I bought a couple of cheap solar lamps for the garden but it's winter and the soil is hard. They're meant to just push in, but the base of each lamp seems to be a cheap plastic and I've already shattered one.

The spike itself is approximately 6 inches in length and tapered from a 2 inch diameter to a half inch point. It has grooves along the length to give it better purchase in the soil.

Typically, I'd use a trowel to scrape at the dirt to loosen it and then pack it around the spike, but I don't have any of my garden tools at hand (I'd expected to just be able to screw it in).

Are there any lifehacks to loosen cold, hard soil enough to insert the spike without loosening it so much the lamp just falls over?

  • @MattS. Agreed. This would get much better answers from actual gardening experts.
    – fredley
    Dec 11, 2014 at 16:48
  • This isn't about "gardening" per se as much as how to penetrate a frozen surface.
    – Phlume
    Dec 11, 2014 at 17:03
  • There does not seem to be a hack for this unless you have some tools. in many cold regions they wait to place grave markers until the spring. Not a hack, your solution would be to put the lamps away until spring.
    – Jon
    Dec 11, 2014 at 17:27
  • I had wondered if, for example, warm water could be used to soften the soil, but would not know how much would be a good idea. I guess I'd better experiment.
    – Nick Udell
    Dec 12, 2014 at 13:24

5 Answers 5


Without tools of any kind, you will be unable to do this. One thing I've done (unconventional) Is to use a battery drill and big boring bit. Drill straight down into the soil. It'll be dull later, but you can use it for this purpose later if necessary. Then you boil some water, and pour it down the hole. It will thaw some of the surrounding soil, and mix to form mud. You have to put the stake in quickly, as the warmth doesn't last long. The hole should be full of mud, which will freeze, holding the stake up.

If the frozen layer isn't deep, you don't need boiling water.


Wait until the ground thaws?

The garden isn't really doing much right now with a frozen surface anyways so perhaps the lighting of the barren landscape can wait until the spring?

If it must be done now, try a pen/pencil, stick, screwdriver, the broken light, or any other sharp pointy thing you have and scratch at the soil until you get to the depth you need.


Take a tent stake or chisel with a diameter just a little smaller than the lamp spike and with a hammer or sledge pound a new hole into the ground.

  • 2
    OP: "but I don't have any of my tools to hand"
    – Mooseman
    Dec 11, 2014 at 16:45
  • Never underestimate the powers of having just moved in and having your tools packed away in storage currently. Whether you find my situation implausible or not, it is currently my situation.
    – Nick Udell
    Dec 12, 2014 at 13:24
  • I have updated my question to clarify that I meant gardening tools, sorry for the confusion.
    – Nick Udell
    Dec 12, 2014 at 13:25

I've heard that in the "The Good Old Days" people would build fires on top of a patch of earth in order to dig graves in the winter. I'm guessing that a small scale version of this may do the trick.

  1. Take a coffee can and cut both sides out.
  2. Then stab some ventilation holes around the can.
  3. Place the can on the frozen ground where you want to put your lamp.
  4. Build a small fire in the can and let it burn for a few hours.
  5. Smother the fire.

The ground should now be warm enough to dig a small hole and you have a little ash to add to your compost as a side benefit.

Apparently modern grave diggers use specially designed water proof heating blankets for this purpose, so a small house hold heating pad may do the trick as well.


I'm assuming that the soil is frozen. I would highly recommend pouring hot water on the area and then waiting a bit while it thaws.

Alternatively, use a propane torch.

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