Dibbles, Sharpshooters & Augers

(Burrowing Owl Update Below)

I’d never heard of dibbles and sharpshooters in a gardening context. Augers I knew as old-fashioned wood-boring tools. Then I got a cc of an email from Bob Huttar, Chavez Park Conservancy Volunteer Coordinator working on this weekend’s Native Pollinator Habitat project, asking the City whether dibbles and sharpshooters were in the City’s garden tool inventory.

I had to google the items. Dibbles and sharpshooters turn out to be planting tools, very useful when putting more than one plant in the ground. Like, for example, more than a hundred.

Dibble. Wikipedia image.

A dibble (or dibbler or dibber) is a pointed stick. Wikipedia says they were first invented in Roman times and are basically unchanged since then. You could buy a dozen different designs, varying mostly in the handle. You’d have to get on the ground to use the hand-held dibbles. Others have long handles that you can operate standing up. But you or your planting partner will have to get down to put the seedling in the hole and tamp the soil firm around it.


A sharpshooter is a narrow shovel designed for making small holes or digging narrow trenches. Most of the seedlings that are going into the ground this weekend will have their roots in plastic sleeves that are two or three inches in diameter. They don’t need big holes. Planting with a sharpshooter shovel doesn’t actually involve digging. You work the blade into the ground — it helps a lot if the ground is wet — and lean the handle over to one side, making a wedge shaped hole. Your or your partner pop the seedling into the wedge. Then you drive the blade in partway next to the first hole and lean it over to close the first hole. Done.

An earth auger is often used to dig holes for fence posts. They’re power tools, usually with a gasoline engine, but electric models exist for jobs where electric power is available. Small augers can run off battery-powered electric drills. Gas-powered augers can dig holes up to 8 inches or more in diameter, but we need much smaller holes; four inches will be right for the biggest seedlings that we’re planting.

It turns out that the City doesn’t have dibbles in its tool set, but it has sharpshooters and we’re borrowing some. We have some pointed sticks that will work as dibbles. We’ll have a rental gas-powered auger on the job as well as a smaller battery-operated one. We have only about 110 plants to put into the ground, so the job should go quickly. We’ll start at 9 am sharp at the parking circle at the west end of Spinnaker Way. Gloves and tools will be provided. Lunch will be provided. We expect to be done in the early afternoon.

The weather forecast for Saturday is mostly sunny with a high in the low 60s. Perfect weather for planting a Native Pollinator Habitat in the park. We’re talking about this coming Saturday Nov. 19 2022.

Hope to see you there! You can make a little bit of park history here. Also meet nice people. Get some exercise. Fresh air and sunshine. Do good and feel good.

Questions? Contact Bob Huttar, Volunteer Coordinator, at 949 307-5918 or huttarbob@gmail.com.

Burrowing Owl Update

The Burrowing Owl has moved again! It’s doing a shuttle between two different perch spots. Perch A is its original spot, way up north on the rip-rap embankment, impossible to see from the paved perimeter trail. You have to go to the Open Circle Viewpoint with long optics to see it — it’s ten inches tall, 110 yards distant. Perch B is more southerly, in the shade of a big fennel bush. When it’s there you can see the top of its head from the paved perimeter trail. It helps if you’re tall. It was on Perch B yesterday. It was back on Perch A this morning.

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) Nov. 16 2022

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One thought on “Dibbles, Sharpshooters & Augers

  • I so appreciate your daily chronicling of Life @ Cesar Chavez Park.
    Today’s video of “our” Burrowing Owl cracked me up, as I interpreted the one-legged posture and chatty beak sequence as a pointed communication to you. Whether it was or it wasn’t, it was super fun to watch. Thank you for capturing these moments.

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