise the auger point off the ground and turn the leveling crank on the lift link of the tractor until the auger is vertical. With the PTO disengaged, slowly lower the auger until its point just engages the ground. (Some post hole diggers offer a positioning handle attachment that allows the operator to move the tip of the auger from the tractor seat.) Move the tractor slowly forward or backward (as needed) until the auger is vertical with respect to the ground.
With the auger point lowered to the ground, set the engine speed to idle, then engage the PTO. Make sure the auger point is on the ground before engaging the PTO. Increase the PTO speed as required (to a maximum of 540 rpm) so the auger will penetrate the ground and dirt begins coming out of the hole. As you continue to drill down while lowering the 3-point hitch, you may need to move the tractor slightly forward to make sure your hole is straight up and down.
Once you’ve dug the hole to the desired depth, with the auger in the hole, raise and lower the auger a few times to clear the hole of any loose dirt. Then remove the auger from the hole, disengage the PTO, and move on to the next hole location.
And remember, always read the Operator’s Manual before operating any piece of equipment and follow all operating and safety instructions.