Choosing a garden fork...easy right? I mean, all you have to look for is a garden fork that is well made by a reputable company and you’re done. Well...maybe not. What kind of work are you asking your garden fork to do?
While at first glance, many garden forks look the same, but take a little closer look and you’ll see the differences. So, what types of “garden forks” are there? Let’s see, there are, Digging, Spading, Garden (English), Manure, Compost, Potato, Broadfork and Border forks.
OK...now that we’re really confused with so many types, let’s take a look at what type of work each fork is made to do best.
Garden Forks - This is the fork you want if your soil is undisturbed, clay or otherwise tough, hard soil. The garden fork has four long, super strong tines that end with a sharp points for easy soil penetration. The best garden forks are forged from a single piece of carbon steel and have either a riveted socket or strapped handle connection. Great for breaking up the toughest of soils, double digging and if needed, digging up root crops.
Digging and Spading Forks -These forks are usually a little lighter in weight and have four triangular shaped tines with a flat facing the front of the fork for lifting. With their flat faced tines, these forks are good for digging in loamy, sandy or loose soil, aerating, mixing in nutrients, turning your soil in the spring and harvesting potatoes and other root vegetables.
Potato Forks -There can be a little confusion with what is a “potato fork” as different garden tool makers call completely different looking fork a “potato fork”. Some look just like a digging or spading fork with the flat faced tines for lifting the potatoes from the soil. In fact, some of the better garden tool maker’s “potato forks” are made with the same strengths as their heavy duty forks. The other type of potato fork you might encounter has many more (up to 9) slender tines that have blunt ends so as not to damage the root crops. This type of potato fork is generally for lifting of the crops, not digging.
Border Forks - These forks are just smaller versions of the workhorse garden fork. Despite their smaller size, these border forks are hard working garden tools. Great for working in tight spaces like raised beds and between plantings and for the smaller gardener, a garden fork that is not so big and exhausting to use.
Compost Fork -The compost fork or pitchfork usually has has four or more long slender, pointed tines that are turned up slightly for scooping or moving loose material without bending. Great for turning your compost pile or moving loose materials. Note: Many "compost forks" are simply too lightweight and cannot handle the heavy weight of compost, so many gardeners opt to use the heavier duty garden fork...also, manure forks look very similar, but are not for lifting heavy loads.
Broadfork -Although very different looking than a traditional garden fork, the two handled broadfork does a lot of the same chores, only on larger scale. With two hardwood handles fitted about shoulder width on a steel horizontal bar and 4 - 6 long tines; the broadfork is generally used for reworking ground that has already been broken up. This garden tool does a lot of work in a shorter time.
As with all garden tools; you can find most of these garden forks in all price ranges. The solid forged tools may cost more initially, but the quality, strength, warranty and the fact that you’ll have a garden tool that you can pass down to the next generation far outweighs the cost. Plus, you’re not tossing a bent garden tool into the landfill every couple of years.